Reading Zen dialogues in Chinese

Looking for translations, or for help with translations and transliterations? This is the place.
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Reading Zen dialogues in Chinese

Post by Qianxi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:46 pm

Anyone read much of the Zen dialogues in Chinese? Most of the best works on Tang and Song colloquial Chinese as used in Zen texts are in Japanese. Does anyone know any good English language introductions to the Chinese of Zen texts?

Ruth Sasaki's translation of the Record of Linji/Rinzai is invaluable in this respect.
(pdf ... sasaki.pdf ... =sr_1_cc_1 )
The notes section provides quite a good introduction to the grammatical peculiarities of these texts. The notes cover vocab, historical context, doctrinal meaning as well as grammar. Here are a couple of the interesting grammatical points from the first dozen pages of the 200 or so pages of notes.

(試)...看 - imperative, 'Do...' 'Let..'
Bai Juyi: 唯求造化力 / 爲駐春 All I ask of Creation / is to please stop the passing of Spring
Ljl: 對衆證據 Let him try proving himself before the assembly.

他 as suffix with no specific meaning
Ljl: 妨他別人請問 You’re keeping the others from asking questions
Ljl: 知他是凡是聖 Who knows whether he’s an ordinary person or a sage?
cf. 管他, 從他,任他

也無 just indicates a question, not necessarily '...or not'.
Ljl: 爾道好喝也無 Do you say that was a good shout?
The compound has the following orthographical variants: 也不, 也否, 也未, 也摩, 以無, 以下, and 以否.

還 as interrogative, not 'is there still...'
Ljl: 有賓主也無 Was there a guest and a host?

取 as suffix
Ljl: 要會臨濟賓主句, 問取堂中二首座 If you of the assembly want to understand the ‘guest and host’ that I speak of, ask the two head monks of the halls.

祇 for emphasis
Ljl: 祇如石室行者.. in the case of the lay worker Shishi
cf. 且如

但有 whoever/whatever
Ljl: 但有來者,不虧欠伊 whoever comes to me, I will not fail him.
=所有, 諸有, 應有

與麼 thus, like this, like that
Ljl: 若與麼來,恰似 失卻。不與麼來,無繩自縛。Should he come in a particular way, it’s just as if he’d lost [himself]. Should he not come in a particular way, he’d have bound himself without a rope.
= 恁麼, 恁的, 恁地

The full note by Sasaki and co. on 與麼 is fascinating, I'll paste the whole thing:
與麼, along with its negative 不與麼, shows the Chan masters’ penchant for giving metaphysical content to simple everyday words. (Another good example is 遮箇 [or 這箇], a demonstrative meaning “this” that was early used to indicate absolute reality.) Chan masters from late Tang times handled 與麼 and 不與麼 as affirmative and negative compounds and attributed profound meanings to them, a tendency reflected in the traditional Japanese Zen reading fuyomo ni kitareba (followed by Dōchū) for the negative form of the expression.

Although we have adopted a relatively straightforward reading of 不與麼, the metaphysical overtones of this and the affirmative 與麼 in the present context should not be overlooked. The Japanese Sōtō monk Dōgen Kigen 道元希玄 (1200–1253) devoted the entire ninth fascicle of his great work Shōbōgenzō 正法眼藏 to elucidating the metaphysics of these two terms, there written in the variant forms 恁麼 and 不恁麼 (t 82: 124a–127a). Also, in the section on Zhaozhou Congshen in zj 18 we find:
[A monk] asked: “Do you associate with the man who comes thus [與麼]?” The master said, “I do.” “Do you associate with the man who does not come thus [不與麼]?” The master said, “I do.” The monk asked: “To be sure, you are free to associate with the man who comes thus, but how do you associate with the man who does not come thus?” The master said: “Stop, stop! No need to speak. My dharma is wonderful and difficult to conceive of.”

Posts: 111
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Re: Reading Zen dialogues in Chinese

Post by Qianxi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:55 pm

as adverbial suffix
都來是錯 Either way you’re mistaken
Other examples are 適來, “just now,” 夜來, “last night,” 春來, “last spring” or “this spring,” and 今來, “nowadays.”

汝等諸人作麼生會? How do all of you understand this?
作麼生得這漢來,待痛與一頓 How I’d like to catch that fellow and give him a good dose of the stick!
接住棒送一 送,看他作麼生 grab his stick and give him a jab. See what he does then.
典座云、院主不會和尚意。師云,爾作麼生。 典座便禮拜。師亦打。 The chief cook said,“The steward didn’t understand you.” “How about you?” asked the master. The chief cook bowed low. The master hit him, too.
師便去問。聲未絶,黃檗 便打。師下來。首座云,問話作麼生。師云,某甲問聲未絶、,和尚便打。Linji went and asked. Before he had finished speaking Huangbo hit him. Linji came back. “How did your question go?” asked the head monk. “Before I had finished speaking the master hit me."

作麼 often used as a rhetorical question with an implied negation
老和尚瞌睡作麼 Venerable Priest, what’s the good of dozing?
更要第二杓惡水作麼 What’s the good of wanting a second dipper of dirty water?

欲得 compound verb
欲得識 Do you want to know

like modern 的
出人路 ways of saving people
爾,面前聽法是 He is none other than you who stand before me listening to my discourse
爾,目前歷歷 This very you standing distinctly before me

for emphasis
爾即今 this very you right now
爾,目前歷歷底 This very you standing distinctly before me
similar to emphasis 祇

一般 as indefinite plural
一般不識好惡禿奴 There’re a bunch of shavepates who can’t tell good from bad
被這一般野狐精魅所著 Bewitched by this pack of wild foxes
=一班, 一等, 一 輩

sometimes used like modern 呢, for emphasis.
索草鞋錢有日。 The day will come when you’ll have to pay up for the straw sandals

A thought: you could make quite an amusing compilation of Zen insults. Starting with blind idiots 瞎屢生, bald idiots 禿屢生, blind baldy 禿瞎子, bald slave 禿奴...
Actually maybe more melancholy than amusing. I suppose this is re-appropriation of the rhetoric of anti-Buddhist abuse.

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Re: Reading Zen dialogues in Chinese

Post by Qianxi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 7:54 pm

It might be fun to go through Ruth Sasaki's text of Records of Linji in pdf above, dialogue by dialogue, in Chinese and English discussing any linguistic or doctrinal problems we run into. I feel like once I had gone through the Records of Linji with the help of Sasaki's notes, I'd feel ready to tackle Chinese Zen texts without the help of notes.

Anyway, here are some more grammatical notes:

中間 semi meaningless time relation suffix
遲晚間 sooner or later
俄頃中間 in an instant
不經旬日中間 not until ten days have passed
時向中間 after a little while

like modern 很, "one of the characteristics of Tang colloquial language."
忙然 Utterly perplexed
also 大難, 大似, 大有.

直須...始得。Just be... , like 只須、只要
直須是大丈夫兒始得。just be men of great resolve.
also 直是, 直宜, 直饒, 直得, 直要
如大器者,直要不受人惑 he who would be a great vessel must not be taken in by the deluded views of others.

緣什麼 why, modern Chinese 為什麼
爾若道佛是究竟,緣什麼八十年後,向拘尸羅城,雙林樹間,側臥而死去。佛今何在。if you say that the Buddha is the ultimate, how is it that after eighty years of life the Buddha lay down on his side between the twin śāla trees at Kuśinagara and died?
Synonyms: 緣甚; 緣沒; 緣阿 沒; 著甚; 因甚; 爲甚; and 爲什 (or 甚) 沒

莫是... 'must be', or rhetorical question rounded off with interrogative 否, 不, or 麼.
莫是聖否 lit. Wasn't he then a sage?
這僧莫是和尚親 this monk must be related to the venerable priest

Although, modern 雖
道我出家,被他問著佛法,便即杜口無詞 Although they declare ‘We are renouncers of home’, questioned about buddhadharma, they just shut their mouths, bereft of words.
知寺裏講筵開, 卻走尋春翫花柳 He knows that in the temple the sermon has begun, yet he hurries about, seeking the spring and enjoying the flowers and willows
(亦 can do the same:
時大師...亦不贊賞, 心自詮勝 And though he [the Fifth Patriarch] did not commend him [Huineng], yet in his heart he greatly appreciated him.)

既若 if
既若"不得",云何是"不得"底意? If [the answer] is 'to not obtain', what does 'to not obtain' mean?
問:既若如此,作沒生時得 Question: If this is so, when shall I succeed?
問曰:既若無心,即合無有見聞覺知 Question: If mind is nonexistent, then does it follow that seeing, hearing, perceiving, and knowing are nonexistent?

as suffix
道流、有一般禿子、便向裏許著功、擬求出世之法. Followers of the Way, there’re a bunch of shavepates who try to seek a transcendental dharma by directing their efforts inward.
Other examples of this construction are 外許 “outside,” 幾許 “how many,” and 少許 “a few.”

prefix of endearment+ extended meanings
道流,設解得百本經論,不如一箇無事底阿師。Followers of the Way, even if you should master a hundred sutras and śāstras, you’re not as good as a teacher with nothing to do.
By the time of the Tang dynasty it was also being affixed to words indicating various family relation- ships, as in 阿翁 “grandfather,” 阿婆 “husband’s mother,” 阿舅 “father-in-law,” 阿家 “mother-in-law,” 阿耶 “papa,” 阿孃 “mama,” 阿兄 “elder brother,” 阿弟 “younger brother,” 阿姉 “elder sister,” and so forth. The usage was further extended to such words as 阿師 “teacher” and 阿郎 “master,” to interrogatives like 阿誰 “who,” 阿沒 and 阿莽 “what,” and 阿那 “which.”

得力, to receive benefits or favours,receive help
腹熱心忙,奔波訪道。 後還得力,始到今日,共道流如是話度。With a burning belly and a turbulent mind, I ran around inquiring about the Way. Later, however, I got some help and finally today I can talk to you like this.

directional suffix, like 於
今日供養,何似昨日 today’s feast - how does it compare with yesterday’s?
說似一物則不中 To speak about a thing is to miss the mark
隱峯...却迴舉似於師 Yinfeng... returned, and related this to the master
我子心裏,何似 What is in my child’s mind?
Also: 強似 and 勝似, both meaning “better than,”

爲是 introduces either/or question
爲是神通妙用, 本體如然 Is this the marvelous activity of supernatural power or is it original substance as it is?
爲是窮境法, 爲是所行道 Is this the ultimate dharma, or is it a Way to be practiced?
爲是塵務經心, 天分有限 Are you worried about worldly affairs, or are your talents limited?
Other variants 爲A, 爲B, (爲失爲不失 Am I mistaken or not mistaken?) ; 爲當(or爲復)A,爲當(or爲復)B

太...adj...生 emphasises adjective, like modern 太..adj...了
普化踏倒飯床。師云:太麁生!Puhua kicked over the dinner table. “How coarse!” exclaimed the master.
Also: 太多生, “too many”; 太高生, “too lofty”; 太無禮生, “so lacking in manners”; 太難生, 太能生, 太貪生, 太痩生.

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Re: Reading Zen dialogues in Chinese

Post by Qianxi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm

直饒, even if. For 直 as an emphatic adverb, see above.
師打露柱云,直饒道得,也祇是箇木橛。Striking the pillar, the master said, “Even if you could speak, this is still only a wooden post.”
Synonyms: 徑饒, 假饒, 縱饒.

將爲 I always used to think...
師云:將爲爾是箇俗漢。“I always used to think you were just a common fellow,” said the master.
Also written: 將謂

阿那... which..? Modern 哪
阿那箇Which one comes closer?
Also: 阿那箇, “which one”; 阿那經, “which sutra”; 阿那裏, “where”; and 阿那邊, “where.”

向後 later, in the future. Modern 以後.
向後穿鑿成一株大樹、與天下人作陰涼去在。In the future, with training, he is sure to become a great tree that will provide cool shade for the people of the world.
向後北去,有箇住處。Afterwards there’ll be a man to help you, my venerable brother.
Synonym: 已後

here not 'wait' but 'to want to' 'let me...'
痛與一頓 let me give him a good dose of the stick

Those are all of the obviously grammatical notes in Ruth Sasaki's translation of the Records of Linji. I think they should be quite useful for reading Tang/Song Zen texts generally.

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