- Dōgen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Kōroku
To date, most scholarship on Dōgen (1200-1253) has focused on his Shōbō-genzō (Correct dharma eye treasury), and Dōgen's translators have directed their efforts at this text and several shorter pieces. With the publication of Dōgen's Extensive Record, Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura have made available an excellent translation of Dōgen's other major work, the Eihei Kōroku, and have thereby opened up a rich resource to readers lacking facility with East Asian languages.
In his substantial introduction, Leighton outlines Dōgen's life, the significance of the Record in Dōgen's corpus, Dōgen's main disciples, and the use of the text in Zen practice. In an essay on the significance of the Record and its translation, prominent Dōgen scholar Steven Heine compares the Record and the Shōbō-genzō and highlights several doctrinal themes in the Record. The initial section of the book also features a short foreword by Tenshin Reb Anderson of the San Francisco Zen Center, comments by John Daido Loori of Zen Mountain Monastery on Dōgen's and his own use of koans, and a previously published rendering of a poem by Ryōkan (1758- 1831) on reading the Record.
The Extensive Record itself consists of ten sections, including formal talks for students in the Dharma hall, longer informal talks given to smaller groups of students in the abbot's quarters, ninety koans with Dōgen's comments in verse, and a collection of Dōgen's poems. Leighton and Okumura deserve praise for taking on the daunting task of translating this text and for their success in this endeavor. A close look at the original Chinese reveals that they have crafted a faithful translation. Accuracy is not the only virtue of their translation, however, for they have rendered Dōgen's dense and idiosyncratic language in clear, lively, and engaging English. This is no small accomplishment.
Leighton and Okumura's skill is evident throughout the 570 pages of the Record proper. They have translated the full range of Dōgen's linguistic repertoire—technical terms, colloquial expressions, dense citations of Buddhist texts, and poetical images—with finesse. As one example, in their rendering of a brief talk about the ninety-day summer training period (p. 152), they provide a useful heading for the talk "Not Beginning, Not Going Beyond"; they evoke the dynamism of Dōgen's teaching style by coaxing out of the Chinese the way Dōgen "held up his whisk and drew a circle in the air" and directed his students to "kick the beginning . . . [and] stamp out going beyond"; and they craft their translation to highlight how the term for the "summer training period," ango, literally means "abiding peacefully."
As a fellow translator of Japanese Buddhist writings, I am especially struck by how adroitly Leighton and Okumura handle difficult passages that demand the kinds [End Page 269] of interpretive decisions that test the ability of translators, especially passages that exemplify Dōgen's proclivity to use grammatically and semantically open-ended expressions to make multivalent statements. For example, their talent is evident in renderings of passages where it is difficult to determine whether Dōgen is speaking descriptively or prescriptively (or both at once), as in a discussion of gems and jewels: "Having already discerned this [radiant brilliance of a gem], immediately one knows this gem. Already knowing this gem, immediately realize this jewel" (p. 539).
Further, to the benefit of readers, Leighton and Okumura manage to avoid the trap of trying too hard to convey the content of philosophically layered expressions and succumbing to literal yet stiff renderings. For example, they translate onozukara not as "of itself " but as "naturally" in the line, "When you have built a pond, naturally the moon will come" (p. 206); and they render buji—no-thing or no matters—with the...