What exactly IS Shindoku?

What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:22 am

My understanding is that Shindoku is the Japanese reading of the Chinese characters. Someone explained it to me as follows: The symbol equal sign = is universal; it means the same thing in all cultures; but in the US we call it "the equal sign," and in Spanish speaking countries it would be called something else, etc. So, I "get" that part. But it's still a little confusing.

I guess the next question is, why exactly did Shindoku originate? Why not just fully translate the sutra into Japanese, and just read it in Japanese? I am aware that some groups do indeed do that. But why is Shindoku even, well, in existence if the other option is there?

Another question: I've heard that "Shindoku" really isn't a language at all, and that the words themselves virtually mean nothing, as the "Japanese pronunciation of Chinese characters" is not, strictly speaking, even a language per se. I mean, the sounds mean nothing in the way that spoken language means something. And yet ... there are places in the Shindoku readings that sound a lot like the Chinese words themselves and that appear that they may actually BE understandable. For example, "Shoman" seems to be understandable to some people, and "Shari-hotsu" seems so close to "Shariputra," who was a disciple of Buddha, correct?

Also, a question about the age of the Chinese characters. I was once told that the Chinese characters used in the Kamurajiva translation, and published in the various handbooks, are archaic and not in use anymore. And yet one day I handed an SGI service book to a Chinese friend of mine; he looked at it and translated it verbatim; he said to me, "Oh, this is saying that the wisdom of the Buddhas is understandable only between Buddhas...."

Any responses appreciated. Thanks. :)
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:23 pm

First, it helps to know about Japanese written language, particularly its use of Chinese characters: http://www.tofugu.com/2010/03/23/the-types-of-kanji-in-japanese-onyomi-vs-kunyomi/

Think about contemporary scholarship - if you want to be a Chinese history scholar as a native English speaker, I suppose you can do work based on texts translated into English, and rely on secondary texts composed in English, but your scholarship is going to be very limited, and you will not be doing anything original or ground breaking. You'll basically be limited to commentary on translations and secondary texts. Most of the stuff you might want to read is not going to be translated and you will probably be very limited. If you want to go further, you will have to learn Chinese.

This was the same situation for Buddhists in Japan. And once you learned Chinese, do you really need a text translated anymore? The only reason you would is to make it accessible for those who have not yet learned Chinese.

Traditionally, Chinese was part of the curriculum for monks (and for anyone who wanted to be considered educated), so there wasn't much need for translations.

Now, Chinese is an interesting written language that does not necessarily require you to be able to speak the language. Indeed, not all Chinese dialects are mutually intelligible. However, in terms of written form, they can all reasonably communicate. This is the case with Japanese who can read Chinese texts, using Japanese pronunciations of the Chinese readings.

Shindoku is reading Chinese in Onyomi.

Terms like "shari-hotsu" and "anuttarasamuyakusambodai" are transliterations of Sanskrit, into Chinese and then into Japanese. Just like "Namo".

As for why not translate and recite the sutras in the translated language? Sure. Why not.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:15 pm

Thank you very much for the response. I suppose it just reflects the relationship between Japan and China, and the characteristics of the Chinese written language. I mean, I suppose I'm used to thinking of languages and cultures as so distinct. For analogy, I don't think there is necessarily a "French reading of the English characters." I think that they translated Shakespeare's works into French. I don't think they memorized Shakespeare's plays -- but in the French reading of English language characters. It's just a different type of relationship that the Chinese and Japanese have. I remember being really surprised when I learned that the Gohonzon -- an object of veneration for Japanese Buddhists -- has Chinese characters on it, and the most important word -- "namu myoho renge kyo" -- is in Chinese.

If you don't mind me asking, what language is the term "Myohorengekyo" even in? Is that "modern day Japanese," or is it archaic Japanese, or is it Shindoku?

And what is Onyomi?

Also, "Shari-hotsu" is transliteration of the Sanskrit. So, to my understanding, that means that this is actually how the word sounds in Sanskrit. Right?

Thank you so much. These are questions I've had forever, but which few people have ever been able to answer. :)
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:16 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:If you don't mind me asking, what language is the term "Myohorengekyo" even in? Is that "modern day Japanese," or is it archaic Japanese, or is it Shindoku?


Well, "myohorengekyo" is the Japanese reading of the Chinese title of the Lotus Sutra, in the onyomi, or if we want to put it in pious terms "shindoku". Its as Japanese as "skunk" is English (derived from the native American word for those black and white ermines with stinky glands)

And what is Onyomi?


A sort of Chinese reading of Chinese character, as pronounced in Japanese... contrasted with kunyomi. Its confusing unless you actually study Japanese and know when each type of reading is used. I linked to a quick explanation above.

Also, "Shari-hotsu" is transliteration of the Sanskrit. So, to my understanding, that means that this is actually how the word sounds in Sanskrit. Right?


Shari-hotsu is the Japanese onyomi pronunciation of Sariputra's name transliterated into Chinese from Sanskrit using Chinese characters intended to be read phonetically. You basically have it right.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:06 am

Thank you for the responses. This is all very interesting. But it's also all very much "over-my-head." I just have no concept of something like "the Japanese reading of Chinese characters." I mean, I have the Hoben and Juryo chapters memorized. So, I can DO it. I just don't "get" it -- at least on a linguistic level.

Example. I was at a meeting last night at a Nichiren temple. I took a journal from my childhood trip to Japan. I showed them where, in the journal, I had written down some Japanese words they taught me. The sensei surprised me by telling me that, in fact, what I had written down were Chinese characters. The Chinese woman sitting next to me then said that she had a (Chinese) friend who lived in Japan for about a year, but she didn't speak Japanese. This friend was, however, able to get along fine in Japan -- because she could read everything around her, and when she went to the store, she just wrote down what she needed -- and the shop keepers could read it, because, even though they were Japanese, they could read Chinese characters.

This is all just mind blowing for me. For analogy, there is no such thing, at least as I know, as an "English reading of French characters." I mean, this whole concept doesn't even exist in my mind. Maybe I'll grasp it better some day.

By the way, why is it "pious" for us to refer to it as "Shindoku"?

Thanks.
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby noisemonkey » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:20 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:Thank you for the responses. This is all very interesting. But it's also all very much "over-my-head." I just have no concept of something like "the Japanese reading of Chinese characters." I mean, I have the Hoben and Juryo chapters memorized. So, I can DO it. I just don't "get" it -- at least on a linguistic level.

Example. I was at a meeting last night at a Nichiren temple. I took a journal from my childhood trip to Japan. I showed them where, in the journal, I had written down some Japanese words they taught me. The sensei surprised me by telling me that, in fact, what I had written down were Chinese characters. The Chinese woman sitting next to me then said that she had a (Chinese) friend who lived in Japan for about a year, but she didn't speak Japanese. This friend was, however, able to get along fine in Japan -- because she could read everything around her, and when she went to the store, she just wrote down what she needed -- and the shop keepers could read it, because, even though they were Japanese, they could read Chinese characters.

This is all just mind blowing for me. For analogy, there is no such thing, at least as I know, as an "English reading of French characters." I mean, this whole concept doesn't even exist in my mind. Maybe I'll grasp it better some day.

By the way, why is it "pious" for us to refer to it as "Shindoku"?

Thanks.


it's because Japanese is composed of three scripts:
hiragana which is phonetic characters
katakana which is slightly more formalised words
and kanji which is more or less classical chinese.
User avatar
noisemonkey
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:35 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Jikan » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:13 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:This is all just mind blowing for me. For analogy, there is no such thing, at least as I know, as an "English reading of French characters." I mean, this whole concept doesn't even exist in my mind. Maybe I'll grasp it better some day.


Don't overthink it because there's not much to get: It's just a different kind of writing system.
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4319
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:25 pm

noisemonkey wrote:it's because Japanese is composed of three scripts:
hiragana which is phonetic characters
katakana which is slightly more formalised words
and kanji which is more or less classical chinese.


Actually both hiragana and katakana are phonetic characters, but hiragana is used today for Japanese words and words of Chinese origin and katakana is used for foreign terms.
    南無阿弥陀佛
    南無妙法蓮華經
    南無観世音菩薩
User avatar
Tatsuo
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:50 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby noisemonkey » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:27 pm

Tatsuo wrote:
noisemonkey wrote:it's because Japanese is composed of three scripts:
hiragana which is phonetic characters
katakana which is slightly more formalised words
and kanji which is more or less classical chinese.


Actually both hiragana and katakana are phonetic characters, but hiragana is used today for Japanese words and words of Chinese origin and katakana is used for foreign terms.


oh cool, cheers for the info :)
User avatar
noisemonkey
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:35 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:50 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:By the way, why is it "pious" for us to refer to it as "Shindoku"?


"Shindoku" literally translates as "genuine reading". I don't know what it originally meant, but I get the sense that it has taken on a mystical sense - sort of like mantras which are believed to be actual speech of enlightened beings. Something like "This is the magical, universal reading that invokes the power of the words!"

When it comes down to it, though, its for the most part just onyomi.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:52 pm

Thank you for the responses, everyone. I suppose that, from the start, I've just been fascinated by the following:

Nichiren Buddhism seems, in large part, to be based on chanting, particularly, of course, the phrase nam(u)myohorengekyo, and yet it seems that virtually no one (at least of US origin) really knows exactly what we are chanting.

Maybe I'm just making it too hard. Maybe it's that simple: some people just don't care. At a recent meeting, I heard some (American) person say, "Oh, we recite in some archaic language no one understands," and they just left it at that.

I do have a tendency to make things more difficult than they are sometimes, at least when I'm really interested in the topic. But I think a stumbling block for me is that when I was a child in Japan I was taught a few characters and I was told "this is Japanese." And now I'm being told that it was actually Chinese.

Also, I think that when I started learning chapters 2 and 16, I got really happy thinking, "Now I'm learning Japanese...." Then I was told, "Actually, you're learning ancient Japanese...." Then another person told me, "No, it's a hybrid of Chinese and Japanese...." Then, finally, the more sophisticated, "It's the Japanese reading of the Chinese characters."

So, I suppose it's two issues for me:

1. Understanding this history of the Japanese and Chinese languages.
2. Understanding how it is that many people just don't care what exactly it is that they are chanting. (You'd think people would want a better understanding of something that is basically the focal-point of the religion.)
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 22, 2012 4:20 pm

Hi OB, like Jikan wrote, don't over think this. If you are really interested, you might take some Japanese courses.
the Japanese writing system is often considered to be the most complicated in use anywhere in the world.

So says wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_writing_system

As for what people are chanting, you can read the Lotus Sutra in translation. https://www.bdkamerica.org/digital/dBET_T0262_LotusSutra_2007.pdf

In Chapter 2, the Buddha explains that he teaches in similes, analogies, parables, etc. in order to be understood by his audience, but that the true nature of his wisdom is only fathomable by Buddhas.

In the 16th Chapter, the Buddha Shakyamuni reveals that rather than having attained enlightenment at the age of 30 in Gaya as everyone thinks, he actually attained enlightenment in the incomprehensibly distant past (interpreted to mean that Shakyamuni Buddha, is the Root Buddha, having a life span that is in a sense eternal, but also limited, as in having a beginning and end. The tension between these ideas points to the infinite nature of cause and effect. This is a long and complicated discussion. Contrast with monotheistic religions that reject the infinite nature of cause and effect and therefore arbitrarily posit a first cause - God.) In one way, Lotus Sutra teaches that life is unfathomably infinite and enlightenment is a matter of coming to terms with this fact and living according to its implications. Of course there is much more to it than that.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: What exactly IS Shindoku?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:56 pm

Thank you. I think I have a tendency to "over-think" it because I'm really enjoy it. Ever since my childhood trip to Japan (where I was taught a little Japanese, both spoken and written), I've wanted to continue to learn. But I wasn't taught anymore after that trip, and I've forgotten what I was taught. And I was always discouraged from attempting to learn more because of precisely what you write above: it's considered one of, if not the, most difficult languages in the world. I think that I was happy to think that by learning the chapters I was "sneaking by" and learning something that was really difficult. Then, it just sort of left my head spinning to find that "it isn't really Japanese or Chinese...."

In other words, I think that in my "excitement" for this topic, I make it more difficult than it is. Thanks. :namaste:
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon


Return to Nichiren

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

>