Help with Classical Chinese!

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源食う
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Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by 源食う »

After reading up a little on the Japanese Pure Land Schools' views of karma, I used my limited knowledge of Japanese (and even more limited Classical Chinese) to find some passages by a 15th century Jodo-shu priest, Ryoei, about the role that karma plays in the rule of kings and social prosperity. He speaks at length of the prosperity described in Chinese Confucian texts, then shifts to ranting about later Chinese kings and problems plaguing Japanese society, which he attributes to the decline of dharma. He explains that, in the defiled world, the causes and effects of karma are shared among beings, and both poverty and wealth cannot be attributable to the virtue of one king (the 徳 of a ruler which holds central importance in Confucianism).

He eventually talks about how certain actions of kings can be virtuous, and the relation of these actions to the pure land and intervention by Bodhisattvas. The original text, and a slightly annotated Japanese version can be found here: http://jodoshuzensho.jp/jozensearch_pos ... 1_0519A09

He poses the question (majorly abridged): 臣何所用菩薩觀更以不可入然如何
What do the ministers use? In what way is the Bodhisattva’s gaze all-the-more unable to enter with [those virtuous actions]?

To which he answers: 云云記主上人就菩薩觀引五帝本記雖判釋之抄主無細釋.
(云云=etc., not sure what it's doing here) It is recorded that the sovereign succeeds to the gaze of the bodhisattva. Citing the records of the five emperors (part of the 史記), however, in interpreting this, I reference the subtle explanation of the centrality of nothingness.

難祖意計爾短學者何疎之故至未令追加之唾貴人面前矣

I'm very confused about this last sentence. Based on the Japanese annotation, it might be something like "What is the commentary of those who casually study the difficult-to-figure intent of the patriarchs, thus, comes to 未令追加之 and spits in front of the nobles’ faces.

I have no idea what 未令追加之 means, or really the rest of the sentence means. The Japanese annotation is horrifyingly confusing and I've never seen more than two "reverse" marks in a sentence (I haven't read too many but I took two semesters of studying Classical Chinese). I don't even know the correct order of the Japanese transcription, but it might be something like "they have not yet commanded to add this..." in which case I don't know how that relates to spitting.

More importantly I think I'm missing some kind of reference that other (pure land?) Buddhists have made relating nothingness/無 to Chinese history, although that may be more in the realm of the Daoists? Especially since Pure Land buddhists have mounted rebellions and maintained state power in both Japan and China for some periods of time, there may be a lot of historical context I'm missing in my extremely flawed translation of this work. Any help understanding this would be greatly appreciated, though. This is one of the most explicitly political works I can find in the Jodo-shu canon.
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Zhen Li
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by Zhen Li »

I have little trouble reading Buddhist sutras in Chinese, and I wish I could help, but this is incomprehensible to me. You may be the most educated in classical Chinese on the forum. Maybe you should contact the instructor under whom you studied? I'd be interested in seeing a translation of this text.
PeterC
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by PeterC »

Do you have the full context? Read in isolation these lines seem odd.
源食う
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by 源食う »

PeterC wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 9:50 am Do you have the full context? Read in isolation these lines seem odd.

The full text is linked above, but what I sent is in response to this rhetorical question:

問:註稱堯舜無爲因順穢土立淨土輔佐用菩薩觀

Question:
Focusing on the non-action (wu-wei) of Rao and Shun, these originate in the mundane world, stand on the aide of the Pure land, and use the watch of the bodhisattva.

猶以不明所以者何娑婆主君隨分雖聖君有誅臣君德彌益風求羅
In the same way, the use of this [aide and watch?] is unclear (or unenlightened) and results in what? If a mundane king follows the part of the sagely ruler, and punishes the lords, the king's merit is like benefit of the wind to the gugal plant (whose resin is used in incense and ayurveda).

殊以此界群品五濁盛貪欲恣盛也
In particular, with the arising of the five defilements of the groups of beings in this world, there is the arising of greed, lust, and avarice.

故誅上道下輔佐臣國媒也
Thus, punishment above and the path below help the mediation of lords [in the affairs of this world].

尤以可用之然淨界國君三明滿德出過三位法王也
Particularly, these can be used in such a way that, like the pure land, the kings of nations [gain] the three enlightenments and complete virtue and pass through the three stages of the dharma king.

豈受臣誅其上淨土無五濁謂淨土衆生雖有新生舊住差別内德皆同八地薩埵多分補處菩薩也
Perhaps, given the punishment of the lords, in the pure land above him there are none of the five defilements, and in the so-called beings of the pure land there are distinctions of new life and old residing, and in the 8 satvas inner-morality is equal, making him possible the successor Bodhisattva.

爾無白上無道下臣何所用菩薩觀更以不可入然如何
And without addressing those above or the path below, what do the lords use? How can it be that the Bodhisattva’s gaze all-the-more unable to enter with [those virtuous actions]?

Even given the translation I'm a bit uncertain. I think Ryoei uses a lot of referenced and idioms that I don't understand (like 益風求羅) and seems to generally be difficult. Another section of this work contains the sentence "非是非非之是者非但是云非是非但非云非非非非即是也". This work was made around the time that Jodo-shu was estalished as an independent sect and Shogei, the patriarch, was writing treatises comparing the pure land path to Daoism, Confucianism, Zen, Esoteric Buddhism, native religions etc., so I guess it makes sense why there are so many references--it's kind of amazing how Bodhisattvas, daoism, and ayurveda

That is a good idea to contact the instructor--it's been a while but hopefully he has the time to give this passage a look.

There seems to be a decent amount of English works on Jodo-Shinshu floating around, almost entirely Shinran and Rennyo's works, and a few translations of Honen's. Unfortunately, it seems like almost all the other pure land masters only have their works available in classical Chinese, or in some instances classical Japanese. Maybe this is why Honen advised against 学問をして、念のこころを悟りて申す念仏, but while I'm still trying to get a handle of pure land thought--especially Jodo-shu, it seems like I'm gonna have to learn Classical Chinese better.
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Caoimhghín
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by Caoimhghín »

Four fēis in a row... 非非非非. Wow. 非非非非即是也 looks like something like "not none and not none inseparably are likewise," which makes no sense at all!
Then, the monks uttered this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and ruined.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.
(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Caoimhghín
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by Caoimhghín »

So the doubled-up negations must be either a "no non-/nor not" construction or a "neither/nor" construction

非非想天 the heaven of neither thought nor no thought
非有非非有 neither existing nor not existing
非非男非非女 neither male nor female
非非想 no nonconception

The problem is, with four of them, the subject being negated is likely being dropped. My guess.
Then, the monks uttered this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and ruined.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.
(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
源食う
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by 源食う »

My instructor sent me a Classical Chinese textbook which focuses on Buddhist literature, so once I finish that textbook in several months/years I will try translating this text again.
cdpatton
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by cdpatton »

源食う wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 11:38 am (云云=etc., not sure what it's doing here) It is recorded that the sovereign succeeds to the gaze of the bodhisattva. Citing the records of the five emperors (part of the 史記), however, in interpreting this, I reference the subtle explanation of the centrality of nothingness.
Most of the confusion is the lack of punctuation. I think you may be breaking the text up improperly. I wish I could be more help myself, but I don't have that much practice at classical Chinese outside of Indic translations. Plus, this is apparently a Japanese text written in classical Chinese, so the place and era probably plays a role in how to read it properly.

All that said, I do know that 云云 is a way to end a quotation that isn't quoted in full. It's equivalent to saying, "and so on" or "etc." or just adding a "..." on the end of the quotation. So, it's not likely to begin a sentence, but rather to end one.
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源食う
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Re: Help with Classical Chinese!

Post by 源食う »

cdpatton wrote: Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:03 am
Most of the confusion is the lack of punctuation. I think you may be breaking the text up improperly. I wish I could be more help myself, but I don't have that much practice at classical Chinese outside of Indic translations. Plus, this is apparently a Japanese text written in classical Chinese, so the place and era probably plays a role in how to read it properly.

All that said, I do know that 云云 is a way to end a quotation that isn't quoted in full. It's equivalent to saying, "and so on" or "etc." or just adding a "..." on the end of the quotation. So, it's not likely to begin a sentence, but rather to end one.
I attempted to break up the text using the Japanese marks in the link, but the little bit of annotated Classical Chinese I've parsed usually has punctuation along with marks, while this one only has the marks (many of which are obscure to me).

The prior page in this text follows a "問答" format but what I found particularly confusing is that 云云 comes after "答", which itself comes after a question. So, unless the actual answer is omitted for some reason, the sentence would be something like:

"Question: (bunch of sentences) How can it be? Answer: etc. etc. The records say..."

or

"Question: (bunch of sentences) How can it be the answer etc. etc.? The records say..."

Maybe there's an alternative reading?
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