Saturday, December 22, 2007

Plain Yet Tasteful (Beauty in Simplicity)

Venerable Hui Zhen is one of the several Buddhist teachers that we have had the good fortune of meeting in person, and from whom we have benefited immensely through attending their Dharma talks in the process. We have known of his literary prowess then, when he interspersed his Dharma lectures with his inspiring stanzas that he has penned. In this respect, I have even translated one of his Mindful Dispensations appearing in his blog here.

Recently, we learned that he has decided to publish his first book comprising various short articles, poems, and a daily journal on his stint of self-confinement. We received the book , appropriately entitled Plain yet Tasteful (loosely translated), as a gift sent through Sister Yu Tze, one of wify's Buddhist friends, some time ago.

And for the past week or so, I have been poring over the book, a few articles at a time. I note that the article that I have translated is in there. So is one of the stanzas he recited to us that I have not had the chance to write them down. It's really a hilarious piece of writing, poking fun at our excuses for not learning the Dharma. Here I have attempted to provide an English translation, hopefully injecting some of the jestful humor and more important, the earnest admonishment embedded therein. But I can assure you that in no way it will ever match the witticism in simplicity and rhythmicity so obvious in the original creation. Such is the beauty of prose written in its native language that it is invariably lost in translation.

Here then is the translation (for the original stanza in Chinese, please contact Venerable Master Hui Zhen via his website for a copy of his book. He would welcome any support to defray the cost of publication):

Listen But Don't Understand
Listen But Don't Understand! Listen But Don't Understand!
Not because I don't come to listen,
but that I never wish to understand.
Listen But Don't Understand! Listen But Don't Understand!
How could one understand without listening?
Not understanding is precisely the need to listen.
Listen But Don't Understand! Listen But Don't Understand!
Not listening does not make you understand.
Not understanding does not relieve you from listening.
Not listening nor understanding removes you further from understanding.
Listen! Listen! Listen! Understand! Understand! Understand!
You will only understand after you have listened.
It's imperative that you listen more after you have understood.
Understand! Understand! Understand! Listen! Listen! Listen!
Listen carefully, understand with all your heart.
Eventually one day you will understand what you have listened.

Then I came across a couplet that describes the serenity, the expanse, the quiescence imparted by a majestic mountain range, much like a Zen practitioner, not moving even though there is coming and going, as experienced by Venerable Master Hui Zhen whose abode snuggles on a hillside. Another occasion for wify to practice her Chinese calligraphy and brush painting to match the mood engendered by the couplet, which says, in English translation:

The sound of the pine, the sound of the bamboo, the sound of bell chiming and drum beating, all are carefree sounds.
The mountain scenery, the water scenery, the colorful tapestry of the misty dusk, all are emptiness of form.

Note that the couplet is to be read from top to bottom and right to left.


Hui zhen said...

This is Hui Zhen.
I am very pleasantly surprised you translate very well and put on your blog.WELL DONE!
Maybe next year I will go to the United States to meet with you all.This book has been so popular is because we gave a complete.Printing is now again the second time.Than the previous publication will be more complete.After I finished printing will be sent to US for Yu Tze.Take care,

Say Lee said...

Thank you very much, Venerable Master Hui Zhen, for visiting and your encouraging words.

We look forward to meeting you again.


Chin Meow said...

Thanks for introducing the Master
Hui Zhen's work to us.
Read part your translation and
found a lots wisdom in it.
I have requested a book.

Chin Meow

Say Lee said...

I'm sure you're going to find the book inspiring. There is truly beauty in simplicity.