Presentando Il Canto dello Zen

Announcing the Publication of Living by Vow in Italian

Book stores in Italy are now stocking Living by Vow, Shōhaku Okumura’s illuminating overview of Sōtō liturgy. His disciples there arranged for its translation and for Ubaldini to publish it in recent weeks. That same firm printed two other titles by Okumura-roshi in Italy — Realizing Genjōkōan and The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō.

Of course, we celebrate this achievement for the sake of Italian practitioners who now have access to this work. And we commemorate the fruition of a long, arduous task by Roshi’s disciples. But we also mark this occasion for English-speaking readers to discover this book’s gifts — if not for the first time, then, perhaps, in wisdom attained since their initial encounter.

With these thoughts in mind, The Dōgen Institute now offers the Introduction to Living by Vow here in both Italian and English.

Languages frequently resist the sorts of conversions we can make from, say, ounces to milliliters. And this is no exception. We can’t get past the book’s title before subtleties in linguistic meanings jockey for attention.

Our Italian sangha tell us the phrase “Living by Vow” is really complicated to express in that language. And so, it’s published in Italy as “Il Canto dello Zen.” A literal translation could render that as “The Song of Zen.” And they read it as “The Chant of Zen.”

On page one of the Introduction, Roshi tells us “…there is no perfect translation, especially in the case of religious scriptures. A translation optimized for meaning is often difficult to read and chant. But to create a beautiful verse we may have to sacrifice the exact meaning of the original texts.”

Even so, consider the poems we chant that are called “songs.” Take Sekitō’s “Song of the Grass Hut,” for example, and Hakuin’s “Song of Zazen.” If we take the Lotus Sutra as our guide, through our ears, we hear the voice of the Buddha. And everything we encounter is the Dharma.

In that regard, the teachings of Living by Vow would be music to our ears in any language. So let’s connect with the melody already in progress . . .

Il Canto dello ZenIntroduzione in Italiano

Living by VowIntroduction in English

— • —

We express our appreciation to Wisdom Publications for graciously allowing us to post the English-language Introduction to Living by Vow.  In its quest to preserve and share Buddhist literary culture, this nonprofit charitable organization extends the reach of Shōhaku Okumura’s teachings and advances critical scholarship such as his around the world.

Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

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