Posts Tagged ‘jikishin kore dojo’

Shundo Aoyama Roshi

Toward the end of his life, the Japanese Zen Master Genshu Watanabe (1869-1963) called a young disciple to his bedside and posed a question. “How can one go straight,” he asked, “on a steep mountain road of ninety-nine curves?” The disciple was baffled, so Watanabe Roshi answered the question himself:

“Walk straight by winding along.”

Paradoxical and enigmatic, this statement alludes to a classic Zen koan: Go straight along a road with ninety-nine curves. Zen koans—those ancient Chinese anecdotes, dialogues, and apothegms that Zen students are assigned to memorize and contemplate—often pose logic-defying questions (“What was your original face before your parents were born?”). By internalizing the question and living with it for a time, the student awakens intuitive insight. In this instance, however, the main point of interest is not the question but the master’s answer. What might it mean, we might inquire, to walk straight by winding along? (more…)

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One afternoon many years ago, when my son and I were playing chess at our dining-room table, our conversation turned to a woman I’d recently met.

“She seems honest,” I cautiously observed.

“I would have said ‘straightforward,’ Dad,” Alexander replied, taking my rook with his knight. Although he was only thirteen at the time, he was even then a stickler for definitions.

As it happened, however, father and son were both close to the mark. The word straightforward is a relative newcomer to the English language. The first usage cited by the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1806. Originally, the meaning of straightforward was primarily descriptive. The word meant “directly in front of or onwards; in direct order.” But by the end of the nineteenth century, straightforward had acquired a moral aura, as in the Rev. Griffith John’s characterization of one Mr. Wei as a “plain, honest, straightforward-looking man” (1875). If not quite synonyms, honest and straightforward had come to occupy the same moral universe. (more…)

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