Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A recent post about translation reminded me of the following saying:

Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

It is said to be coming from zen buddhism, which is commonly referred to as a Japanese school of buddhism. I was wondering if this saying is actually commonly used in Zen (in Japan), and especially what the writing would be.

Although it seems interesting, I am by no means a practitioner of buddhism. I came across this saying a lot when searching the internet, but never with a source of translation. Zen originated in China and buddhism uses a lot of sanskrit texts, so perhaps the saying is not of Japanese origin in the first place, but it never hurts to ask, right?

share|improve this question
    
I'm not sure that it's off-topic here, but I think it'd be a better fit on Skeptics Stack Exchange. –  Andrew Grimm Dec 4 '12 at 11:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This page attributes the saying to the Chinese proverb

顿悟之前砍柴挑水,顿悟之后砍柴挑水

after Wu Li (吴力). In Japanese I could only find blog posts that said the saying comes from English. Searching Chinese pages, however, there are almost no exact hits and Wu Li was a painter and poet, but a convert to Catholicism. Smells like a saying that fits well with the Western concept of Zen Buddhism, but has little to do with it. Maybe someone fluent in Chinese can help find out more.

share|improve this answer
    
Clear enough for me. Seems to be a case of 'when we say it originates from traditional Zen, people will believe it is.' That's not to say that the saying couldn't be of worth, though. –  Frishert Dec 4 '12 at 5:51

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.