I would like to understand this Zen calligraphy:
I gather that it says "hōgejaku" and that this means something like "let it go", "throw it away", "throw it down". According to this page, the kanji are 放下著, but I find it hard to see the similarity, especially for the last one. The first two do have on readings of "hō" and "ge", respectively, and the New Nelson character dictionary has the compound 放下 with reading "hōka" and meaning "throwing down; juggling". The last one, however, appears to have neither a reading "jaku", nor a meaning indicating an imperative.
The page offering the calligraphy for sale says:
The three characters of this print express the Zen principle of releasing all negative, selfish thoughts and emotions [...].
This book says:
In Japan's traditional interpretation of Zen, either grammatical markers appearing in Baihua were accepted in the form of Chinese or individual characters as grammatical markers were read in Japanese as follows: [...] -zhuo2 (Imperative): -jaku-seyo. This is ascribed to the fact that bilingualism was practiced at the Zen temples in Kamakura Gozan when Zen was imported to Japan.
A translation of Shobogenzo Zuimonki relates the Zen connection as follows:
Hoge in Japanese means to let go, throw away, give up, abandon, lay down, etc. Someone asked Joshu, “I have nothing. How is that?” Joshu replied, “Throw it away (hoge-jaku).”
However, this book gives a different meaning:
There is a Japanese Zen expression "Hogejaku". This expression is often interpreted as "to throw away or give up everything," implying from now on. But this isn't what it means. Rather, the meaning is that "everything has already fallen away or been thrown away," and it points to your condition right now.
I'd appreciate any information related to the expression, the calligraphy and/or the Zen background; in particular:
- How would you translate this phrase into English?
- Which kanji are being used?
- Is it an imperative, and if so, how is it being formed?
- Is this something a present-day native Japanese speaker would readily understand?
- Is there a "canonical" version of the associated Zen story?