Jun 20, 2009

Ichigo ichie revisited

During Eido Roshi's talk about Zen scrolls he discussed the often used phrase, ichigo ichie. We often translate this phrase as "one lifetime, one meeting." But Eido Roshi likes the translation, unprecedented, unrepteatable as a more clear translation of the meaning.

He said on that day that June 12, 2009 has never come before and will never be repeated. It is the only one of it's kind. This translation only emphasizes the uniqueness of this moment. I live most of my life going from one thing to the next without awareness of the passing of days . Ichigo ichie calls upon me to pay attention to right now before the moment has passed.

I did not bring my camera to the conference for some reason that I think had to do with paying attention. When I take photos, I feel somewhat separated from the "action." As an observer, I try to capture the moment rather than be in the moment. As we well know, the photograph will never capture the moment, but it can bring back the memories of the time that it was taken.

Eventually, if the people who were there at the time pass, even these memories fade. The very language of photography, to capture the moment, to take a photo seems to be an aggressive way of keeping a hold of or stopping time. We can neither stop the flow nor hold onto the moment. The moment is the moment and you can never recapture it.

Ichigo ichie -- unprecedented, unrepeatable.


  1. "Unprecedented, unrepteatable."
    That's a lovely translation. Thank you for passing it along.

  2. Wil,
    Thank you for the comment, and welcome to the SweetPersimmon blog. I do like this translation as well. Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain the meaning when translating from one language to another, and I think with the layers of meaning in Zen phrases there is room for more than one translation. Thank you.