Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Returning To The Self

Sawaki Roshi: You can't exchange farts with anyone, right? everyone has to live his own self. Who is good looking? Who is smart? You or I? There is no need to compare yourself with others.

Uchiyama Roshi: Sawaki Roshi devoted his whole life to Zazen. How did he describe it? In his early teaching, he often said, "Zazen makes the self into the self," and "To do Zazen is to become familar with the self." To do Zazen is to cast off everything and just sit, making "the self into the self."

Soon, final and entrance exams will be given in the schools. Some students will attempt suicide because of their poor grades on exams. Today's educational system only teaches competition. It does not teach how to return to the self. That's why such tragedies occur.

Whether you defeat others or are defeated by them, you live out the self which is only the self.
You never become someone else. Without being concerned about success or failure, go back to the self. Zazen is the practice in which you, "Let go of all associations, and put all affairs aside."(Dogen Zenji's Fukanzazengi). In the Sutta-Nipata, Buddha said, "Make yourself your refuge, walk in the world and be unchained from everything." Dogen wrote in Genjokoan, "To study Buddhism is to study the self." Without being pulled every which way through comparing yourself with others, settle down to the true self. According to Buddha's teaching, this is the essential way of pacifiying the mind. It is the purest zazen.

Sawaki Roshi: Sit firmly in the place beyond any question of whether you are great or not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Greatness of Sawaki Roshi

Sawaki Roshi: Someone said, "Sawaki Roshi wasted his whole life in zazen."

Uchiyama Roshi: This was his self-appraisal in the series called "The Unpainted Face," published in the Asahi Journal last year(1965). Since his death on the 21st of December, his followers have come to Antaiji to offer incense for the repose of his soul. Most of them do not remember him as a person who, "wasted his whole life in zazen." One person said, "Sawaki Roshi told off General Ugaki." Another said, "When he encountered old Mr. Matsunaga, he did such and such." Still another said, " When I asked him about the Suez Canal affair I was very impresses with his answer, alhough I didn't quite understand what he meant. He said, 'You should cover the canal with a kesa.' "

In the Russo-Japanese War(1904-1905) he was a courageous and highly decorated soldier. He always sadi, "As a daredevil, I am second to none." But then he would say, "That is only the greatness of Mori no Ishimatsu(a gambler famous for his bravery)."

Sawaki Roshi was from birth a vital and stimulating person who dominated other people and attracted them like a magnet. That was his karma, as natural for him as a cat catching mice or a musk deer emitting an attractive fragrance; it was not his greatness as a Buddhist.

Sooner or later a collecton of anecdotes about his life will be published, but that will only entertain people, not teach them Buddhism. Sometimes we miss the point in praising a person. In this case, there is no connection between his, "wasting his whole life in zazen" and the greatness of his character.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seeing Clearly

Sawaki Roshi: If you steal other people's things, you become a thief. Some people think that you become a thief only after you have been arrested by a policeman, questioned by a public prosecutor, had a judgment passed on you, and gone to jail. A corrupt politician considers himself a man of virtue and resource if he can avoid scandal and escape responsibility for his actions. People are so idiotic!
Alexander the Great, Ceasar and Genghis Khan were just big thieves. Ishikawa Goemon and Tenichibo were nothing compared to Hitler and Mussolini. Hitler and Mussolini were like Kunisada Chuji who said, "Let's go as far as we can," but they did it on a big scale. Gangsters of this sort are very highly spoken of by their followers.
We are always falling into ruts. A man with political power, with the help of school teachers and intellectuals, tries to force new conventions on us. The ways of distortion are very deliberate and complicated. The wisdom of Buddhism sees through this distortion.

Uchiyama Roshi: Most people have been made stupid. It would be fine in the presidents and premieres and other V.I.P's were really important to us, but it is a problem if they are felt to be important only because of convention and distortion. Buddhist practice allows people to open their eyes anew and see clearly, instead of falling prey to distortions. In order to straighten out the warped and deadly situation in world politics, everyone must open their eyes and criticize what they see.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Sawaki Roshi: There are students who cheat in the university preparatory schools. Because of that, they must also cheat on the college entrance exams. This is the bent and twisted condition known as stupidity. Everyone in this world does things like that.

Uchiyama Roshi: All human beings are short-sighted in one way or another. Some people go into debt to buy luxury cars because they are symbols of wealth. In order to help his corrupt boss rise to a high position, a faithful lackey will take the rap for him even if means going to jail. We tend to act inconsistently, as if we couldn't think or havea sense of direction. In modern society, people try to increase their efficiency in every area of life. But where are they going? No matter how efficiently they act, unless they are going in the right direction, there is no difference between them and the insects that start buzzing around when spring arrives.

Science and technology have made great advances. This doesn't always mean improvement for human beings. We should clearly recognize the difference between these two. We should think deeply about what real progress is for human beings.

Sawaki Roshi: The world has become small because of developments in transportation. What are they doing, flying around in their quick cars? They drive fast only to save their worthless time. They are going to play pinball.(bloggers note: or X-Box)
A familiar site is the red-eyed co-worker taking vitamin pills and saying, "I was up all night playing Mah-jong."(bloggers note: A very popular form of Japanese gambling)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Ultimate Life

Sawaki Roshi: A religion which has no connection with the fundamentals of life is futile. Buddhist practice shows the way to full actualization of the ultimate goal of human life, here and now. "Converting non-Buddhists" means to allow people to live in this way, thereby transforming their random, fradulent and incomplete ways of life.

Uchiyama Roshi: It has been over fourteen hundred years since Buddhism was introduced to Japan. The achievements of Buddhist priests have been admirable. They have never taught the religious essence of Buddhism. A priest's job is without comparison because no one else can live such an idle life. If you make a mistake chanting the sutras, the dead do not complain.

Sawaki Roshi said that Buddhist practice shows the way to the ultimate goal of human life. This was the teaching of Buddhism in the time of the Buddha, but since then the rubbish of Buddhist teaching has been emphasized and the essential teaching has been lost.

Sawaki Roshi: Most people do things without any clear view of life. They just do things in a makeshift way, like plastering their shoulder when it feels stiff.
To be born as a human being is a rare thing, something to be grateful for. But being born as a human being is worthless if you spend your whole life in a mental hospital. It is worthless if you worry about not having money. It is worthless if you become neurotic because you cannot get a prestigious job. It is wothless if you weep because you lose your girlfriend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No Need To Be In Chains

Sawaki Roshi: People call me "Homeless Kodo", but I don't take it as an insult. They call me that because I have never had a temple or a house. Everyone is homeless. It is a mistake if you think that you have a fixed home.

Uchiyama Roshi: As his disciple, I did not always feel good when I heard Sawaki Roshi called "Homeless" Kodo. The word "homeless" reminded me of stray dogs and cats. But now I understand that his nickname is really a title for the true person. Everyone is a stray in reality.

Because my teacher was a homeless person, I also had to be homeless. The only way I could support myself was by begging, being barked at by dogs all day. One time a spitz viciously barked at me, growling and leaping as if it wanted to tear me to pieces. Suddenly, the collar chain broke and it immediately began to cower and whine. A dog threatens with barks and growls when it is chained, but quickly loses its nerve when freed. The spitz' behavior amused me because it reminded me of some human beings. They behave threateningly when they are chained by financial power, titles or organizations. As soon, as the chains are removed, they retreat, feeling small and powerless. How absurd they are. Each of us is just a person living alone, majestically. For human beings, there is no need to be in chains.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Life of Kodo Sawaki Roshi

1880: Kodo Sawaki Roshi is born on the 16th of June in Tsu-shi, Mie Prefecture, to Sotaro and Shige Tada. One of seven children, three of whom die in infancy, he is given the name "Saikichi." His father, Sotaro, works as a maker of rickshaw parts.

1884: His Mother dies.

1887: His father dies and he is adopted by an uncle who dies several months later. he is then adopted by Bunkichi Sawaki, a professional gambler.

1892: Graduates elementary school.

1896: Goes to Eiheiji because of his aspiration to become a monk.

1897: He is ordained by Koho Sawada, abbot of Soshinji, Amakusa, Kyushu and practices with him for two years. He is give the monk's name "Kodo."

1899: Meets Ryoun Fueoka and practices with him in Kyoto for one year.

1900: Drafted into the army.

1904: Sent to China as an infantryman to fight in the Russo-Japanese War. He receives a near fatal wound and returns to Japan for treatment and convalescence.

1905: Again sent to China as an infantryman. Russo-Japanese War ends.

1906: Returns to Japan.

1908: begins study of Yogacara philosophy with Join Saeki at Horyuji, Nara Prefecture.

1912: Leaves Horyuji to become tanto (instructor of monks) at Yosenji, Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture.

1913: Meets Sotan Oka Roshi, abbott of Daijiji.

1914: Leaves Yosenji. Moves to Jofukuji, a small temple in Nara. He stays alone, concentrating on Zazen.

1916: Leaves Jofukuji to become koshi (lecturer) at Daijiji Sodo. Many students from the Fifth High School practice with him during this period.

1922: Leaves Daijiji (Sotan Oka Roshi dies) and moves to a small house in Kumamoto loaned to him by a friend. He names the house "Daitstsu-do."

1923: Moves to "Mannichi-zan," a house loaned to him by the Shibata family. He begins travelling around Japan to lecture and lead sesshins. He refers to this as "the moving monastery."

1935: Becomes professor at Komazawa University, lectures on Zen literature and meditation practice. He is appointed godo (overseer of practice) at Sojiji.

1949: Establishes Antaiji Shichikurin Sanzen Dojo.

1963: Quits Komazawa University because of illness and retires to Antaiji.

1965: Dies at Antaiji on December 21.

Preface to The Revised Edition

In December of this year, we will commemorate the Seventeenth Anniversary of Sawaki Roshi's death. After he died I remained at Antaiji as abbot for ten years. Because of Sawaki Roshi's influence, Zazen practice has flourished and Antaiji has moved to Tajima(Hyogo Prefecture). I am very greatful for this.

Yadonashi-Hokkusan was first published a two small booklets. Later I added 15 more sections and published the work as one of the Hakuju-shinsho. But these days, numberless pocket-size books are available from major publishers and bookshops no longer accept the little editions from smaller houses. The publisher asked for additional material so that the work might be published as a larger, single volume.

Last fall, a member of Jinno-in Wakokai sent me the manuscript of a talk I gave the temple in order to receive my permission to print it. When I read the manuscript, I saw that it would be quite appropriate to add it to Yadonashi Kodo Hokkusan, and asked permission from the abbot of Jinno-in to use the manuscript, "On Kodo Sawaki Roshi's Zazen" as part of this book. I am glad that this book has been published in a revised, expanded form and that I will be able to offer it on the occasion of the Seventeenth Anniversary of Sawaki Roshi's death.

Early Summer, 1981

Kosho Uchiyama


In the fall of 1965, Mr. Toshio Yamada, who was then editor of the religious column in the Asahi Newspaper came to Antaiji to visit my teacher, Kodo Sawaki Roshi. As he was about to leave, he said to me, "Sawaki Roshi profoundly impresses his audiences with his directness. Could you write some articles based on how you, as his disciple, understand his teaching?" I thought that it would be a very good idea for me to do it, as part of my own practice. First, I lookrd over his sayings, which I had recorded in my notebooks as "Dharma Words." Then I began writing my comments on them. I entitled the work Yadonashi Kodo Hokkusan( The Zen Teaching of "Homeless" Kodo).

That fall, Sawaki Roshi became critically ill and I could not continue the project. After his death at the end of November of that year the articles I had completed were printed as his memorial address. They were published serially in the paper, over a year and two months. Writing these articles deepened my appreciation of Sawaki Roshi's life and practice and also, comforted and encouraged me. Lonely and upset because of my teacher's death, I was extremely grateful to Mr.Yamada, who had given me the opportunity to comment on Sawaki Roshi's teaching.

The articles were put together in two booklets in Mamizu Shinsho, and published by Hakujusha Co. Ltd. Subsequently, Mr Nakayama of Hakujusha, asked me to write more articles in order to publish them as one of the Hakuju-shinsho.

Sawaki Roshi was like an ancient Zen Master: fearless and unconvential. I, on the contrary, am such a fainthearted person that I hesitate to tell people that I was Sawaki Roshi's disciple.
Yet, I practiced with him and served him as his closest disciple longer than anyone. When he was very near the end of his life, I asked him, "Do you think I'll be able to lead people after your death?" He replied,"In our tradition, Zazen is the center. As long as you continue doing Zazen, you can lead people." He gave me the encouragement I needed and showed me the direction I should take. I received this as his final teaching. Since then, I have devoted myself to Zazen and have maintained Antaiji as a place where the practice of Zazen is the center.

It might be helpful to introduce Sawaki Roshi to others, so that they can become familiarwith his teaching. Indeed, in this world there are more timid people like me than courageous ones, like him. It is with deep gratitude that I offer this book on the Seventh Anniversary of my master's death.

Remembering his final days
On this day in early autumn,
Seven years after his passing.

Kosho Uchiyama

Purpose of this blog

Here is my contribution to the world. "The Zen Teaching of 'Homeless' Kodo" by Uchyiama Roshi went out of print a while back. Luckily I was able get a copy through the San Francisco Zen Center. I'm pretty sure it was their last copy.

Kodo Sawaki is the type of teacher whose teachings are desperately needed in today's world of "drippy" Buddhism. He taught people Buddhism by teaching them how to sit Zazen and by telling them to throw away anything they might want to attach to it.

No offence to any other sects of Buddhism out there, but Shikantaza is the only practice in the scope of Buddhism that makes any sense. Think about it for a second. We really have NO idea what the Buddha really said. None of us where there nor was anybody who has ever written anything about Buddhism. But we do know one thing; he sat in kekkafuza. You don't even need to be able to speak to transmit that. This is probably how Bodhidharma transmitted the teaching to China. I seriously doubt he spoke Chinese and was able to verbally relay any teachings at all. He taught by showing people what he did physically. This was probably the only teaching tool he had.

It is this teaching that I think Dogen was trying to relay and the one Sawaki Roshi attempted to reignite several centuries later.

The book is layed out in such a manner that one doesn't need to read it in any type of sequence. Uchiyama presents a quote from Sawaki then gives his own commentary on the quote. This really gives a wonderful view of the student-teacher relationship. I'll try to post at least one quote/commentary on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday,Friday, and Saturday. I can't make any promises, but I'll do my best.

I may post a comment myself from time to time, but I really have nothing of any value to say,so I'll spare you.