Zen in Ten: No Need to Be Chained
The Wisdom of Homeless Kodo
Kodo Sawaki Roshi (1880-1965) was one of the most important Soto Zen Buddhist masters of twentieth-century Japan. “He became abbot of Antaiji in 1949, when the temple was still located in northern Kyoto. Sawaki Roshi was the Zen master who brought the degenerated Zen of the 20th century back to its roots: The practice of Zazen without the expectation of gain. Together with his student, Uchiyama Kosho Roshi, he transformed Antaiji from a place for the intellectual study of Buddhist texts like the the Shobogenzo, into a place for Zen practice based on pure Zazen. Uchiyama Roshi, who ordained with Sawaki Roshi in 1941, took care of Antaiji, while Sawaki Roshi travelled all over Japan to conduct sesshin (intensive weeks of zazen) in many places of the country. Each month, of course, one of these sesshin took place in Antaiji as well. In 1962 Sawaki finally settled down in Antaiji because he had gotten weak in his legs. At Antaiji, Uchiyama took care of him until his death in December 1965.”1
“People call me Homeless Kodo, but I don’t think they particularly intend to disparage me. They say ‘homeless’ probably because I never had a temple or owned a house. Anyway, all human beings without exception are in reality homeless. It’s a mistake to think we have a solid home.”
“Someone once said, ‘Sawaki Roshi waster his entire life on zazen.’”
“We cannot exchange even a fart with another, can we? Each and every one of us has to live out our self. Who’s better looking, who’s smarter: you or I? We don’t need to compare ourselves with others.”
“Sit immovably in the place where being superior or inferior to others doesn’t matter.”
“A horse and a cat once discussed the question, ‘What is happiness?’ They couldn’t reach any agreement.”
“Don’t lose your head in crazy circumstances. Don’t be intoxicated by atmosphere. This is true wisdom. Do not be won over to any idea or ‘ism,’ or any organization. Do not engage in the human foolishness of discrimination.”
“What is the true self? It’s brilliantly transparent like the deep blue sky, and there’s no gap between it and all living beings.”
“The karmic consciousness of human beings are not the same. Each of us has our own limited view. We each see the world only through our particular tunnel. Because we interact while holding our own way of viewing, thinking, and doing, friction occurs in the world.”
“ ‘Religion’ is to live out the ever fresh self, which is not deceived by anything. Religion must not be a system of dogma. Religion is life. Religion has to function as life. Worshipping sutras is not enough. Religion must manifest itself freely and inexhaustibly in all activities of life, everywhere and always.”
“People believe that living in the lap of luxury is something great. It’s strange to me that people are respected because they have money.”
All ten quotations are from the book The Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo, edited by Molly Delight Whitehead, Wisdom Publications, 2014.
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