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Thread: A Review: Discovering the True Self: Kodo Sawaki's Art of Zen Meditation

  1. #1

    A Review: Discovering the True Self: Kodo Sawaki's Art of Zen Meditation

    Dear All,

    I would like to offer a personal review and recommendation of Arthur Braverman's "Discovering the True Self: Kodo Sawaki's Art of Zen Meditation" ...


    ... a treasure for all of us in the Soto and wider Zen Buddhist world. This book is an important addition to the other writings, too few, which are available in English by Sawaki Roshi, including "The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo" (LINK), as well as the unfortunately rather expensive and sometimes hard to find translation of Sawaki Roshi's "Commentary on the Song of Awakening" (LINK). I would also add Arthur Braverman's wonderful "Living And Dying In Zazen: Five Zen Masters Of Modern Japan," with profiles of Homeless Kodo and several of his successors such as Uchiyama Roshi.

    Arthur Braverman is our finest living chronicler in English of the life, lineage and teachings of Homeless Kodo, who earned that name through his decades of traveling far and wide across Japan to introduce the sittiing of Shikantaza Zazen. "Discovering the True Self" very much adds to the earlier works by presenting a further selection of sharp, pull-no-punches, occasionally profane yet always profound quotes, stories and teachings by or about Sawaki Roshi, here centered on Shikantaza Practice in particular. As a small example ...

    Shikan [from shikantaza] means “just” or “only that.” I mean the
    “just” as in “just talking” or “just practicing zazen” or “just a potato.”
    A life in which you are not led around by your paycheck, I
    call shikan or “just.”

    and

    One incident that Sawaki’s biographer Tadao Tanaka writes
    of was when young Kodo lifted his robe and one leg and let out an
    enormous fart. This was in response to an intellectual discussion
    some Entsuji monks were having, a discussion Sawaki felt had
    nothing to do with the real essence of Buddhism. He listened until
    it became too much for him, then farted and walked out of the
    room. He was known for those kinds of antics because he liked to
    be a gadfly to those he deemed too full of themselves.

    As well, the accompanying biography adds much to Sawaki's story, from his childhood raised by an alcoholic gambler and sex worker in the slums of western Japan, to drafted soldier thrown into bloody combat on the Russian front, to wandering priest, to professor of Buddhism at Soto Zen's main university, to his tireless work to spread the message of Zazen from a small, dilapidated temple in Kyoto (the original Antaiji) during his final years of failing health. It is quite some tale, maybe sometimes surprising even to those who think they know the story. I am pleased to say that the book includes remembrances of Sawaki Roshi by my own teacher, Nishijima Roshi, who in his younger years, practiced with Sawaki Roshi ...

    In October of 1940, I [Nishijima] was fortunate to learn that Master Kodo Sawaki would have a Sesshin at Daituji, a temple in Tochigi Prefecture. I attended it carrying rice in a clothes bag, because it was a time when the Japanese food situation had become very bad.

    In the morning we got up at 3 o’clock, and we practiced zazen for two sittings, 45 minutes each, two times before breakfast, two times in the morning after breakfast, two times in the afternoon, and once at night. Master Kodo Sawaki presented his Buddhist lectures two times a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. While listening to his Buddhist lecture, I realized that I was hearing a true Buddhist lecture for the first time. ... At the same time, I think that the most excellent point of Master Kodo Sawaki’s Buddhism was his absolute pure attitude as he pursued the truth. ... Master Kodo Sawaki clearly knew this fundamental Buddhist principle in his practiced Buddhist life. Therefore he didn’t want to own a temple throughout his life. He realized that if a Buddhist monk has his own temple, his job to manage the temple would leave him so busy it would be impossible for him to study the true Buddhist teachings thoroughly. Therefore Master Kodo Sawaki never married, and he devoted his whole life to promote Buddhism.
    I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, not only those of us who are dedicated to the way of Shikantaza and the unique voice of Sawaki Roshi. He took no gruff, spoke and cussed more like a dock worker than priest, tamed the violent and troubled heart of his youth through Zazen ... and has left us all wiser for his teachings and inspiration.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    Last edited by Jundo; 11-15-2020 at 04:03 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    I’m about halfway through and can also wholeheartedly recommend this book. His dedication towards practice cannot be understated — and the portion written about his life being interrupted by war and injury really struck a chord. Definitely worth a pickup.

    Gassho,
    Jesse
    ST.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the recommendation, as I mentioned in another recent thread I was looking for something outside of Dogen/commentaries of Dogen. This and Arthur's 5 zen masters book look great.

    Gassho
    Heiso
    StLah

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Oh good. I saw it on Amazon and was considering it. I really enjoyed The Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo. His very direct expression of practice speaks to me. I’ll add it to the list.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

    I acknowledge my use of extra sentences.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  5. #5
    thank you very much for the review Jundo,

    I wonder , I have already the following books , and have to watch my finances a bit :

    -the zen teaching of homeless kodo / Kosho Uchiyama
    -dharma brothers / Arthur Braverman
    -commentary on the song of awakening / kodo sawaki

    so I was wondering if this book will offer much material which I don't have already ??
    can you help me on this
    sattoday
    gassho
    Hosei
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotaku View Post
    thank you very much for the review Jundo,

    I wonder , I have already the following books , and have to watch my finances a bit :

    -the zen teaching of homeless kodo / Kosho Uchiyama
    -dharma brothers / Arthur Braverman
    -commentary on the song of awakening / kodo sawaki

    so I was wondering if this book will offer much material which I don't have already ??
    can you help me on this
    sattoday
    gassho
    Hosei
    Hmmm. There are some new things in the book, and some reworking of prior translations. So, I would say frankly that, if someone is very hard pressed financially then, no, it is not indispensable. No, if you need to take care. Few books (including mine ) are indispensable when one needs to save.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    thanks a lot Jundo

    Hosei
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  8. #8
    Thank you for the recommendation, it's difficult to find a lot of Zen-related books through my library, but I did find the ebook of this one and I'm quite excited to start it! I look forward to discussing.

    Gassho,

    Josh
    SatToday/LaH

  9. #9
    Grateful for the recommendation. I definitely find and read. I am also curious about the writing style.

    Gassho

    Joseph

  10. #10
    Thank You Jundo for all your book recommendations

    Gassho, Chris satlah

  11. #11
    "The true Self is not something that is within oneís cognizance. We are cognizant of others with whom we compare ourselves. Just as we canít see our form when we are asleep, we canít see our true Self. Though we canít see or know our true Self, we can be it. I can be my true Self through zazen."

    Thank you so much for the recommendation, this book has been absolutely fantastic. The quote basically sums up my understanding of the practice. I read that line and, wow!

    Gassho,

    Josh
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    Also, I just noticed the shoutout to Jundo in the section about Nishijima! I feel like I know a celebrity!

    Gassho,

    Josh
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Thank you Jundo.

    Santa just got it for me

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  14. #14
    I just recently finished reading this wonderful book. I find Sawaki’s straightforward, plain speaking approach to practice to be very appealing. I agree with the recommendation.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

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