Thinking of Zen Teacher Kodo Sawaki, who started the lesson in Zazen at Komazawa University(5)

 In the first year of Taisho (1912), at the age of 33 Zen Teacher Sawaki (hereinafter abbreviated as Sawaki) was appointed tanto*1 of the Sodo (monks’ hall) of Yosen-ji temple in Matsuzaka City, Mie Prefecture. Sawaki, who had been searching a teacher for learning in practice of the Buddha’s truth, was apprenticed to Zen Teacher Sotan Oka *2(hereinafter abbreviated as Oka ), a senior disciple (kotei) of Zen Master Bokusan Nishiari and investigated, attending to Oka (Zuishin ),whenever the Buddhist services were held. Afterward, he left Yosen-ji temple and acted a Chief Buddhist monk of an unoccupied Buddhist temple and spent his time on only sitting in Zazen for three years, breaking off the world. He lived by eating only plain food like rice, pickled plums, and grated radishes, and consequently suffered from malnutrition. It was said that his features were mistaken for ones of a seventy-years-old Buddhist monk, although he was still in his thirties.

 According as Oka acted a Chief Buddhist monk of Daiji-ji temple in Kumamoto Prefecture, at the invitation of supporters of this temple and others (Shinju), Sawaki took up an appointment Lecturer at the Sodo(monks’hall) of Daiji-ji temple at his request. Sawaki had spent full six years at the temple even after the passing away of Oka, instead of the half-year of service arrangement between them. During these days, he had a chance to encounter the students of the Fifth Senior High School in Kumamoto.

 Later Sawaki said, “In my whole life, the persons who had the greatest influence on me were a painter of the paper-hanger shop, Mr. Chiaki Morita, who lived next door to me when I was a boy, Abbot Ryoun Fueoka whom I attended to in my youth and the students of the Fifth Senior High School during my time at Daiji-ji temple in after years.” As Sawaki recollected personally, that the unexpected encounter with the students of the Fifth Senior High School had the most important effect upon Sawaki on later. The students clearly said that they could not understand whatever they could not understand and also refused to accept mystical or superstitious doctrines at all. Sawaki had been trained by them in a sense and had felt keenly the necessity of teaching the Buddhism more logically and rationally. So abandoning existing concepts regarding the Buddhism, he had acquired gradually the skills in plainly representing the genuine Buddhism. Sawaki, who preached the genuine Buddhism, deviating the existing religious line, had captivated certainly afterward.

 In Taisho 11 (1922), at the age of 43 Sawaki left Daiji-ji temple. He accepted donations from his laymen and the students of the Fifth Senior High School, and rented a house in Kusumachi-town in Kumamoto City and opened there an exercise hall for Zazen, named Daitetsu-do. But soon after he ran out of money and had to vacate there. The next year he went to Mt. Mannichi to the northwest of Kumamoto Station. Until Showa 10 (1935), when he was 56 years old, Sawaki had made a living there as a base, traveling from place to place throughout Japan to make lectures. It is said that several persons always came over to sit in Zazen from the morning, whenever Sawaki was there.

*1 Tanto
a position in charge of instructing training Buddhist monks in an exercise hall
*2 Sotan Oka
1860–1921. Under Bokusan Nishiari’s tuition, he investigated to the bottom of the secret principles of “Shobogeno” and served as the first lecturer at the Eihei-ji temple Genzo-e. he also served as an Acting Abbot of Eihei-ji temple and the President of Soto Sect University (the original of the present Komazawa University)


Origins Team, TSUNODA Tairyū