Quotes by Kodo Sawaki
“Practicing zazen is like a tiger taking to the mountains. It’s like a dragon diving back into the water. Zazen must be practiced with a mind fresh and clear.
Your practice of zazen has to be burning with the thought: “If I don’t find liberation in this life, when then!?”
If your body and mind thus dissolve in zazen, you won’t waste a minute or even a second of your life.
What’s zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This ‘good for nothing’ has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you actually practice what is truly good for nothing. Until then, your zazen is just good for nothing.
Zazen is unsatisfying. Unsatisfying for whom? For the ordinary person. People are never satisfied.
Unsatisfying: simply practicing zazen. Unsatisfying: realizing zazen with this body. Unsatisfying: absorbing zazen into your flesh and blood.
Zazen isn’t like a thermometer on which the temperature slowly rises, “Just a little more … yeah … that’s it! Now, I’ve got satori!” Zazen never becomes anything special, no matter how long you practice. If it becomes something special, you must have a screw lose somewhere.
We don’t practice in order to get satori. It’s satori that pulls our practice. We practice, being dragged around by satori.
You don’t seek the way. The way seeks you.
Zazen means just sitting without even thinking of becoming buddha.
When you sit zazen, you attain the way without thinking at all about attaining the way.
In the world you’ll find all kinds of rewards. But is their any reward that could make you happier than settling your ass onto your sitting cushion and having the privilege to practice zazen?
When you practice zazen, completely renew yourself. It has to be here and now, it has to be about yourself. Don’t let Zen become a rumor that has nothing to do with you.
Zazen is the buddha that we form out of our raw flesh. Just sitting [shikantaza] is the greatest thing that we can make out of the raw flesh of an ordinary person.
The Chinese character for ‘hips’ is composed of the character for ‘flesh’ on the left side and ‘essential’ on the right side. In zazen, from the beginning, it is essential that the hips are firmly anchored on the cushion. In zazen, the hips are rooted in the Earth, the top of the head pierces the sky.
Eat in order to do zazen, sleep in order to do zazen. This means that eating and sleeping are also part of zazen.
In our practice, there is no object of worship beyond zazen. For it is zazen that saves us suffering beings by re-forming our raw flesh and making us practice.
Zazen means putting into practice that which cannot be thought with thinking. It is the dharma-switch that ‘turns on’ the whole universe.
Just doing it means practicing that which fills the entire universe, throwing yourself into it completely, in every single instant, in every single activity. Simply doing something means doing it now, on the spot. It means not wasting the little time you have in life.
Often people ask me how many years they have to practice zazen before it shows results. I say that zazen has no results. You won’t get anything at all out of zazen. And then some say that in that case they’d rather stop with zazen . . . But what is running around looking for satisfaction good for? What is gambling good for? And dancing? What is it good for to get worked up over winning or losing in baseball? It’s all good for absolutely nothing! That’s why nothing is as sensible as sitting silently in zazen. That something is good for nothing means, in worldly terms, only that it doesn’t bring in any money.
Zazen is a mature posture, a mature attitude, not a childish one.
Master Kodo Sawaki
However unusual and mystical your experiences may be, they won’t last your whole life long. Sooner or later they’ll fade away .
Everyone believes they have to add something to their zazen. You shouldn’t add anything. It’s good as it is. You don’t need to fool around with it.
If there is even a bit of individuality left over, it isn’t pure, unadulterated zazen. We’ve got to practice pure, unadulterated zazen, without mixing it with gymnastics or satori or anything. When we bring in our personal ideas – even only a little bit – it is no longer the buddha-dharma.
Being watched by zazen, cursed by zazen, blocked by zazen, dragged around by zazen, every day crying tears of blood – isn’t that the happiest form of life you can imagine?”
*Translated from Japanese by Jesse Haasch and Muhô.