The Dharma of Homeless Kōdō


What is happiness?

Sawaki Rōshi:
Once a horse and a cat had a discussion about what happiness is. I hear that they could not reach a conclusion. Don’t believe the fortune tellers: how you need to live your life isn’t fixed!

Uchiyama Rōshi:
There are new religious cults that ask people on the street: “Are you really happy?!”
This is one of the weaknesses of human beings – we are always pursuing happiness, but we never get a firm grip on that happiness that lovers experience when they have just fallen in love. We can not make that trance of happiness last our whole life time. At least the “normal citizens” among us. Therefore some, who find no response to this “Are you really happy?!” are persuaded by the: “If you join our religion, you will finally be really happy!”
Why are people not clever enough to ask back: “What kind of happiness are you talking about in the first place?” If the answer is: “Happiness means to have money, have a position and be in good health” – than you would be at the bottom of unhappiness the instant you die. Because death will take your money, your position and your health from you. If you think about happiness in terms of feeling happy or unhappy, being lucky or unlucky, than not only a discussion between horse and cat, but even a discussion of yourself with yourself will finally reach no conclusion about what happiness really is.

Sawaki Rōshi:
Beauty is no guarantee for happiness. One beauty has been so popular with the guys that she’s already had three kids who do not know who their fathers are.

You’re in love with each other? Maybe not for your whole life. Some have loved each other so much that they tried to commit suicide together to be united in death. But one of the two survived, and fell in love with someone else shortly afterwards… Human beings truly pitiful.

Human mass production

Sawaki Rōshi:
The problem starts with the education in school: People pass exams, collect points, get grades and have numbers. How stupid! What is a good person? What is a bad person? Are you good if your are good in school? Are you bad if you are bad in school? And what about all those idiots that are good in school?

The one who comes in last place is frustrated. He says, “life sucks”, and spents the rests of his days in hate and anger. Thus his life really sucks!

Uchiyama Rōshi:
In night clubs the hostess who is most popular is the number one, and proud of it. But still, would she be save from falling into loneliness sooner or later? She is just that one human product on the shelf of that club that happens to sell for the highest price. But even though your price is high, once you discover that you are no more than a product, naturally you will feel lonely. Today, the schools seem to function as factories that produce humans. And the purpose of schools lies in raising the prices of these “human products”. The purpose of going to elementary school is to go to a good junior high school, the purpose of junior high being to enter a good high school, which serves the purpose to qualify for university. And you go to university to get a good job. Thus you are riding on a belt conveyor on your way to be sold as a product to be consumed. What we see on the streets these days seems to me to be the protest of the teens against this “human mass production”.

This protest of the teens represents another problem, but saying that “life sucks” and therefore leading a life that really sucks is an even greater problem.

Sawaki Rōshi:
To study originally meant to find out about one’s own life.
Today study just gets you a licence that gets you a job.

Good old opinions

Sawaki Rōshi:
Some opinions are also past their prime. What parents teach their children are usually these outdated opinions. “What is good is good, what is bad is bad…”

When greens are going to seed, you can not eat them any more. The same is true for our ideas: We have to see things with fresh eyes!

Often people tell us: “This is important!” But what is really important? Nothing is really important. When you die, you have to let go of everything. Even those national treasures in Kyōto or Nara will not last forever. We might as well burn them down.

Uchiyama Rōshi:
Often people tell me about the latest book written by some famous professor: “That is a good book. Did you read it?” When I ask them though if they had understood what is written in that book, they tell me: “No, not really…”

The Japanese seem to have a very humble idea of themselves: If they read a book by a famous professor, they suppose that it must be a good book, and if they can not understand it, it must be their own fault. Also the people who lined up all night before the book stores after the war, just to buy a copy of those really poor written philosophical works of Nishida Kitarō, must have thought that it was their own fault that they could not understand them. Some of you might be shocked about Sawaki Rōshi’s saying that we might as well burn down the national treasures. He thinks about them as follows:

Sawaki Rōshi:
For what purpose were Kinkakuji and Hōryūji and all of the other old temples all build? Certainly not for monks to practice Buddhism there. Just to raise coward monks there like cattle or sheep. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are monks who set fire to Kinkakuji or Enryakuji, and the same can be said about Ginkakuji.

With a depressed expression

Sawaki Rōshi:
What is the meaning of complaining with a depressed face: “I have no money, nothing to eat, only debts…”? It is because you are stingy that you think that you should have more fun and a happier life, and that is why you always complain about your misery.

You are not even hungry, still you complain that you have nothing to eat! Thus you will become really hungry. Everyone gets fooled by words. Names and words are the cause of our confusion.

Also beggars laugh, and millionairs cry. So what is all the excitement about?

Uchiyama Rōshi:
Seven or eight years ago a man about 30 years old visited Antaiji one evening with a depressed expression on his face: “I have nothing to eat.” We were just having some rice soup for dinner, therefore I invited him to eat with us first and then talk afterwards. His reply struck me as strange: “I have nothing to eat, but I am not really hungry.”

When I talked with him after dinner, I learned that he was living with his wife and his mother, and had a job, although the company he was working for was not too big. Still, he had an income and was certainly not starving. Therefore I told him: “Do not say that you have nothing to eat when you are not even hungry! You should rather say that your income is not enough to gratify your vanity.”

He wound up staying with us for one week, but finally he returned back home, saying happily: “At home, my life is still better than your life here.”

The life here in the temple must have struck him as really poor. But that is alright. Unless you really have nothing to eat, you will be happier if you live your life without a depressed expression on your face.

Religion is life

Sawaki Rōshi:
The most important question of religion has to be how we live our own lives.

Uchiyama Rōshi:
One of the mysteries of 20th century Japan is that although murder and crime and erotic scenes are allowed on television and kids run into posters showing nude girls on the street – and nobody is worried about that – at the same time it is forbidden by law to teach religion in schools.

Maybe the reason is that people think that religion means the established sects, or superstition, or fanaticism. It is certainly true that if you confront an innocent child with one-sided doctrines, superstition or fanaticism, it will lead to great problems. Therefore one might say that it is a matter of course that the state prohibits that. But, on the other hand, when we realize that religion means to teach that which is most important in our lives, we have to be worried about the next generation that grows up in a society without any religious education, but is confronted with nudity and violence all day long. If things continue like this, we will face kids becoming ever more violent and destructive.

I hope that the time for religion being taught at schools as “the most important thing in life” will soon come.

Sawaki Rōshi:
Religion means to be not fooled by anything, to live one’s life completely anew.

Religion must not be a word. Religion is life, religion must be living activity. Worshipping the sutras alone is not enough. Religion has to manifest freely in all activities of life, in all directions, every time, everywhere.

What makes you so attractive?

Sawaki Rōshi:
What are we so worried about all the time? If we don’t take care, we will be wasting our time trying to catch human delusions.

Humans are childish: They just want money, don’t want to become sick, want to be beautiful – and that is enough for them.

What have you ever thought about except eating and fucking?

We are always fooled by our bodies and minds, that is why we do not see clearly.

Uchiyama Rōshi:
Recently I overheard a conversation between two ladies saying that “a man without money is only half as attractive”. If women say that, the reason might be that men today actually are men that lose half of their attractiveness if they have no money. I even felt sorry for these women who do not know any other men like that. Men have to make an effort and stop just being raised like cattle or sheep.

But this concerns not only the relation between men and women: The question is more fundamental. If we ask what the other half of a man’s attractiveness was, the answer would probably be: his penis. Thus people’s lives today consist of nothing but money and sex.
But shouldn’t both men and women posses more attractiveness than just sex appeal and the attractiveness of money? I think they should be attractive as human beings, attractive enough to cause a real “attraction” between their ways of life.

Sawaki Rōshi:
You do not have to save every penny to live good in this world.

Grades in ethics

Sawaki Rōshi:
Someone asked a mathematician if the number “1” really exists in mathematics. The answer was that mathematicians “suppose” that the number “1” exists, and then continue further basing their work on that initial supposition. In Buddhism it is different: There is no “1”. In the sutras it says: “The 2 exists only because of the 1, and the 1 does not exist independently either.” Or: “1 is all, all is 1.”

Uchiyama Rōshi:
Calculators help us to calculate accurately, but when I got the bill for my health insurance last year, the numbers were surprisingly high. When I asked the people in the office to check once more, they found out that they had input one or two zeros too much at the end of the numbers. Thus the caluculator calculated pretty accurately – just how absent minded these office workers can be.

The other day a junior high school teacher paid me a visit and told me: “We have to give our students grades for their ethic views and sense of responsibilty. I do not feel so good about this, what do you think?” Knowing nothing about the schools of today, I was very surprised to hear this. I understand that the natural sciences can be expressed in numbers, but can you express the worth of a human being’s life in that way? We should rather give grades to those in the Ministry of Education for their ethic views and sense of responsibility. I think their grades could not be worse.

Anyway, I told the teacher, who had no choice but follow the instructions of the ministry: “I would give all of my students 90 points (out of 100, because in Zen it is said that 80 or 90 percent should be preferred to 100). And apart from that, I would try to teach my students what responsibility really means, encouraging them as well as myself to develop as much sense of responsibility as we can”.

Sawaki Rōshi:
It has to be this way, but it can be anyway. It does not have to be any special way, but it has to be the best way possible.