To You (1)

by Kōdō Sawaki Rōshi

These are a few selected quotes from an early version of Kōdō Sawaki Rōshi’s “Tou you”, a book translated from Japanese by Reihō Haasch and Muhō. The complete, revised and edited book will be available in print from Hohm press in 2021.


1. To you who can’t stop worrying about how others see you

You can’t even trade a single fart with the next guy. Each and every one of us has to live out his own life. Don’t waste time thinking about who’s most talented.

The asshole doesn’t need to be ashamed of being the asshole. The feet don’t have any reason to go on strike just because they’re only feet. The head isn’t the most important of all, and the navel doesn’t need to imagine he’s the father of all things.
It’s strange though that people look at the prime minister as an especially important person. The nose can’t replace the eyes, and the mouth can’t replace the ears.
Everything has its own identity, which is unsurpassable in the whole universe.

Some children have caught a mouse and now it’s writhing in the trap. They’re having fun watching how it scrapes its nose till it bleeds and how it rips up its tail . . . In the end they’ll throw it to the cat for food.
If I was sitting in the mouse’s place, I’d say to myself, “You damn humans won’t have any fun with me!” And I’d simply sit zazen..

2. To you who think there’s something to being “in”

You’re always hanging onto others. If somebody’s eating French fries, you want French fries too. If somebody’s sucking on a candy, you want a candy too. If somebody’s blowing on a penny whistle, you scream, “Mommy, buy me a penny whistle too!”
And that doesn’t just go for children.

When spring comes, you let spring turn your head. When autumn comes, you let autumn turn your head. Everyone is just waiting for something to turn their head. Some even make a living turning heads – they produce advertising.

One at a time people are still bearable, but when they form cliques, they start to get stupid. They fall into group stupidity. They’re so determined to become stupid as a group that they found clubs and pay membership dues. Zazen means taking leave of group stupidity.

3. To you who are totally exhausted from fighting with your spouse

The question isn’t who’s right. You’re simply seeing things from different points of view.

Stop trying to be something special – and just be what you are. Hold fire. Just sit!

It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.

A man who understands nothing marries a woman who understands nothing, and everyone says, “Congratulations!” Now that’s something I cannot understand.

Family is the place where parents and children, husband and wife simultaneously all get on each other’s nerves.

Even funnier than watching the monkeys at the zoo is observing these humans on the loose.

4. To you who have just begun brooding over life

What a shame to have been born a human being and to spend your whole life worrying. You should reach the point where you can be happy to have been born a human.

It’s strange that not a single person seriously considers his own life. For ages, we’ve been carrying around something uncooked. And we comfort ourselves with the fact that it’s the same for the others too. That’s what I call group stupidity: thinking that we just have to be like the others.
Satori means creating your own life. It means waking up from group stupidity.

In a part of Manchuria, the carts are pulled by huge dogs. The driver hangs a piece of meat in front of the dog’s nose, and the dog runs like crazy to try to get at it. But of course he can’t. He’s only thrown his meat after the cart has finally reached its destination. Then in a single gulp, he swallows it down.
It’s exactly the same with people and their pay checks. Until the end of the month they run after the salary hanging in front of their noses. Once the salary is paid, they gulp it down, and they’re already off: running after the next payday.

5. To you whose life is about money, money and more money

The measure of man: you give him a little money and immediately he starts to move.

Human happiness and unhappiness doesn’t only depend on money. If the balance in your savings account were a measure of your happiness, it would be a simple matter. Yet it really isn’t so.

Without money, you’ve got difficulties. Still, you should know that there are more important things than money.
You constantly think about sex. Still, you should know that there are more important things than sex.

6. To you who think the prime minister is a really special person.

He who seeks his true mission won’t want to pursue a career. A person who wants to become president doesn’t know where he’s going in life.

Their election is so important to them that presidents and congressmen campaign to rally votes. Idiots! Even if they asked me to become president, I’d turn it down: “How dumb do you think I am anyway?”

One guy loses the presidential election, so he cries. Next time around he wins the election, and then he smiles into the camera. What makes politicians different from little children anyway? It’s exactly the same way with a crying child: you offer him some candy and already a smile breaks out on his teary face.
A little more maturity would be nice.

7. To you who would like to leave your rivals in the dust

We often wonder who here is really better? But aren’t we all made out of the same lump of clay?

Everyone should sit firmly anchored in the place where there is no better and worse.

Your whole life long you’re completely out of your mind because you think it’s obvious that there is a “you” and “the others”. You put on an act to stand out in a crowd, but in reality there’s neither “you” nor “the others”.
When you die, you’ll understand.

8. To you who are sobbing because somebody’s put one over on you

At some point you’ve got to slap yourself in the face and seriously ask yourself: is your personal gain or loss really worth this overwhelming joy and suffering?

Sooner or later everyone starts thinking of nothing besides themselves. You say, “That was good!” But what was good? It was only good for you personally, that’s all.

Why is it that we humans are so wiped out? It is the constant effort to gain a little advantage that wipes us out.

9. To you who would like to slap your boss with a letter of resignation.

As a human being, whatever you do, you should do it in a way that can’t be repeated a second time. What can be repeated is best left to the robots.

Life doesn’t run on tracks.

Birds don’t sing in major or minor. Bodhidharma’s teaching doesn’t fit on lined paper.
The buddha-dharma is wide and unlimited. When you try to hold it still, you’ve missed it. It isn’t dried cod, but a live fish. Living fish have no fixed form.

10. To you who wants to begin with zazen

Once there were 500 monkeys in the service of 500 Buddhist saints. One day the monkeys decided to mimic everything the saints did, so they did zazen copying the saints with their eyes, noses, mouths and whole bodies. They say that in this way a thousand saints practiced zazen and realized satori. This is why it’s my wish to preserve – even if it’s only through imitation – the seed of zazen.

When you practice Zen, 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.

11. To you who wants to strengthen your hara with zazen

“Through zazen you strengthen your hara
Knowing that this hara isn’t worth a damn is real hara and real zazen.

Some people want to strengthen their hara with zazen so that they will be able to scare the bill-collector away with a roar. But they don’t need zazen for that, they just have to drink sake like real men.

There are books around like “Zen and the Art of Cultivating Your Hara”. This hara culture is just about making yourself numb.

12. To you who is wondering if your zazen has been good for something

What’s zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This “good for nothing” has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you’re truly practicing what’s good for nothing. Until then, your zazen is really good for nothing.

Unsatisfying: simply practicing zazen.
Unsatisfying: realizing zazen with this body.
Unsatisfying: absorbing zazen into your flesh and blood.

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?

13. To you who says that you have attained a better state of mind through zazen

As long as you say zazen is a good thing, something isn’t quite right. Unstained zazen is absolutely nothing special. It isn’t even necessary to be grateful for it.
Wouldn’t it be strange if a baby said to its mother, “Please have understanding for the fact that I’m always shitting in my diapers.”
Without knowledge, without consciousness, everything is as it should be.
Don’t stain your zazen by saying that you’ve progressed, feel better or have become more confident through zazen.

We only say, “Things are going well!” when they’re going our way.

We should simply leave the water of our original nature as it is. But instead we are constantly mucking about with our hands to find out how cold or warm it is. That’s why it gets cloudy.

14. To you who do everything you can to get satori

We don’t practice in order to get satori. It’s satori that pulls our practice. We practice, being dragged all over by satori.

You don’t seek the way. The way seeks you.

You study, you do sports, and you’re fixated on satori and illusion. So that even zazen becomes a marathon for you, with satori as the finish line. Yet because you’re trying to grab it, you’re missing it completely.
Only when you stop meddling like this does your original, cosmic nature realize itself.

15. To you who is showing off your satori

Why don’t you simply have “I have satori!” tattooed all over your body?
If you’re not conscious of your stomach, that’s proof your stomach is healthy. If you can’t forget your satori, that’s proof that you haven’t got any.

You think that you’re something special because you’ve got satori, but you’re simply showing off your sack of flesh.

When an ordinary person has got satori, he’s called a Zen-devil . This is because he thinks he’s something special.

16. To you who are impressed by scientific and cultural progress

We mustn’t forget that today’s science and culture have only developed out of the lowest levels of consciousness.

Everybody is talking about culture, but what is it besides a refinement of our illusions? However much we iron out our drives, from a Buddhist standpoint, it’s got nothing to do with progress or civilization. Everyone is talking these days about progress, but I wonder in which direction we’re actually progressing.

When you observe insects in a tank, you see how they bite into each other and hold on with all their might. It must be amusing to observe from another corner of the universe how humans stock up on atomic and hydrogen bombs.

17. To you who say you don’t get along with others

Everyone talks about their own point of view, but who really cares? It’d be better if you just kept your mouth shut!

Some say, “Who do you think I am anyway?” An ordinary person, what else?
Some are proud of their wealth, others of their name and position, still others of their satori. In this way they’re just showing off how ordinary they are – people these days are so stupid!

People always have something they can’t forget. If they’re rich, they can’t forget their money. If they’re intelligent, they can’t forget their brains. If they’re talented, they always think about how good they are at this or that. But whatever it is, it always gets in the way.