Kodo Sawaki

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Kodo Sawaki
School Sōtō
Nationality Japanese
Born (1880-06-16)June 16, 1880
Tsu, Mie, Japan
Died December 21, 1965(1965-12-21) (aged 85)
Senior posting
Title Rōshi
Successor Kosho Uchiyama

Kodo Sawaki (沢木 興道 Sawaki Kōdō?, June 16, 1880 - December 21, 1965) was a Japanese Sōtō Zen teacher of the 20th century.


Sawaki's parents died early,[1] and he was adopted by an uncle who then died.[1] After his uncle's death, Sawaki was raised by a gambler.[1] When he was 16, he ran away from home to become a monk at Eihei-ji, one of the two head temples of the Sōtō Zen sect, and was ordained in 1899.[1][2] However, he was drafted to serve in the Imperial Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 to minister to the wounded. He later became a Zen teacher, and during the 1930s he served as a professor at Komazawa University.[1][2] In 1949, he took responsibility for Antai-ji, a zen temple in northern Kyoto.[1] Because of his regular travels throughout Japan to teach zen, and against tradition his not becoming a conventional abbot of a home temple, he came to be known as "Homeless Kodo"[1] ("homeless" in the Japanese referring more to his lack of a temple than a residence). Sawaki died on December 21, 1965, at Antaiji.[2] He was succeeded by a senior disciple, Kosho Uchiyama.

He is known for his rigorous emphasis on zazen, in particular the practice of shikantaza, or "just sitting".[1] He often called Zen "wonderfully useless," discouraging any gaining idea or seeking after special experiences or states of consciousness.


Dharma transmission to:

Though Sawaki ordained many monks and nuns, only five monks and three nuns received Dharma Transmission (Shihō) from Sawaki:

  • Shūyū Narita (1914-2004) who also had a few students in Europe,
  • Kosho Uchiyama (1912-1998), who followed in his footsteps as abbot of Antai-ji,
  • Sodō Yokoyama, also known as "kusabue zenji (Zen master with the grassflute)",
  • Satō Myōshin, active in Japan,
  • Kōjun Kishigami[3] (born 1941), lives in Japan, has got students in Japan, France and Germany,
  • Jōshin Kasai, died 1984 in Antai-ji,
  • Kōbun Okamoto, alive in Ichi-no-miya, Japan, where she teaches kesa sewing,
  • Baikō Fukuda.

Influential students:

Other influential students of Sawaki are:


  • The Zen Teaching of 'Homeless Kodo' (1990) by Uchiyama Kōshō


External links[edit]