Kōdō 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 prominent Japanese Sōtō Zen teacher of the 20th century. He is considered to be one of the most significant Zen priests of his time for bringing Zen practice into the lives of laypeople and popularizing the ancient tradition of sewing the kesa.


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 who did not receive Dharma transmission from him are:


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


External links[edit]