I am limiting my study of Kodo Sawaki to his emphasis on zazen. because I feel that the practice he embraced more than any other is expressed in his unique pronouncement, "All of Buddhism is a footnote to zazen." I also feel that the practice saved him from himself. Like his trips to the hot baths when he was worn out from his strenuous teaching schedule at Daijiji, zazen is what brought him back to the quiet space in his mind that his traveling around the country, lecturing, and running retreats took from him.
One more thing that brought me to the conclusion that zazen or Zen meditation should be the focus of the book goes back to when I went to Japan to study Zen. Like most of the foreigners I met at and around Antaiji from 1969 until I left in 1977, I had come to temples in Japan to study meditation. For most of us, the study of Buddhism was second to the practice of Zen meditation. There were some, of course, who wanted to be members of the club, so to speak. But they were the exceptions. Kosho Uchiyama, the abbot of Antaiji, never encouraged any of the foreigners to become ordained, though a few did. The abbot was primarily interested in the foreigners that came to Antaiji to learn his teacher's form of zazen and hopefully take that understanding back to their countries.
For his Japanese disciples, Uchiyama realized that if they were to teach Sawaki's form of zazen, the best way was to become priests of their own temples, and that required credentials from a recognized teacher, i.e., to be ordained as monks. Before he retired from Antaiji, Uchiyama had his monks go to certified Soto Zen training temples Because of its unique situation, having been opened for students to practice zazen, because it had no parish, and because of Sawaki's unique approach to simple meditation, Antaiji never became an official training temple. It did, however, become a hub for both monks and laypersons who wanted to study and practice zazen with no frills attached. (71)
[Sawaki] hadn't run off to Eiheiji because of the teaching of its founder. In fact, he knew nothing of the teaching of Dogen. He picked Eiheiji because it was far enough away from Ishinden that his adoptive parents wouldn't be able to find him and bring him back home.
When he did study Dogen, the ancient master's insistence on living in poverty, stress on the unity of practice and enlightenment in zazen, and attention to detail resonated so much with his own understanding that it felt like Dogen was speaking directly to him.
While he was very caring to his disciples, his insistence on the principles Dogen taught, and on the long hours of zazen, surprisingly made him a kind of outsider to the general Zen community. This was compounded by his habit of denigrating monks who took advantage of their positions in the hierarchy of the Zen community to live comfortably and treat their temples as--what he called--Zen businesses.
Sawaki never charged money for his talks or retreats (though he was given donations) and he printed pamphlets of the texts he used for his talks with his own money and gave them to his audience free of charge. He also sponsored students who wanted to study at Komazawa University but who didn't have the money for tuition.
Setting an example as a monk living in poverty at a time when Japan was slowly becoming an affluent nation did not endear Sawaki to much of the twentieth-century Zen world. But to a small group of devotees who respected his authenticity and his attempt to live like the Zen monks of antiquity, it earned him great respect. (242-243)