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What does this excerpt by Sawaki Kodo mean?

Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer
edited November 2015 in Arts & Writings

I am reading excerpt from "To You" by Sawaki Kodo. But I don't think I understand the message he's trying to convey in this particular one. Is he saying that you shouldn't define yourself by your career? And that politicians are an extreme example of that? Because they strive so hard to win, and when they don't, they suffer a lot?

"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.

Anyone who relies on his résumé is a failure."


  • From a dharma perspective he is pointing out how infantile many motivations are. From ignorance and personal turmoil, some very disturbed people are often in positions of rule, when they have not mastered themself.

    In some spiritual formulations for example Buddhist tantra and Sufism, wordly 'success' is not seen as an obstacle but as a means of compassionate service and practice means.

    A little more maturity would be nice.

    Indeed o:)

  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    Thanks @lobster. :)

  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    But then, what if you still want to pursue a career as a way to sustain yourself and serve others? Especially since we can't all be monastics. Is that still in conflict with seeking your "true mission"? That seems to be what the first line is suggesting.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Anyone who relies on his résumé is a failure."

    Have you ever heard someone else describing you to some third party? "S/he's a bank teller" or "s/he's a mom/dad" or "s/he's a stockbroker?" And one of the thoughts into your mind might be, "Yes, but I am not JUST a bank teller/mom/stockbroker."

    No one wants to get pigeon-holed and simultaneously is drawn to the warmth and comfort of a pigeon hole. It can be hard when others pigeon-hole you. But it's harder still when anyone starts pigeon-holing himself ... and becomes a legend in his or her own mind.

    Sawaki may pick on politicians, but I think this is a habit everyone faces up to at one time or another: I hate being pigeon-holed and love my pigeon hole.

  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    Haha thanks @genkaku! That was a helpful explanation.

  • LOL! It means Sawaki Kodo didn't much care for politicians.

    He, of course, had a very successful career as a Soto Master, even if he preferred to travel around rather than stay at one temple. So a man who became a monk at a young age and dedicated his own life to his career as a monk is telling us working hard at a career is a mistake?

    Notice in his writing above, he's describing someone who counts on the admiration and support of other people to define who they are. There is nothing wrong with working hard and becoming good at something you love to do, which might also be something that helps other people. It is not a mistake to become a doctor to help people. Nothing wrong with making a good living either. But to let yourself be defined by your career is a huge mistake. Then if something happens where you are no longer a doctor, you have lost who you are.

    And Sawaki Kodo lived through several wars, including the disastrous WWII, so can you blame his disgust at politicians?

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited November 2015

    And Sawaki Kodo lived through several wars, including the disastrous WWII, so can you blame his disgust at politicians?

    Interestingly, Zen Buddhism's complicity in the wars it may later have abominated is often conveniently veiled or set aside. Zen "masters" including Sawaki may wish to take a look in their own "political" mirror and confess to a bit of disgust.

    This issue is discussed with considerable care by the Zen monk Brian Victoria and I don't mean to derail the topic. I just thought I'd mention it in keeping with the old advisory, "look who's calling the kettle black."

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited November 2015

    I think he's making a kind of distinction unless he didn't really think it through and made himself a hypocrite.

    As a police officer taking the job because they want to protect people is a different sort of person than one that likes to carry a gun and have power over people.

    Same with politicos.

    Are they doing it to help or to have power?

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran


    1. Buddhism is humanistic and pursues the betterment of the person and society.

    It may be called "humanistic" but it does not make its home or take its clarity from "humanism." However inviting "humanism" may be ... well, a little reconsideration is in order: Can the Dharma be improved?

    1. Though 'altruistic', Buddhism is rooted in reality [It takes action/it takes work/it takes time]

    Again, it may be "altruistic" on the tongues of others, but its "reality" does not acknowledge or concern itself or rest its case in the "other" that altruism addresses/affirms. Sure, be a good guy or gal; don't be a nitwit; but don't imagine that's the whole story.

    1. Buddhists are persistent

    Shit! I knew I missed something!

  • @genkaku said:
    Can the Dharma be improved?

    Tee hee :)
    It needs to be continually updated. The culture of support for full time holiness that Buddha and career monastics are caccooned in is all very well but ...

    ... there are other ways to learn and adapt from. Craft Masonry and Sufism both extoll the grounding virtues of careers.

    Rather enfeebled, anti-worldliness is fitting only for the cloistered, hermits and other Buddhist extremists.

    Even if they asked me to become president, I'd turn it down: “How dumb do you think I am anyway?”

    [lobster decides that is best answered by Noble Silence] o:)

    However unlike the Venerable 'not dumb', I feel a wise individual is able to make use of a situation to everyones betterment. For example President Dalai Lama.

    Maybe I am wrong. Will have to vote for 'Buddha Uber Alles' ... ;)

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