The Two Reverend Masters
I have had two reverend Masters who taught me directly. One is Master Kodo Sawaki, and the other is Master Renpo Niwa.
In October of 1940, I was fortunate to receive information that Master Kodo Sawaki would have a Sesshin at a temple called Daitu-ji in Tochigi Prefecture And so I attended it carrying rice in a clothesbag, because at that time the Japanese food situations had become much worse already.
In the morning we got up at 3 o'clock, and we practiced Zazen for 45 minutes each sitting, two times before breakfast, two times in the morning after breakfast, two times in the afternoon, and once at night. And Master Kodo Sawaki presented his Buddhist lectures two times a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. While listening to his Buddhist lecture I was much surprised that I heard a true Buddhist lecture for the first time. His voice was so loud and strong, and what he said was so understandable and so persuasive.
The textbook of the lecture was Fukan-Zazen-Gi. Fukan-Zazen-Gi was the first book that Master Dogen wrote just after coming back from China, and it was the first book that he wrote in his life. Master Kodo Sawaki had studied the Buddhist philosophy called Hosso Gaku, which was established in Tan Dynasty in China. Master Kodo Sawaki studied it in his younger age, and so his Buddhist philosophy was very exact and theoretical. Therefore his lecture was so profound and exact. When he was young, he studied Hosso Sect theory under Join Saeki in Horyuji temple, and so even though Master Kodo Sawaki's basic Buddhism was established by practicing Zazen, at the same time his Buddhist philosophical structure was also very logical and exact.
At the same time, I think that the most excellent point of Master Kodo Sawaki's Buddhism was his absolutely pure attitude to pursue the Truth. In Shobogenzo there is a chapter which is called "Ju-un-do Shiki." And in it Master Dogen described that "A person, who has the Will to the Truth,
and who has idea to throw away Fame and Profit, can enter. A person, who does not have sincerity to the Truth, should not enter. If someone, who does not have sincerity, has entered (into the dormitory), we should discuss the problem, and after consideration, it is necessary for us to expel him (from the dormitory.) We should notice that if we have begun to have the Will to the Truth, we can suddenly become free from Fame and Profit perfectly."
We can think that Master Kodo Sawaki knew this fundamental Buddhist principle perfectly in his practical Buddhist life. Therefore he didn't have his own temple at all throughout his life, because he knew well that if a Buddhist monk has his own temple, his job to manage the temple leaves him so busy, making it is completely impossible for anyone to study the true Buddhist teachings well. Therefore Master Kodo Sawaki nevered married at all, and he offered everything for promoting Buddhism thoughout his life.
After the Second World War, an American man called Victoria wrote a book. In this book, Victoria criticized Master Kodo Sawski, because Master Kodo Sawaki cooperated with the Japanese Governamental warlike policy. However, looking at Master Kodo Sawaki's attitude during the war, I think that he was never cooperative with the government positively in that matter, and so I think that the author's attitude is much more one-sided from the fact, in the case of Master Kodo Sawaki.
Abbot Renpo Niwa
The other Master, by whom I was so much instructed, was Master Renpo Niwa. Owing to the fact that he later became the Abbot of Eiheiji Temple, I would like to call him the Abbot of Eiheiji, following a traditional habit that is observed sometimes.
By the time I was 16 years old, I had begun to have much interest in Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts, especially in Shobogenzo, and so I have studied it for so many years.
After studying Master Dogen's Shobogenzo for many years, I began to translate it from the old Japanese language into the modern Japanese, including the original Japanese text, comments on vocabulary, and the translation in modern Japanese. After accomplishing the translation I began to publish "Gendaigoyaku Shobogenzo, or Shobogenzo in modern Japanese." At that same time I wanted to begin my lectures of Shobogenzo at several places. Therefore first I asked Doctor Akira Hirakawa, who was the Chairman of The Youngmen Buddhist Association of Tokyo Imperial University, and I was permitted to have a lecture on every Saturday in the afternoon. And at that time I made my mind to become a Buddhist monk in Soto Sect.
Therefore it was necessary for me to find a Buddhist Master, who would permit me to become a Buddhist monk. And fortunately I have found the name of Abbot Renpo Niwa in the graduated students-list of Shizuoka Governamental High School.
I visited the Master at the Tokyo Branch of Eiheiji, and I asked to become a Buddhist monk by him, and I was happily permitted to become a monk by him. And when he listened to my proposal of becoming a Buddhist monk, I noticed that he shed a little bit of tears in his eyes, and he wiped them. So I felt that it might be a joyful fact for him to have me as his monk, who was a graduate of the same high school 14 years younger than he. At that time I already had become the chief of a section in the Japan Security Finance Co., and so he was very kind and careful for me not to meet any kind of difficulty in my secular job.
After having the ceremony to become a Buddhist monk formally, I began to teach people Zazen and Shobogenzo, even in the Tokyo Eiheiji Branch too. And because it was held every Thursday afternoon, I finished my job a little earlier than usual, and went to the temple wearing a common suit as an usual salaried man. Therefore taking off my coat, and wearing the Kashaya over a white dress shirt, I gave my Buddhist lecture in the temple. But Buddhist monks in the temple thought that it was much inadequate for a Buddhist monk to have a Buddhist lecture wearing a Kashaya on the western white dress shirt, and so they asked the Master to stop such an informal style in the temple. To this Master Renpo Niwa said, "It is not so bad, because he seems to be like an Indian monk," and so I could continue my Buddhist lecture in the temple without changing my style.
Then I began lead Sesshin in the temple at the end of Summer, and at that time, of course, I wore the formal black clothes of the Buddhist monk. Also, at The Buddhist Association of Tokyo University, and so forth, I used the formal Buddhist clothes as a monk without fail.
Then I began to lead Sesshin in Master Renpo Niwa's temple called Tokei-in. I lead Sesshin at Tokei-in 6 times a year, for my Japanese audience once, for a foreign audience in English once, and for Employees of Ida Companies four times a year.
Master Renpo Niwa was born at Shuzenji in Shizuoka Prefecture as the third son of Katoda Shioya, in February of 1905. His father was a schoolmaster of several schools, and had sons and daughters totalled 10. And Mura, his mother, worked hard as a farmer for further support of their family. Master Niwa told me that he was a rather tender boy, and enjoyed to play with girls. But when observing the very smart style of a Budhist monk who commuted to Shuzenji temple, he found himself wanting to become a Buddhist monk. So when he was 11 years old, he asked his family if he could become a Buddhist monk, and he was permitted.
And fortunately because his uncle Master Butsu-an Niwa was the Master of Tokei-in in Shizuoka City, and so Master Renpo Niwa became a son-in-law of Master Butsu-an, therefore Master Renpo Niwa commuted from Tokei-in to a primary school. But because he selected Nirayama Middle school near Shuzenji, and so he commuted to the middle school from his home, but because he entered into the Shizuoka High School, therefore he commuted to the high school from Tokei-in again.
When Master Renpo Niwa was going to enter into a University, Master Butsu-an asked Master Renpo to select a law division in the University. However, because Master Renpo strongly hoped to study Buddhism in the University, he insisted his own strong hope, and Master Butsu-an permited Master Renpo to enter into the division of Buddhism. I guess that at that time, even in the Soto Sect, there might have been so many lawful problems occurring, and so Master Butsu-an wanted to get a good assistant for himself in the Soto Sect. But I heard that Master Butsu-an easily permitted Master Renpo to select the Indian Philosophical Division.
Master Renpo Niwa entered the division of Indian Philosophy in Tokyo Imperial University, and during the first summer vacation, he visited Eihei-ji as a Buddhist monk officially for one month. After graduating from Tokyo University, he became the head official in Tokei-in, and then visiting Antaiji in Kyoto for commuting to Otani University, and then he entered into Eihei-ji. Then he became the Master of Ichjoji and Ryu-un-in in Shizuoka, and he succeeded the Master of Tokei-in in November of 1955. He became the Master of the Tokyo Branch of Eihei-ji in 1960, and then he worked as the 77th Abbot of Eihei-ji from April 1985 to September 1993.
I was taught so much by the Abbot Renpo Niwa about how I shall live as a human being. The Abbot Renpo Niwa was a very delicate and generous person, and he didn't have any possibility to become emotional. I have heard a story of him like this. One night, many young monks of Eihei-ji Tokyo Branch went out to drink alcohol, and they didn't come back throughout the night. At that time Master Rempo Niwa got up early in the morning, and when the monks came back from outside, and he was standing at the entrance of the temple. Meeting them there he said, "I guess you are very tired from working so hard without any sleep at all during the night." Just saying so, he quietly returned to his private room. Therefore the monks were so surprised, and I heard that since then they stopped going out so late to drink alcohol
When I visited him in his private room accidentally, he sometimes served me a cup of green tea that he himself prepared. And at that time, even though he did not teach me especially with words, I was able to gain so much knowledge simply by watching his behavior.He showed me at that time that there were so many teachings in his behavior.
When the 76th Abbot Egyoku Hata was so seriously sick in his own temple, I was in Master Niwa's room for a private talk accidentally. At that time Master Niwa was calling up the Abbot's temple, and asking whether it is necessary for Master Niwa to visit the Abbot for consolation. But the information from the Abbot's temple was that "The Abbot's condition has become much better, and he is now practicing rehabilitation, and so please do not worry about such a problem." But Master Renpo said that he had received exact information of Abbot Hata, that his situations were so serious, concretly from a person, who was sitting in the Abbot's room at that time, and so situations were never so peaceful. And listening to such a situation, I could notice clearly that everyone could never tell a lie at every moment throughout his or her life. And at the same time I noticed that a person, who has become powerful in human societies, must to be careful of information.