The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo - Preface

Hit the road with one of the most important Zen masters of the twentieth-century.



288 pages, 6x9 inches


ISBN 9781614290483

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eBook Bundle (PDF, epub, mobi)


ISBN 9781614290476

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There may be no better example of a reckless vow than promising to edit a book. No matter how many times one reads a manuscript with the precise attention that’s a kind of love, mistakes will escape. I’d like to say perfection isn’t the goal, but perfection has to be the goal, never mind its impossibility. This paradox lends our vows their bittersweet beauty: we strive wholeheartedly for ideals we know we can never reach, accepting failure more or less gracefully from the start.

Here my mission was to help the Dharma express itself as clearly and meaningfully as possible through three generations of a Zen lineage. My favorite aspect of this book is its prismatic reflection of a single truth through the distinct characters, experiences, and voices of three teachers—the universal manifesting through the particular, as always.

I’m honored to have been part of this effort, which gave me a tangible way to express my gratitude to my teacher, Shohaku Okumura, and to our lineage. Across divides of culture and time, I feel a resonance with Kodo Sawaki Roshi, most of all because of his “homelessness”—his skepticism of institutions, religious and otherwise. I believe that for Sawaki Roshi spiritual practice had nothing to do with signing on to a particular dogma, but instead meant shouldering responsibility moment by moment for the truth and vitality of one’s own life, intimate with all things.

Along with devotion and responsibility, life asks trust—trust in what Dogen Zenji called “total function.” In the end, an editor has to trust the words themselves, the truth behind them, and the earnest intentions of readers, then take a deep breath and let the book have its life. May you enjoy it!

My thanks to those who kept me on path at the beginning of my practice: Leslie James, Diana Gerard, and Norma Fogelberg. To Christopher Stillson for his unwavering faith and generosity of spirit. And to the friends who fed and sheltered me in my “homeless” days as a priest in Bloomington, Indiana: Peiwei Li and Arjan Vermeulen, Alexis Wreden and Robert Fakelmann, Barbara Moss and Bob Meadows, Beth and Tom Hollingsworth, Brian Flaherty, and Yuko Okumura.

I dedicate my work here to my parents, Joan and Jeff Whitehead, who taught me to love words—the right ones, in the right order, and not too many of them.

Jokei Molly Delight Whitehead


How to cite this document:
© Shohaku Okumura, The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo (Wisdom Publications, 2014)

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