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Shakyo – bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

8 June 2020

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

Our first online Shakyo 写経 practice event saw us come together from Scotland, and elsewhere such as the rest of the UK and Canada, forming a lovely group of sutra tracing and copying practitioners. 

Beginning with an introduction about the history of shakyo and the development of it from Tang dynasty China to modern day Japan, with descriptions of experiences and process in Japanese Buddhist temples such as Zen and Hossou schools, and then we discussed the meditative as well as practical techniques, demos and tips to prepare us. 

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

We also talked about the Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra 延命十句観音経 and its connections to other sutras, looked at particular kanji characters and phrases, and how the sutra has been popular and cherished over the centuries as one that aids wellbeing in times of sickness or difficulty.

After our tea, we lit the incense, rang the bell, chanted and began quietly tracing or copying, working from the short but meaningful and energetic sutra, assisted by worksheets with the kanji and meanings. Some people simply used pens with plain paper whilst others had brush pens or shakyo brush with suzuri inkwell and Japanese paper. It was great to see the the sutras of everyone, here are some examples.

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

It was a peaceful and meditative atmosphere and one where we could practice with care, feeling and attentiveness working on each stroke bringing each character and letter to life. We connected with our senses, felt grounded and connected with the sutra. 

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

We wrote our wish in the traditional manner (in Japanese and English) in the allotted space as well as the date and our name, passing the merits beyond our group, and then we completed our practice with a short chant and some time to briefly chat together about our experience.

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark

Thanks to all the participants for their wholehearted practice.

Shakyo - bringing the Sutra to life with each brush stroke and pen mark
One of the participant’s set up with Japanese paper, worksheet, suzuri, solid ink and fude brush

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