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Thread: is Zen Zen without the Okesa?

  1. #1

    is Zen Zen without the Okesa?

    This is a question asked by Myozan and I ll do my best to answer.

    Today, there is pretty much everything you can imagine from the most Japanese like kind of way of practice to the plain ordinary sitting without any prop, statue or robe. And all the variations in between. You may have a peep at all Gudo s Dharma heirs and see for yourself how different they are, how their style of practice varies. Just sitting without a robe is as valid as with a robe, sitting with a robe does nt give anybody the right to pontify and disqualify those that don t wear these Buddhist rags. And, those we don t wear the robe and don t understand it should refrain from making statements about the robe. And students, whoever they are, can be humble and refrain from criticizing or praising the robe, putting their trust in a teacher, they follow her or his example and teaching, would he or she wear the robe, so should they, if the teacher doesn t, they should do the same.

    Now, the robe was first made and sewn in the old days when Shakyamuni first taught roaming the land. It has been given through generations as the robe of sitting, the bones and flesh of Buddha, the real thing, and sewing was the rule beore monk shops opened and the okesa in its modern form came about in Meiji era. All the great teachers of the past revered the robe, wore it and taught how to make it. Dogen was very good with the needle, I could see his needle work on a kesa exhibited in Kyoto two years ago, and Sawaki revived this tradition making the robe available to lay people, people receiving Jukai and not just to priests.

    Zen was transmitted to me first by Deshimaru roshi and his close students, and then by Mike Chodo Cross Dharma heir of Gudo and also pretty good with a needle, sewing was for all my teachers a very important activity and wearing the robe a natural expression of just sitting.

    A few years ago, Jundo knowing I was in Japan asked me to make sure that sewing could be taught, practiced and therefore I started to instruct people, we recorded videos and I wrote a short book about it. Jundo and I would like every person taking the Buddhist vows to sew their rakusu, a small form of the okesa, the big robe, as we both see that although the black and white robes are not necessary ( they are Chinese and Japanese additions), the robe should be kept and can perfectly wrap a sitter in shorts, pans, t- shirt or even naked...of course you may be part of this Sangha and not wear the robe, not do the precepts ceremony and that s perfectly OK. And if you come and start to question the robe, I would simply advise you to sit a good thirty years and sew before you do so. Because you simply dont know what you are talking about. People that start to sew for jukai are often reluctant to do so and very skeptikal about the whole process, a few weeks later they eyes open to a complete new reality.

    Here we practice following Sawaki s teachings about the robe.

    Zen is Zen. With or without the robe.


    And because I am a distant student of Dogen and Sawaki, Zen is wearing the robe, shaving my head and being caught by the still state.

    I hope this helps.


    Gassho


    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 12-15-2012 at 12:24 AM.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Taigu, Thank you for this teaching.

    Deep bows,
    Yugen
    Please take all my comments with a grain of salt - I am a novice priest and anything I say is to be taken with a good dose of skepticism - Shodo Yugen

  3. #3
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Thank you... I learned a lot sewing my Rakusu during this Ango, it opened my eyes during some hard times last couple of months... I cant even explain how much I enjoyed the process... yet, I know that there is so much more to learn from sewing...

    Gassho
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    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  4. #4
    This is wonderful Taigu ... I know for myself sewing the Rakusu has been a beautiful practice and hopefully one day have the opportunity to sew a Okesa.

    Thank you for this teaching.

    Gassho
    Michael



    If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
    ~ Dogen Zenji

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  6. #6
    So much gratitude, T.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    For me the robe says "This is not a day trip, this is all or nothing". Maybe that sounds extreme to some Zen sensibilities ..where there is nowhere to go, and nowhere to fall...and everything is "just ordinary". Even though that is true, at the same time, there is something at stake, and there is being swept away, and it can get bad, and this life is an opportunity. So there is also "practicing like your hair is on fire"... and there are people who know what that means. Wearing the robe represents that to me. It represents no choice. At 47 years old now, maybe that ship has already sailed . There was a lot of regret over not ordaining in my Forest sangha days... when I got married and took refuge at about the same time, and was torn. The patched robe is beautiful and true. It should not be washed away in "ordinary Zen" . Thank you Taigu.

    Gassho, kojip
    大山

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Taigu,
    This clears the clouds and opens the sky. Thank you to you and Jundo for your teachings. They have changed so many of us.
    Gassho
    Myozan
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
    "Here the way unfolds."

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Taigu,
    This clears the clouds and opens the sky. Thank you to you and Jundo for your teachings. They have changed so many of us.
    Gassho
    Myozan
    Oh, you are a master of understatement, Myozan!
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-15-2012 at 04:58 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    "People that start to sew for jukai are often reluctant to do so and very skeptikal about the whole process, a few weeks later they eyes open to a complete new reality." - Taigu

    This was a very true statement for me. Afterwards it all felt wide open as Myozan said.

    Gassho,

    Daido


  11. #11
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    For me the robe says "This is not a day trip, this is all or nothing". Maybe that sounds extreme to some Zen sensibilities ..where there is nowhere to go, and nowhere to fall...and everything is "just ordinary". Even though that is true, at the same time, there is something at stake, and there is being swept away, and it can get bad, and this life is an opportunity. So there is also "practicing like your hair is on fire"... and there are people who know what that means. Wearing the robe represents that to me. It represents no choice. At 47 years old now, maybe that ship has already sailed . There was a lot of regret over not ordaining in my Forest sangha days... when I got married and took refuge at about the same time, and was torn. The patched robe is beautiful and true. It should not be washed away in "ordinary Zen" . Thank you Taigu.

    Gassho, kojip
    Deep bows, Kojip. No choice is exactly how I feel about it, too.

  12. #12
    I respect and revere the robe because traveling by foot and sleeping outdoors the buddha may not have survived without it and I would not be practicing the buddha way today.

  13. #13
    until I sewed the rakusu, I was a spectator.
    Hogen (Matt); formerly "mcurtiss"

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing this teaching with us again and again!

    Deep bows

    Shohei
    Ordained Zen Priest in training
    http://dirkinstitches.blogspot.com/

  15. #15
    Thank you Taigu for the clarity. Thank you Myozan for the curiosity.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anas Nin

  16. #16
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    I am grateful to our teachers for holding the okesa at the core of this sangha. I am equally, if not more, grateful that it is a practice which is available to all of us. Through a couple of recent experiences, I have spoken with people who view the kesa (and even the rakusu) as a display of rank or attainment.

    In my humble view, the robe is neither earned nor freely given. As Taigu wrote, it is "a natural expression of just sitting."

    Gassho,
    Shujin

  17. #17
    I like how Taigu puts it.
    Zen is Zen, with or without the robe. I would never get the idea to question the robe - everyone must decide for themselves what they want and need.
    Although I cannot imagine to sew a rakusu at the moment, I really understand its value and meaning it has for others and I deeply respect it.

    Thanks for your teachings!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  18. #18
    Through a couple of recent experiences, I have spoken with people who view the kesa (and even the rakusu) as a display of rank or attainment.
    This is very unfortunate ad these people haven t met the real teaching of the Okesa, trapped in a vision inspired by the official Soto clergy, giving colors a ranking value from black, young priest to golden yellow, high ranking bishop. In the true school of the robe, the robe is just the robe of sitting, and can be on anybody s body, from destitutes and criminals to saints. A robe beyond discrimination. I always had a hard time to get this message across. The dye on the fabric is diminishing the value of the fabric, the patches are rags sewn together. Nothing fancyful.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  19. #19
    Thank you for this teaching Taigu.

    Gassho

    Willow

  20. #20

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    ... A robe beyond discrimination.
    I love this, thank you Taigu.

    Gassho
    Michael



    If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
    ~ Dogen Zenji

  22. #22
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. I would like to sew a robe.
    Gassho.

    Sent from my BlackBerry 9790 using Tapatalk
    Heisoku
    平 息

  23. #23
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Thanks Taigu and Jundo for teaching another way to practice Zen. I also miss the stitch after stitch and reciting the refuges as we go along. Perhaps an Okesa is in my future.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  24. #24
    Heisoku,

    Please do do. I will ask shohei to open the sewing thread for you.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. Gassho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  26. #26
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Heisoku,

    Please do do. I will ask shohei to open the sewing thread for you.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Consider it done!

    Gassho
    Shohei
    Ordained Zen Priest in training
    http://dirkinstitches.blogspot.com/

  27. #27
    Thank you, Shohei.


    gassho


    taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  28. #28
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    I was very reluctant to sew my rakusu at the beginning. I had never ever sewn anything in my life so it was very difficult for me.

    My first three tries were horrible.

    Then I started to put the pieces together... and I got a horrible rakusu that I love.

    And things change inside.

    Now I am putting together a Kesa. With nothing in mind. I just do it.

    Thank you, Taigu.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    I was very reluctant to sew my rakusu at the beginning. I had never ever sewn anything in my life so it was very difficult for me.

    My first three tries were horrible.

    Then I started to put the pieces together... and I got a horrible rakusu that I love.

    And things change inside.

    Now I am putting together a Kesa. With nothing in mind. I just do it.

    Thank you, Taigu.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Thank you Kyōnin ... I too love this practice and look forward to the time when I can sew a Kesa.

    Gassho
    Michael



    If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
    ~ Dogen Zenji

  30. #30
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Taigu, is there a pre-requisite or a certain time one should wait until sewing a Kesa?
    Gassho, Shawn.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  31. #31
    Yes and no Shawn.
    Please would you write to me and explain why you want to sew a kesa?
    Thatnwould be helpful.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  32. #32
    Kyonin,

    The way you describe the sewing process is very true and honest.

    Thank you for being with us and this beautiful bright pearl.


    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  33. #33
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shohei View Post
    Consider it done!

    Gassho
    Shohei
    Thank you Shohei. Gasho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  34. #34
    Hello,

    thanks for everybody's input (especially Taigu ), I'm about to make myself a nice cup of tea and will resume sewing a new O-Kesa in a second... Everybody's enthusiasm is really bringing home to me the beauty of this tradition. Many years ago I felt that it was all about perfectionism, since some people I had met didn't really radiate the warmth that many of you folks do...or maybe I just didn't see it at the time. Anyhow, since I am extremely clumsy (seriously, I am not fishing for compliments here), sewing the kesa is a sure way to show me that this way is never ending.

    Gassho and all the best,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  35. #35
    Hans, that perfectionism is something I can really relate to. I have sometimes felt like there is virtue in being a "good" sewer, and as I sewed my okesa occasionally felt the enormous weight of believing that I was not good enough to be doing this.

    It came to a real head when I was almost done with it. I was cutting the thread after sewing on the last joro. My scissors slipped and I cut the fabric of the okesa. I was absolutely horrified. For the next couple nights I lay in bed before falling asleep replaying it in my head, imagining the small movement that would have avoided the whole thing, wishing for a way to undo that
    moment. When it was time to meet with my teacher, I unwrapped the okesa and showed her what I had done, feeling really nervous. Her reaction was amazing to me - she looked at it, and with absolutely no judgement began helping me to repair it.

    I learned so much from that episode. I'm really glad I made that mistake - without it I would have suffered under that particular misunderstanding for much longer. The okesa is something different than I had thought. It doesn't rely on my skill as a sewer, and it's not vulnerable to my mistakes.

    Thank you all for reading my confessions

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