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Thread: Rakusu Worn Under Clothes

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Rakusu Worn Under Clothes

    Hi Taigu and all,
    I read somewhere recently that while Buddhism was suppressed in Japan monks wore the rakusu hidden under lay clothing. Is there any truth to this story does anyone know?
    Gassho
    Myozan
    Last edited by Myozan Kodo; 02-28-2013 at 03:43 PM.
    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."

  2. #2
    Hi,

    I have heard different versions of this story, from China not from Japan:

    The rakusu was created during the devastating persecutions of Buddhism in
    China during the 9th century CE. Monastics were forcibly returned to lay life, and some of them made
    rakusus, which could be easily hidden under ordinary clothes, as a miniature version of the robes they were
    no longer allowed to wear.


    However, there are alternative origins ...

    Some say that it developed during the transition to manual labor in China, because a full kasa was cumbersome. Some say it was originated during a time of persecution, so that Buddhists could wear the kasa, hidden and safe, under their outer clothing. It’s also been suggested that started as simply the “cloth bag that wandering monks wore to carry alms bowl and other small items,” which was later “formalized as a monastic ‘accoutrement’.” There are even Japanese scholars who believe that it was developed in Japan during the Edo or Tokugawa Era, as the result of sumptuary regulations which limited the size and fabric type of clerical wear.

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma10/robe.html

    I know an interesting story from Japan in the other direction. When the so called "hidden Christians" were persecuted in Feudal times, they hid their statues of Mary and Jesus as Kannon ... so called "Maria Kannon" ... Certain signs on it, like a subtle crucifix, show its intended meaning. I have a statue in my house I believe to be so.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakure_Kirishitan

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-05-2013 at 01:44 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Thanks Jundo. Really interesting. Sometimes I wear a rakusu over my shirt but under my jumper / sweater at work. I work in a secular environment, so, the robe is totally hidden from sight. It reminds me of the way right there in the middle of my working day.
    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."

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Very interesting!

    Thank you, Jundo.

    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

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Thanks Jundo. Really interesting. Sometimes I wear a rakusu over my shirt but under my jumper / sweater at work. I work in a secular environment, so, the robe is totally hidden from sight. It reminds me of the way right there in the middle of my working day.
    Gassho
    Myozan
    Hmm. Not so common to hide the Rakusu under a sweater, but if it is okay with Taigu it is fine with me.

    Most Japanese priests I know (as far as I know), either wear theirs or take them off. Nishijima Roshi often wore a business suit and would wear a Rakusu or full Kesa over it when lecturing and such ...





    ... but for business, would keep his folded in its bag when not wearing it, or for example, on the train.



    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-05-2013 at 01:45 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi,
    Thanks Jundo. I usually do take mine off. This is something I do on occasion. I've mentioned it to Taigu a few times over the last few years.

    If the story is true that the hidden rakusu is part of the tradition, then this way of wearing the rakusu does, in a way, pay homage to that tradition. Doesn't it?

    Of course, I will take instruction on this.

    By the way, I also take my rakusu if I'm travelling, going on a hike, etc. I always remember Taigu's teachings from those original YouTube films on this. What? Four or five years ago now? Filmed in a hot Japanese summer, in Jundo's place, I think.

    Did you know people in other sangha are now using those films in sewing? I know the SFZC people are.

    A great contribution to the history of the robe.

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
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    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
    "Here the way unfolds."

  7. #7
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Fascinating thread. A lesson a day. Thanks for sharing!

    Gassho
    Matt

  8. #8
    I don' t know if monks were hiding their rakusus under their clothing, Myozan.

    Take care


    Gassho


    T.
    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.

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi,
    It seems there are many stories connected with the rakusu. It is a story that makes sense, however. It does seem credible. Here, when Catholicism was suppressed, priests dressed in lay clothing and went among the people. There were secret masses, etc. Was Buddhism seriously suppressed in Japan? I have to look into the history...
    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."

  10. #10
    This is a good place to put an old visit with Nishijima Roshi when he was in better health than today. His subject was wearing the Kesa (called "Kāṣāya" in Sanscrit). The sit-a-long was recorded in his tiny retirement apartment ...



    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    I never noticed before that Nishijima Roshi is in a movie called "The Zen Mind" that I watched years ago.

    迎 Geika

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Thank you Myozan for this thread also Jundo and Geika for the video clips. I received a copy of the Shobogenzo upon joining the zazen group at Shokoji in Yamane-cho in Hiroshima and subsequently lost it in moving. It wasn't until around 2004 that I was reminded of it and started to search on the internet where i became familiar with Nishijima-roshi and his work and came across Treeleaf a few years later as a result. Following that I of course learned of the kasaya and rakusu; those funny things I had seen some of the zazen group wearing. Most of all i am thankful for these endearing images of our Dharma Grandad gleaned from your vids.
    Nishijima.jpg

    gassho, Shokai
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Did you know people in other sangha are now using those films in sewing? I know the SFZC people are.
    That might be happening around here, too. Last fall I sat with a local group a couple times. One person was making a rakusu but had stalled on a tricky part. I told her about how I made mine from the videos, and how we had a sort of virtual sewing circle here, and for the first time since I'd mentioned being part of an online sangha, a light seemed to go on. "Sewing circle, of course!" '

    Gassho,

    Jen
    The result is not the point; it is the effort to improve ourselves that is valuable. There is no end to this practice. --Shunryu Suzuki

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Thank you Myozan for this thread also Jundo and Geika for the video clips.
    You're welcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Most of all i am thankful for these endearing images of our Dharma Grandad gleaned from your vids.
    Me too

    Gassho
    迎 Geika

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