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Thread: Gear for the frugal buddhist

  1. #1

    Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Hi again,

    The following might be stating the obvious, but here goes.

    Bells - I like a nice low tone but they are $500 - $11,000 so I have been using a lovely stainless steel mixing bowl (14 inches in diameter, 6 inches deep) cost $5 US at the charity shop. For the striker, I have a stick (about 5/8 inch in diameter but most any diameter bigger than that will do) the end of which I covered in velveteen for about 2 inches (I sewed it on but you can glue it). When shopping for your frugal bell, try lots of bowls as even bowls of approximately the same size will sound very different. You hold the bowl at face-height, supporting it underneath on your fingertips, then strike the bowl near the top edge with your knuckle. If you have never tried this, the sound can be amazing. Of course, if, when using your bowl bell, you set it on the floor, the sound will not be so loud, so I would search for a bell that is very loud and resonant when you test it. A note on setting it on the floor, a firm but not hard surface is needed, I think, I am fortunate that my very low-pile carpet works fine.

    Zafus - a few sewing notes for non-sewers - it is very easy to hand-sew a zafu - it is just 2 circles and a long straight piece that is pleated (folded on itself) and sewn to the edges of the circles. I recommend what we call skirt-weight fabric, heavier than cotton shirt material or heavier than bed linens. Again, your charity/thrift shop can be a resource since both the circles and the side piece can be "pieced" for two pieces of fabric. If you are buying new, perhaps ask for "cotton duck" or a similar weight or a medium weight denim. New fabric will feel stiff but will (if it's all cotton or mostly cotton) soften when you wash it. You should wash your fabric, dry it, iron it flat (if you have an iron), then sew. The choice of thread is very important. Do not use "all-purpose thread" (this is too weak for hand sewing a zafu because the seams will be getting a lot of stress when stuffed and you sit on it). Use what is called "carpet/buttonhole twist" thread. You will then probably need a slightly larger than normal needle. When hand sewing, every two inches make a "knot" but making a little stick in place and then running your needle through the loop. This makes a knot that, in case the seam comes open, then the seam will only open for two inches (so you only need to resew it for two inches). I would make the stitches no larger than 1/4 inch long and I would sew about a 1/2 inch from the edge. Then do a second row of stitching between the first line of stitches and the edge of the fabric. Stuffing - you can try the stuffing from old pillows, old clothes, tee-shirts also make great stuffing, and of course the above mentioned popcorn for that firm beanbag effect.

    I will later post easy and cheap oriyoki set suggestions if anhyone is interested.

    I have no idea if the above is of any use?

    yours,
    rowan

  2. #2

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Sorry, that should have been "When hand sewing, every two inches make a "knot" by making a little stitch in place and then running your needle through the loop."

  3. #3

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Ros,

    This is very lovely, and I hereby appoint you our official Treeleaf "Master of Bowls, Bells and Zafu Sewing". Congratulations!

    I hope that, once we get the Rakusu's sewn for Jukai, some of us will take our new found sewing skills and try a Zafu. And I hope you will provide guidance then.

    As to budget bells, you would not know it from visiting many temples in Japan (Zen or otherwise). Here, for example, is a price list for bells of various sizes (for example, a 30cm bells is about the equivalent of $800 to $2000 US, and a large 51cm bell is about $19,000 US).

    http://www.idutsuya.co.jp/default.php?cPath=66_81

    Your idea of using a mixing bowl, or even an old coke bottle or a tin can, speaks to my heart. Even the harmony of a "lovely" ring is in the mind of the listener, to my ear anyway.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Great suggestions Ros. I'd love to hear your recommendations for an oriyoki set. Frugality is not exactly my strong suite. I'm what they call penny wise and pound foolish.



    Personally I'm feeling a bit intimidated about the idea of sewing my own Rakusu. I know mine will turn out looking awful.

  5. #5

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Wow this is an excellent thread!

    Personally I'm feeling a bit intimidated about the idea of sewing my own Rakusu. I know mine will turn out looking awful.
    Gregor, I am with you. I am really looking forward to trying it though. I have tried sewing in the past but was never very good at it so this is very intimidating. I hope to use this Rakusu sewing as a meditation, kind of take my time with it and not judge how I am doing through out the process.

    I never thought about how simple making your own Zafu could be. Thanks Ros for your postings. Keep it up!

    Gassho to all,
    Damian

  6. #6
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Personally I'm feeling a bit intimidated about the idea of sewing my own Rakusu. I know mine will turn out looking awful.
    Me too Gregor! But I guess just doing it and being ok with the result is part of the point. It will be perfectly what it is awful.

    Gassho

    Martin

  7. #7

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Personally I'm feeling a bit intimidated about the idea of sewing my own Rakusu. I know mine will turn out looking awful.
    When my great grandmother taught me to sew she told me never to think of the finished item or how good or bad it would look when finished. She said to only think of the stitch you are making right then, and how perfect it looks. By doing that, you will eventually have a whole row of perfect stitches, and you never once worried about making the item you were sewing, you only worried about one stitch.


    I am also looking forward to your post on oriyoki, Ros. Thanks for posting this!

    Gassho,
    Jen

  8. #8

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Wondering if using a sewing machine is cheating or defeats the purpose? :mrgreen: Ann

  9. #9

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Hi,

    Using a sewing machine, IMHO, is certainly not cheating (I have two), I only posted hand-sewing notes to be helpful and hopefully encouraging to the many non-sewers out there.

    Machine sewing a rakusu MIGHT be difficult because of the many small pieces, however all of the commercially available rakusus are machine sewn so it certainly can be done. I love hand-sewing and have done it for 47 years, so you can bet I will be hand sewing mine.

    cheers,
    rowan

    Quote Originally Posted by chessie
    Wondering if using a sewing machine is cheating or defeats the purpose? :mrgreen: Ann

  10. #10

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Hi - I will also be posting very simple notes on making a seiza bench and zabuton. Hope to get to it this weekend, energy permitting.

    rowan
    (who will try to get time today to check on getting her pic to show up)

  11. #11

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    One may not machine sew a Rakusu for purposes of the Jukai. :shock: It must be hand sewn.

    Nor may someone ask their mother-in-law to do it (a secret poke in the ribs to someone in the Sangha who did that once). :wink: :wink:

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Machining a Zafu is fine, however.

  12. #12

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Nor may someone ask their mother-in-law to do it (a secret poke in the ribs to someone in the Sangha who did that once). :wink: :wink:
    Of all the lousy... man... who in the world... what kind of Buddhist is THAT... (cough, cough, cough...) ops:

  13. #13

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Hi, (yes it's the obsessive Rowan again!)

    Never fear, many people have sewn rakusus, 99% have never sewn before and they all look great. I will be posting a "hints on sewing a rakusu" which will tell you everything I know about hand sewing, how to make it look beautiful (99% of it is in the ironing... Really), what fabric to use, etc.

    yours in sewing support, it really is VERY easy,
    rowan

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Personally I'm feeling a bit intimidated about the idea of sewing my own Rakusu. I know mine will turn out looking awful.
    Me too Gregor! But I guess just doing it and being ok with the result is part of the point. It will be perfectly what it is awful.

    Gassho

    Martin

  14. #14

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    Never fear, many people have sewn rakusus, 99% have never sewn before and they all look great. I will be posting a "hints on sewing a rakusu" which will tell you everything I know about hand sewing, how to make it look beautiful (99% of it is in the ironing... Really), what fabric to use, etc.

    yours in sewing support, it really is VERY easy,
    rowan
    Hey Rowan,

    That is very comforting. Thank you. Like others here, I have the "sewing phobia." Yes, I am the one that went through Jukai without sewing my own rakusu, but I am now up for the challenge. I think it'll be challenging, but like so many difficult and worthwhile things I've done, I suspect it will be good for me.

    On another note, I'm not sure if Jundo will have some particular parameters regarding the Treelaef lineage rakusus (i.e., color, fabric), but I've also thought a blue denim rakusu would look kind of cool.

    Gassho,
    Keith

  15. #15

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Thanks Ros and Jen . . . very comforting advice. I'm feeling a bit more encouraged.

    I do wonder what sort of fabric we will be using, hopefully something traditional (whatever that is).

  16. #16

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Well since there is over 800 years of history, it depends on how you define "traditional". Currently, mostly a shirt-weight cotton or cotton-polyester seems to be most used, significantly of new fabric.

    However, in chapter 78 of Dogen's Shobogenzo (Nishiyama's translation of 1983) - "Transmission of the Kesa"

    "The material we use to make a kesa must be pure. "Pure" means material donated by pure-minded believers, purchased in a market place, received as a gift from celestials, dragon gods, or even demons. It may be received from kings and ministers, and might even be leather.
    The ten kinds of dirty rags that also may be used are:
    1. cloth chewed by cows.
    2. cloth chewed by rats.
    3. cloth that has been burned.
    4. cloth that has been used for menstruation.
    5. cloth that has been used during childbirth.
    6. cloth eaten by birds.
    7. cloth used to cover dead bodies.
    8. cloth used for religious services.
    9. cloth used by kings and ministers.
    10. cloth used to transport bodies.

    Prior to this in this chapter, there is the mention of "cloth used for wiping excrement" from which, perhaps we get the tradition of brown rakusus and the larger priest's kesa.

    I am sure I read in the Shobogenzo that it should be made from rags that can be used for nothing else, which is probably the origin of the rakusu being pieced from such very small pieces. Jundo?

    Also in this chapter Dogen refutes the idea that silk is unethical for buddhist monks.

    But guessing from Jundo's attitude about gear, I would be surprised if he was stringent about materials?

    hope this is useful?
    rowan

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Thanks Ros and Jen . . . very comforting advice. I'm feeling a bit more encouraged.

    I do wonder what sort of fabric we will be using, hopefully something traditional (whatever that is).

  17. #17

    Re: Gear for the frugal buddhist

    Hi Guys,

    I will be posting later tonight or tomorrow the long promised description of our upcoming Jukai.

    As part of that, I have been able to invite as a guest a Zen priest who is noted as a "Kesa/Rakusu" specialist, and has agreed to present a series of video talks and lessons on Rakusu sewing, history and philosophy (and help us along with guidance) ... I have heard his talks before, and they are gems. Those talks would be offered as part of our Rakusu Sewing classes. (Also, Hans did a great job on his Rakusu already, so will be providing input and tips from the perspective of a first timer, and Ros and others with experience will be providing guidance too).

    However, I am now in some discussions with our guest teacher on the pattern and materials to be used. There is some variation Lineage to Lineage, and some of it depends on both the philosophy behind it and whether one wants to follow the pattern of our Lineage or another way. In any event, I will have information on the pattern we are going to be using and the materials, shortly. I am fine with blue jeans and such for a Rakusu, but I think the guest teacher and I both agree that we should go with something more standard for this first time.

    Gassho, Jundo

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