The practice of sewing is to experience and celebrate difference in life: we are all separated, distinct and each of us, every single speck of dust is at its true place in the whole reality. Each part of the kesa, each panel, stripe, every single stitch is in relationship with the whole. In sewing, we donít just get it intellectually; we directly put it into practice. For instance, we have to always be mindful of the whole when we work on a part, if we donít, we run the risk of getting off track or making a big mistakeÖ The gaze in sewing the kesa should be relaxed, all encompassing, inviting all things. When you sew the kesa, donít get too tense, eyes fixing the needle, donít be too serious, pompous or holy, invite the bird song you can hear, the moving foliage of trees but also the loud radio or the television racket next door or the busy traffic, invite all things without discrimination. Invite the child playing and interrupting your sewing, the phone call, the mistakes you make, the finger bruised or bleeding, invite the upset person you are, and sew them all into the fabric, each stitch, each step, each moment is unique, universal and total. Donít forget to invite the laughter and cries of your life, as it is. When my last marriage broke up, I was sewing a big kesa for my teacher, and I did sew it with so many tears and giggles, just life sewing life. That is holiness for me. Our life is made of patches; bits and pieces of experience, trips, meetings, failures, and successÖSew them in. Give your life to a single activity. This is also the secret of zazen. Give your whole life for nothing but the joy of being where you are. Sewing is done giving up the idea of completion and/or being increasingly aware of how we would like to rush things and get there very quickly. Sewing is very good for intellectually gifted stubborn people like me, hopeless guys blessed with 20, 30 or 50 years of great stupidity, the critical, depressed or arrogant kind are a very good material for sewing. When we are very young to this path we want to roar like a lion, we think gentle and kind people are a waste of time, we want to post or shout our understanding. With time and a few kesa behind you, you may have given up the belief that prajna can do it alone. Sewing is jumping into a world ablaze. Sewing is Bodhisattva work, giving your self to a simple fabric and allow Buddha to manifest. It is to practice with needle and thread a very simple yet great alchemy. The plain and mere fabric becomes the robe of the true form. Sewing this strange bib or this patchwork is merely seen as a loss of time. In Zen, we are not trying to gain anymore, we learn how to give time to being, give being to time, become being-time. What do you think you are doing when you sit? What do you do for letting the original face to manifest itself? Are you still sitting to get it? Then, sew! Because in sewing, you just take yourself apart and sew yourself together. Falling apart. Bowing. Getting together as one, gassho, zazen. In zen we practice like trees, all seasons are displayed. Dead leaves and blossoms.
In the tradition, we should bow at each stitch. We donít do that anymore. But it puts you in the pictureÖeverybody that takes Jukai or priest ordination should sew not just because it is too easy to buy the kesa or ask somebody to make it, it is because the journey is the goal, the very experience of sewing has more value than anything. If Zen priests donít understand the meaning of the robe with their marrow, it is just because they havenít given it a chance, they have simply refused to sew. At any stage, one can act with arrogance and ignorance. At any stage, one can let go of resistance. And forget about the sewing machine, the whole point is to face the resistance and bumps on the road as well as joys and simple being contented with a needle and a piece of thread. You have too ways, the quick fix which promises insight in a few hours or a lifetime of aimless travel, cloudlike, simple, so simple and yet so difficult.
This is the Nyoho e school, the school of the robe of as it is ness.
It is also the silent song of your formless sitting