SIT-A-LONG with GUDO & JUNDO: Kashaya

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Today, our most special guest 'sits-a-long' ...

The subject was the 'Kesa' (skt. kâshâya), the monk's outer robe. The 'Rakusu' is the shortened version that I wear most days. Nishijima Roshi always sits in a full Kashaya. He recently wrote this:

I think that not only monks, but all human beings should wear Kashaya when they practice Zazen. The reason why I recommend to do so to my students comes from that I actually experience that when I put on Kashaya on my body, I experience very sober and sincere consciousness without fail actually. Therefore in Shobogenzo, the 93th Chapter Doshin, Master Dogen insists that we should wear Kashaya, when we practice Zazen.

When we wear Kashaya, we usually sit on the floor stretching the waist, and putting the folded Kashaya on the head, with joining hands, and recite the Chodai Kesa no Ge, or the Poem of praising Kashaya three times. Then standing up, we wear it.

Chodai Kesa no Ge

Daisai Gedaffuku Muso Fukuden-e Hibu Nyoraikyoo Koodo Shoshujoo


"Daisai" means it is so great. "Gedatsu" means to become free. "Fuku" means clothes. "Hibu" means to wear reverently. Nyoraikyoo means Gautama Buddha's teachings. Koodo means to save widely. Shoshujoo means miscellaneous living beings. Therefore the total meaning is:

How great is the clothing of liberation,
Formless, field of happiness, robe!
Devoutly wearing the Tathaagata's teaching,
Widely I will save living beings. (translated by Gudo Wafu & Chodo Cross)

Master Dogen wrote:

"The Kesa is the heart of Zen, the marrow of its bones."

My friend, Pierre Turlur, wrote this (he is an expert on Kesa sewing) ...

When you choose fabric for the kesa, please, remember that you are rags holding rags. So it can be cotton, linen, hemp, silk even artificial fabric…IT doesn’t cultivate any particular view. Rags are best. What collects fabric is a broken life, a life in pieces, what is collected is just rags. Nothing special, nothing holy in this. You may buy a beautiful and light fabric in a shop and dye it or not, you may ask people to give you bits and pieces of fabric, you may look into your wardrobe and get things you don’t wear anymore to make the robe…It is up to you. In Kesa-Kudoku, Dogen lists the ten sort of rags:

1)Rags chewed by an ox, 2) rags gnawed by rats,3) rags scorched by fire,4) rags soiled by menstruation,5) rags soiled by childbirth,6) rags offered at a shrine,7)rags left at a graveyard,8) rags offered in petitional prayer9)rags disregarded by king’s officers,10) rags brought back from the funeral. These ten sorts people throw away, there are not used in human society. We pick them up and make them into the pure material of the kasaya.

Click on picture to 'play'
(Sitting Time: About 25 minutes)


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