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Thread: Mokugyo/bells on extremely colored cushions traditional? Sewing one?

  1. #1

    Mokugyo/bells on extremely colored cushions traditional? Sewing one?

    Dear treeleafers,

    while exploring ritual/tradition with my sittings, the point of getting a nice Mokugyo came recently.
    Love the story of the fish's teachings and selflessness in giving back the sutra syllable for syllable, teaching this sel-fish practitioner patience. Hitting the self syllable for syllable.

    The fish is made of natural wood color and came on a "cost efficient" cushion.
    This cushion is made of non-natural fabric, one (the last for easy filling?) seam even "glued", not sewn and brightly colored.
    As there was also a very nice, unexpected, personal contact involved in this buying, I am feeling very content with this fish in my room, but failing to do so with this cushion.

    Reading a lot about sewing and getting curious about it, I thought it could be a nice exercise, to sew that cushion myself. I will try so, but would like to know two things before I start searching the "right" fabric.

    (1) Is there a (Soto-shu) tradition, to do it in this extremely colored versions?
    I'd like to keep that (very small) room all natural and naturally colored, selecting the two fabric colors analog to the advice in the Rakusu sewing threads.
    Like the idea of having only the altar with bright colors (flowers etc.) to be the only view attracting part.
    Of course, if there is a strong, different tradition, I can make my peace with the bright colors, 'cause the intention behind this all is exploring the traditions.

    (2) Is there a kind of "sewing guide/plan" for such a cushion around?
    I am wondering especially about the seams that connect the rhombs.
    Do they have to be straight, or slightly curved to reflect the round final shape?
    I guess, the Rakusu stich is not appropriate to sew this, but I am confident to find a working one somewhere in the web.

    Thank you for reading.

    Gassho,
    Ralf sattoday.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  2. #2
    Hi Ralf,

    We have a couple of lovely carved Mokugyo around here that sound terrible ... clunk clunk. We have a couple that sound nice. Really, any piece of wood with a bit of air space to vibrate can be a perfectly good Mokugyo. I have an old clog like this that make a wonderful sound when struck with a child's wooden xylophone mallet.



    I would not worry too much about "official" things like this. The fish is just a decoration that someone began carving years ago, although one can read all manner of meanings into it. Wiki (as good a source as any for these things) has this story ...

    Many legends describe the origin of the wooden fish, many of which take place in China or Korea. One legend says that a monk went to India to acquire sutras. On his way to India, he found the way blocked by a wide, flooding river. There appeared neither bridge nor boat.[3]

    Suddenly, a big fish swam up. It offered to carry the monk across the river. The fish told the monk that it wanted to atone for a crime committed when it was a human. The fish made a simple request, that on the monk's way to obtain sutras, to ask the Buddha to guide the fish on a method to attain Bodhisattvahood.

    The monk agreed to the fish's request and continued his quest for seventeen years. After getting the scriptures, he returned to China via the river, which was flooding again. As the monk worried about how to cross, the fish came back to help. It asked if the monk had made the request to the Buddha. To the monk's dismay, he had forgotten. The fish became furious and splashed the monk, washing him into the river. A passing fisherman saved him from drowning, but unfortunately the sutras had been ruined by the water.

    The monk went home full of anger. Filled with anger at the fish, he made a wooden effigy of a fish head. When he recalled his adversity, he beat the fish head with a wooden hammer. To his surprise, each time he beat the wooden fish, the fish opened its mouth and vomited a character. He became so happy that, when he had time, he always beat the fish. A few years later, he had got back from the wooden fish's mouth what he had lost to the flood.
    I do not know of an "official" pattern, and some are more solid colors. Actually, I would bet you a block of wood that the color of the pillow is a later Chinese import, not standard to Zen in Japan, because Japanese Zen temples generally are not so colorful. If you go to a Chinatown district, they usually have such items very cheaply. As to sewing your own, I do not know of any official pattern, but I would say that these "how to sew a pin cushion" instructions are so close as to be perfectly fine.



    More similar patterns and designs here.

    http://www2.fiskars.com/Sewing-Quilt...n#.VUik1_ntmko

    http://www.asksarah.com.au/tag/project/

    Also recall that, even though the ear may like a sweet sound and the eye may appreciate pretty colors ... one must also ask where this "like" and "dislike" arise. I bet the cushion doesn't feel the same about you!

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-05-2015 at 11:16 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Hi Ralf,

    In my country there is no way you can get a mokugyo and most of the zen props we love and want to use. I could import things, of course, but in most cases I can't afford something like that.

    So I have to improvise and use regular everyday stuff.

    My mokugyo is a nice sounding wooden chopping board I got at a market.

    Since I'm tall and zafus here are made for small regular Mexicans, I use rolled up blankets, which are awesome because I can adjust the height to whatever sitting position I go down to. I know, I know, I should make my own custom zafu. Eventually I will.

    I guess it all boils down to the sincerity and dedication of your practice, regardless of the things we use.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  4. #4
    Thank you very much, Jundo.

    I didn't even know that this is like a "pin cushion", so wasn't able to search effectively.

    Seems, that I have to unlearn a lot, coming from a very symbol loaded background.

    I thought something like: "The diamond pattern together with the bright, primary colors maybe want to accent the things done with it as a precious, glittering jewel".

    It's not that easy for me, to tell important from unimportant and tradition from own thoughts.
    Like "seeing people always turning to the right" might be a practical cause, not to bump into one another,
    but might also remind on the way, the sun enlightens us, moving from east to south to west (turning only right),
    reminding on the passing years and impermanence of the moment.

    My first trys at home, I made with a piece of bamboo, hitting the wooden floor :-)
    Actually, I do like the "fish story" very much. Reminds me on the art of Rakugo.

    (The ones where the clever turn out to be the stupid and the other way round)

    The videos do look very useful, I'll try to find some black and some treeleaf-green fabric and give it a try.

    Thank you very much again.

    Rakugo:


    ;-)

    Gassho,
    Ralf sattoday

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  5. #5
    Hi Kyonin,

    thank you very much for your answer. I feel like you, regarding not needed decoration.
    Like written above, I am somewhere lost between what is "to be explored" tradition and what is "just decoration or practical reason".

    Time will tell.

    As you write about your wooden board, I think I've seen something like that in a picture of a zendo,
    where such a board was spanned between some steelwire, attached to a wall.
    Now I know, what that is good for!

    Gassho,

    Ralf sattoday.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Also recall that, even though the ear may like a sweet sound and the eye may appreciate pretty colors ... one must also ask where this "like" and "dislike" arise. I bet the cushion doesn't feel the same about you!
    Somehow, I did know prior to posting, that this would become a useful teaching for me in a way, I didn't expect.

    I will continue to use this cushion for some time.
    The first thought was that I don't like environment polluting plastic at all. But yes, it is also not bad to be reminded on this.
    The second thought was that I didn't want to be attention drawn off the altar, but that might be just because I am still not completely fine with putting that in my room, willing to do everything "right", whatever that is.
    Interesting, how much "I","me","my" is to be found in my answer...

    Think I'll go back to the cushion (the big black one) with this.


    Gassho,
    Ralf
    sat_and_sitting_today
    Last edited by Kotei; 05-05-2015 at 12:55 PM.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralf View Post

    It's not that easy for me, to tell important from unimportant and tradition from own thoughts.
    Well, not even all Zen Teachers and Lineages agree on this.

    First, every individual temple from China to Japan to Korea will have their own way of doing things, and even two Soto temples in the same town won't do many things exactly the same. Nonetheless, each will have the tendency to say "this is the tradition, this is how things are rightly done".

    Next, some places emphasize Asian traditions and formalities more than others ... and some Lineages in the West sometimes "act more Japanese than even the Japanese!"

    Our place is a bit different. A Zafu is something to sit on, a bell is to keep time, a "Mokugyo" is a hunk of wood to keep the beat. "Gassho" is just a greeting of respect, two hands coming together as one ... a kind of handshake. We do place some special emphasis on the Kesa, but as a symbol of this way and a place for Practice in the sewing (frankly, I don't think the Kesa is a cloth much different from how Yanks sew the red-white-and-blue strips together and salute as a symbol of a place and way of life. Taigu sometimes said it was something more somehow, and I never quite agreed with that.). No other particular clothing or gear is necessary. Nishijima Roshi, who was often seen in both the formal robes of a Soto Zen Priest or in a business suit (with Kesa), would sometimes say that our wearing traditional robes (under the Kesa) is just dressing up for Halloween like "old Chinese people from the Tang Dynasty".

    This may be a good time to repost, again, the "Turning Japanese" essay ...

    ======================================

    This practice is not limited to any place or time ... we drop all thought of place and time. It certainly is not Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French or American. But, of course, we live in place and time, so as Buddhism traveled over the centuries from India to China, Japan, Korea and other places, it naturally became very Indian/Chinese/Japanese/Korean etc.

    But what of the cultural trappings?

    Must we bow, ring bells, chant (in Japanese, no less), wear traditional robes, have Buddha Statues, burn incense? ... All that stuff besides Zazen. Are they necessary to our Practice?


    No, not at all!


    We don't need anything other than Zazen, any of those trappings. In fact, they are no big deal, of no importance, when we drop all viewpoints in sitting Zazen.

    On the other hand, we have to do something, to greet each other somehow, read some words, dress some way. Why not do such things? As I often say, for example, we have to do something with our hands when practicing walking Zazen ... why not hold them in Shashu (I mean, better than sticking 'em in your pockets)? What is more, wearing certain special clothes and holding one's hands with a certain formality, placing a statue and burning incense can all work as points of focus to remind us of the specialness of this moment and Practice (no problem so long as we also learn the lesson that all the so-called "mundane" instants of life, great and small, are special moments, each a "sacred ceremony" in its way, from taking a bath to making a peanut butter sandwich for the kids).

    As well, there are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually put my heart fully into ceremonies and arcane rituals BECAUSE I resist and think some of it silly or old fashioned). Ask yourself where that kind of resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it is right behind your own eyes).

    What is more, there is method to the madness, and many (not all) customs have centuries of time tested benefits ... embody subtle perspectives ... that support and nurture Zazen Practice at the core. Many parts of our Practice, though "exotic", are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, rigid decorum in the Zen Hall and, yes, weird talks about Koans and arcane ceremonies all fit in that category. They may seem like unnecessary "Japanese" or "Esoteric" elements at first, until you understand the role they serve. I have given talks on all these things recently, for example ... the humility and wholeness of Bowing.

    Many aspects of tradition can be seen in new ways when the barriers of the mind are knocked down. Thus, for example, the Kesa, the Buddha's Robes ... though just cloth ... can be seen to cover and enfold the whole universe, laughter, cries of pain, old age, becoming and fading away ... life ...

    On the other hand again, it is okay to abandon or reject many practices. However, KNOW very well what you are rejecting before you reject it.

    Absorb what is useful and discard the rest. For example, I think Oryoki [formal meal ritual] is a great practice, and worth keeping.. Same for bowing.

    When tasted as such ... every action and gesture in this life is Sacred and Magical when experienced as such, from changing a baby diaper to cooking dinner to chanting the Heart Sutra. So, why not Chant as well as the rest?

    Some things I keep out of respect for TRADITION [the robes, the ways of doing some ceremonies]. It is important to keep ties to where we come from. Some things also have a special symbolic meaning if you look into them, so worth keeping [for example, a Rakusu]

    But other stuff, no need to keep: For example, I usually avoid to chant in Japanese or Chinese [except once in awhile, out of respect for tradition]. Tatami mats and Paper screens have nothing to do with Zen practice particularly [but I happen to live in an old Japanese building, so ... well, tatami and paper screens!} Some things I think are just dumb (except symbolically), like the Kyosaku stick. Incense is great, until it was recently shown to cause cancer. Many beliefs of Buddhism are rather superstitious things that were picked up here and there. I abandon many of those.

    The outer wrap of Zen Buddhism is changing greatly as it moves West. The greater emphasis on lay practice over monastics, the greater democracy in what was a feudal institution (arising in societies where the teacher's word was law ... oh, those were the days! ), giving the boot to a lot of magico-supersticio hocus-pocus bunkum, the equal place of women ... heck, the use of the internet to bring teachings that were once the preserve of an elite few into everyone's living room.Those are good and great changes to the outer wrapping (you can read about them in books like this one (author interview here: http://atheism.about.com/library/boo...olemanChat.htm). The coreless core, however, remains unchanged.

    Do not throw out the Baby Buddha with the bath water. Many completely "Japanese" practices which seem silly at first are worth keeping. ...

    ... other things, like some of the arcane incense, bell & drum filled rituals, take 'em or leave 'em.

    Gassho, J



    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-28-2015 at 01:39 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Our place is a bit different. A Zafu is something to sit on, a bell is to keep time, a "Mokugyo" is a hunk of wood to keep the beat. "Gassho" is just a greeting of respect, two hands coming together as one ... a kind of handshake. We do place some special emphasis on the Kesa, but as a symbol of this way and a place for Practice in the sewing (frankly, I don't think the Kesa is a cloth much different from how Yanks sew the red-white-and-blue strips together and salute as a symbol of a place and way of life. Taigu sometimes said it was something more somehow, and I never quite agreed with that.). No other particular clothing or gear is necessary. Nishijima Roshi, who was often seen in both the formal robes of a Soto Zen Priest or in a business suit (with Kesa), would sometimes say that our wearing traditional robes (under the Kesa) is just dressing up for Halloween like "old Chinese people from the Tang Dynasty".
    Thank you for the reminder of our simple way.

    (a handshake)

    -SatToday
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  9. #9
    Jundo,

    thank you very much for cleaning up the mess in this brain.
    The ropes seem to stand out against the debris.
    Removing unnecessary decoration to concentrate on the essential doesn't make it any easier, but maybe more clear and maybe fitting better with this being.
    Interesting again, how thinking turns. Will sew the cushion and will keep the wood, not because it is so traditional, but because it is here and you and the wood taught this one to trust a bit more the own judgement, trying less to do it "right" for ... well ... for whom?

    Gassho,
    Ralf sattoday.
    Last edited by Kotei; 05-05-2015 at 08:22 PM.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  10. #10
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you, Jundo. That was very good information to learn. I like the idea of all the mundane tasks in life being a "sacred ceremony."

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

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