Sewing Buddha’s Robe

Sewing Buddha’s robe at the Austin Zen Center is taught in the tradition and lineage of Sawaki Kodo Roshi as transmitted to San Francisco Zen Center and Austin Zen Center practitioners. This weekly class is for students who are preparing for the ceremony of taking refuge and receiving the precepts by sewing Buddha’s robe: either a rakusu, for lay-ordination (Jukai) or okesa, zagu, and rakusu, for priest-ordination (Shukke Tokudo). A rakusu is a miniature version of the okesa, made in the basic structure of a five-paneled okesa, using nyohō-e* material, color, and way of cutting, sewn by the student him/herself with permission from their teacher to receive the 16 Bodhisattva precepts in the ordination ceremony. A committed Zen practice and relationship with a teacher as well as the sangha is required before undertaking the sewing of Buddha’s robe.

People who have already sewn a rakusu or okesa and are interested in learning to assist as sewing teachers are welcome to come and help.

*The okesa that is made in the traditional way and is one with the Buddha’s teaching is called nyoho-e:
Nyo “As-it-is-ness” as in showing the law/truth as it really is
Hō Law, truth, or the Buddh’as teaching or principle
E Robe, clothes

“Be concentrated on every stitch… as you are concentrated on your breathing. ‘Concentration,’ we say, but that is not actually [the] point. Actual point is – real point is to become one with what you do – to become one with your practice… You should try to be concentrated… on each stitch, and someday you will understand what does it mean. Not immediately [laughs].” (Shunryu Suzuki, 71-06-20, 3)

“Each student sews their robe [by hand] with help, in a way that has been passed down through the ages… The effort is for each stitch to be just about the same. With a presence and clarity, and attention to detail, stitch after stitch after breath after vow after stitch after vow… and each stitch, each breath… is completely fresh, is completely unmanifested until stitch, stitch, breath… each stitch is almost the same and the earth bursts into flame with each moment… Each moment is right in the middle of the fullness of our life, the heat, the massive fire. It may seem, with our karmic life… with our conditioning, that the next moment is predetermined… But… our life… at each moment is completely, utterly, free.” (Eijun Linda Cutts)

Robe Chant:
Dāi sāi ge dā pu ku
musō fuku dēn e
hi bu nyorāi kyo
kō do shoshu jo. (2x)

Great robe of liberation
Field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathagata’s teaching
Saving all beings. (1x)

A donation of $50 – $250 to the temple is suggested for sewing materials and instruction, with an additional donation for the ceremony.

To order a copy of Jean Selkirk’s book Buddha’s Robe is Sewn, on the history and practice of sewing and wearing the robe in the tradition of Sawaki Kodo Roshi- visit http://www.buddhasrobeissewn.org/.