Sewing the rakusu

March 7, 2019

This month several Zen students will begin sewing rakusu, the small Buddha robe worn around the necks of lay practitioners and priests. In preparation for jukai – the ceremony where each will receive the Bodhisattva precepts – they will be sewing together from now through the summer. During this time they will take refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha with every stitch sewn. This is a joyous time of sangha support as we all take refuge with them in their vow to take up the Bodhisattva way of life.

Images by Byron Wollen, 2017.

Sewing is an important Zen practice and a cherished tradition at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Tomoe Katagiri, one of the first Soto Zen Buddhist sewing teachers, described the importance of sewing practice:

“Through sewing you learn a lot about the dharma, Buddha’s teaching. It’s not just sewing! One stitch. Tiny stitch. When you think how many yards you will sew, chanting the Buddha’s name with every stitch, if you count all the stitches, you say, ‘I cannot do it!’ But, if you do this stitch: one stitch. One stitch. One stitch continuously, you will finish. If you stop, if you quit, even if you are very good at stitching, you will never finish. Just continue! When you continue with the stitching you will have many problems. Experience. Yes. That is your life. You can learn about oneness just chanting refuge in the Buddha with every stitch, and your life, that is dharma stitching.”

Stay tuned for images and updates on the sewing practice at BZC!