Shakyo practice

Shakyo practice

Postby Seishin » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:43 pm

One of my favourite practices is shakyo (copying sutra). The way I was taught, was to treat it like a meditation. First we start by lighting incense, then saying the refuge, followed by the opening of the sutra verse, then we chant the Heart Sutra. then we get copying :tongue: All done it silent, of course, trying to keep our mind focused on the sutra and the brush & ink, letting any other thoughts pass by. We were also taught to make a stroke on the out breath, making it a very long meditation but very rewarding.

i was wondering, how this differs to the other Tendai folks out there, if at all? Or even for those who are not part of Tendai. What do you think about the practice?

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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Jikan » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:08 am

I adore this practice.

You describe it how we do it here in the States. Sometimes we use the kanji, but more often, we copy an English translation.
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:36 am

This sounds like a great practice to do. Which Sutras are you copying? I guess that originally shakyo was not only a practice to accumulate merit and developing a deeper understanding of the texts, but also to spread the teachings by making them more accessible. In that way a modern form of shakyo could also be useful. As there are many Buddhist texts, which are not yet available online, one could also copy sutras and upload them. Though I am not sure, if there would be a copyright problem.
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:00 pm

It used to have a utilitarian approach when scriptures had to be copied by hand because no other reproduction method existed until woodblock printing, but even then copying out a lot of texts was more practical for most people. You needed specialists to carve out woodblocks.

Nowadays it is a common practice in most of East Asia.

I don't mind doing it once in awhile, though my characters look pretty sloppy.
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Seishin » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:18 pm

Tatsuo wrote:This sounds like a great practice to do. Which Sutras are you copying? I guess that originally shakyo was not only a practice to accumulate merit and developing a deeper understanding of the texts, but also to spread the teachings by making them more accessible. In that way a modern form of shakyo could also be useful. As there are many Buddhist texts, which are not yet available online, one could also copy sutras and upload them. Though I am not sure, if there would be a copyright problem.


We copy the heart sutra, but in essence, any sutra can be copied. And it doesn't have to be in Japanese. It can be Sanskrit or English. I've found my mind tends to wonder more if I'm copying in English, and I tend to thrash it out quite quickly. I don't that's do to with the practice itself, but more my own mind.

What Huseng said is what I've been taught. However I was taught that copying, although for reproduction was also seen as a meditative practice. How true this is I guess well never know.

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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:26 pm

I reckon the Heart Sutra is the most popular scripture to copy and always has been.

One reason for the Heart Sutra becoming as popular as it did in East Asia is, I suspect, how it only takes up a single sheet of paper. You can write it out, take it with you with ease and it contains the essential "heart" of much Mahayana literature. Unlike other scriptures that would have proven bulky, and hence expensive, to copy out, the Heart Sutra was short and simple. The characters it uses are generally easily written, too, and even without a background in Chinese Classics a layperson with a basic education could get the general meaning of the whole thing with just a little guidance.

Imagine a time when paper was costly, too, and this makes even more sense.

For the purposes of providing an enjoyable and relatively easy practice for laypeople, I think copying out short scriptures was a great idea. You had professional scribes and monks to copy out the lengthy treatises and scriptures, but any layperson who could read and write a few dozen characters could be given a brush and a sheet of paper. It cultivates mindfulness, generates merit and at the end of the day you can see something tangible.

I think in Japan shakyo practice is probably more common than zazen sessions. Here in Taiwan a lot of people like calligraphy, too.
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Doko » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:01 am

One of our sangha members and I did a round of Shakyo together this year. This was an opportunity for him to look at how Tendai would do Shakyo. We copied from the Lotus Sutra and it was much like you described Seishin. After we completed our practice we compared notes, we were at it for about a month. I noticed that although the practice is simple, people often find it hard to do. :consoling:
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby jikai » Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:24 pm

Hi guys,
we practise it in much the same way mentioned at the Hawaii Betsuin/ here in Australia. We mainly do the Heart Sutra. Usually we begin by lighting incense and a candle of course. Then we proceed to recite the shorter sanrai (isshin chorai jippo houkai jouju sanbo x3), sange mon, kai kyo ge and the Heart Sutra. This is followed by a verse referred to as the: 'Sutra copying contemplative mindful verse' (forgive my adhoc transaltion there). the original is written in Japanese as 写経観念文. After this has been recited, Shakyo commences. This is followed by the Heart Sutra once more and the longer sanrai (mizukara hotoke ni kieshitatemasturu...) and finally practise is closed with the sanrai once more. I cannot speak from personal experience but Ryodo sensei (one of Ara sensei's Japanese Deshi) suggested that this is the way it is done on Hieizan generally. Is anyone else familiar with the verse mentioned above? I noticed it seems absent from other sangha's?. I do not have an english translation handy but looking at the Japanese original i have here, the verse seems farely straightforward. It begins by referring to the water used in making the ink as being the 'Great compassionate water of wisdom' and is followed by verses regarding the three bodies of the Buddha's and the fact that Shakyou is one of the 'meditative dharma gates'.

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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Seishin » Mon Dec 23, 2013 11:29 am

[video]<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/oJMwjFRv0Ww?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>[/video]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJMwjFRv0Ww
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Re: Shakyo practice

Postby Seishin » Mon Dec 23, 2013 11:31 am

Trying to get the video to embed but can't :techproblem: Anyways, enjoy :smile:
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