Monday, February 27, 2006


“As material for the robe, we use silk or cotton, according to suitability. It is not always the case that cotton is pure and silk is impure. There is no viewpoint from which to hate cotton and to prefer silk; that would be laughable. The usual method of the buddhas, in every case, is to see rags as the best material”.

Dogen, Kesa-Kudoku.


The kesa is the robe of sitting Zen. It is not only the robe of monks, nuns, priests, abbots and the likes. Everybody can wear a kesa. There is no requirement. In Dogen’s ligneage, one sits wrapped in the kesa, and that’s it.

You may find in various Sangha the belief that the true kesa of the monk is black, that brown or light-coloured kesa are for teachers and so forth… These rules do apply in the Soto sect. In the tradition of the Nyohoe kesa, these rules simply don’t apply.

The kesa is made of rags. Just like our lives. Rags-like. Patches, shredded stories, cuts of various nature.
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.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ryan Trusell said...

Thank you for this. I've added a link to it from my own little address in the land of blog (for whatever that's worth). I am curious about the kesa, and information does not abound.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Thank you, bubbha. I am doing my best to provide a sewing guide which can be usueful...Not easy cause face to face transmission is essential yet again.

love

12:21 PM  

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