Tuesday, March 07, 2006


If I may I would like to share a few directions-suggestions about kesa sewing:

Many mistakes are done when you sew a kesa, stitches disappearing, imperfections…as much as possible, we don’t correct mistakes, we notice them and our reaction to them. The point is not to make a work of Art, something sublime; it is to be utterly sincere and true. Clumsy or not is irrelevant. Please, don’t be obsessed with small stitches. Many kesa I have seen in The AZI are really beautifully sewn but a few of them are not alive (too good) for they display more intention of right doing than total care freeness. The kesa is not a rigid but a flowing form.

The kesa is not a personal thing, your-my possession. I feel sorry for all these people I have met in different temples and Zendo of the West refusing even that somebody would sew on “their” kesa. There is nothing one can call “my” kesa. The kesa is the robe of stillness and selflessness. We merely borrow it as elements are borrowed to manifest this body-mind. It cannot belong to anybody for it is the robe of not knowing.

Be really awake to your own lack of patience. Kesa making requires a lot of time, and I often experience a burning-creeping sense of expectation. If you can allow it, don’t expect or even dream completing the work. Work for nothing. Just sew. Sew also for others, most of my kesa were given to monks and nuns and lay people. It is a good practice to sew for sewing or for others. It is good practice to give.

One practice I always enjoy is to sew as a group on a single kesa. Any type of robe can be sewn collectively, 7. 8,9,13,25 stripes robe.

Every so often, ask yourself: “how can I sew mists, fields, surburbs, shouts, chirps, rubbish, old shoes, sky, clouds…together? “ Most useless question which opens the door to what is open.


Should one recite anything during the sewing? Some sewing schools recommend to chant Namu Ki E Butsu. Namu as the needle is inserted, Ki E as it comes out and then Butsu as you pull the thread. This means, “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the sangha.” What is very advisable is to remind ourselves that we can breathe all right, our reaction to sewing shortens our breath. And I believe this is why originally monks and nuns where singing they heart away: to keep on breathing.

Unlike in the Soto sect, Nyohoe kesa has nothing to do with you-me being special, important or whatever. It doesn’t have to show if you are a beginner or an experienced monk. Bullshit (pardon my French…). Black is not better, black is in Japanese training monasteries the color of the kesa of young monks who did not receive Dharma transmission. Unless you care too much about offending some high rank Japanese priest, I would not worry. Follow the instructions about the color: broken, mixed not primary. There is great joy in sewing and wearing the robe. Joy. Not pride. Joy. Nyohoe kesa is the kesa of rebels, destitute, excluded people. Nyohoe kesa is not the kesa of institutions. It is not made by professional robe makers but by fools who will hang it in trees so birds feet can soil it, so the rain can soak it, so the wind can play with it, so it can be stained ( Tenjo) by life.

And when we meet sadness, sorrows, death, suffering, may we open this kesa and let it be wide open on all things...

12 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Pierre. In the spirit of the kesa's teaching, now I shall leave my crappy comment and move on, never going back to delete and re-do my crappy comment. Who knows? My crappy commments may be, like apparently misplaced stitches, part of something gorgeous unfolding.

How can the field of unhappiness not be open? How can the institution called the Soto Sect be the guardian's of Master Dogen's teaching? Does that Japanese multi-national corporation own the sky that envelopes the field of happiness? Is Master Dogen's teaching more broad, as broad, or less broad than the sky?

So here are two or three scruffy stitches on Pierre's Nyohoe Kesa. Won't someone else take up the needle?

12:04 PM  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

I'm not certain I have anything to add to this very precise and beautiful description of the kesa and its practise but for the sake of a dropped stitch:

I have spent the morning in the V & A having a private view of their kesa collection (they are not displayed at the moment and only three at a time when they are.)

Gold brocade, peonies, chrysanthemums, exotic birds, woven and spun gold. Despite all this affectation, they remained the body and breath of the Buddha.

The old kesa I wear is cheap brown linen from a material warehouse off the M4 but just the same fabric as these Oriental monastery treasures.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Thank you again Floating weed, neither cotton nor silk. Rags.

I sometimes feel lonely on this blog working my arse out and getting so few people contributing, bringing along ideas, new directions, objections... I emailed lots of Zen groups all over the world, they don't even answer. Mike from Dogen Sangha in Bristol was the only one expressing warmth and interest. Great support. Thank you Mike (thank you so much also to Peter, Michael and Mikedoe ...)

It sounds like so called Soto Zen groups are not even interested in our deepest Zen tradition. Or just interested in their own Zen soup. Typical of group trying to buid up a sense of identity. Whhen I look around, Dharma dollar or cheap philosophy is what is running the show.

Anyway, I'll carry on and invite everybody to contribute and help themselves to this blog.

Even if it is for a single flower, it makes sense.


Love

11:56 AM  
Blogger Ryan Trusell said...

I check this blog every morning. Although I am a potter by trade I have, over the last eight months, become a serious quilter. As I read these postings and my understanding of the kesa expands I wonder at the coincidence(or not) that my two main work interests have provided me with the skills to make both robe and bowl.
Thank you, Pierre, for your continuing instruction.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Thank you, Bubbha. Yes, one robe, one bowl. What unfolds and what collects. Two manifestations of free giving-receiving.Two expressions of this being-human, clothing and food. Robe and bowl: back to basics.

Be well Bubbha, happy quilting and pot making.

12:55 AM  
Blogger NickM said...

Pierre,
Here's a suggestion for what it is worth.
Sew outdoors.
It is snowing here, now. I would like snow in my kesa.

5:08 AM  
Blogger NickM said...

sorry...I meant to say the kesa, not my kesa...it is not mine or ours...it just is.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Great Nickm! So the kesa get some nice snow flakes and you get...a nice cold.

Why not... but if you think about it, snow is already part of the fabric you are sewing. As well as sun, earth, seasons, wind, everything really and snow too.

Did you start YOUR kesa yet? Tell us.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I wear an invisible kesa. It isn't finished yet. Sometimes it thinks it is finished, but then the moon glows, illuminating the fibers.

2:43 PM  
Blogger unsho-an said...

Not to be worried Pierre. As you suggested, don´t bring too many expectations. We run a small dynamic sangha here up in the north (Stockholm, Sweden). All is very slow, however there´s some glow in the coals though. A friend of mine commented my sadness of how little passion and engagement I recieve in running this group, with: "Bodhidharma had to wait for nine years". In this "waiting" or doing without purpose lies our own training I imagine. The world NOT showing up as we expect and thus helping us in letting go. Though I really understand your feeling: We´re but human. I read your blog and feel great inspiration from your actions. I am about to help an older teacher of mine to sew her first rakusu and feel the deepest respect for your work and will take councel from your video.
Keep on going, keep on inspiring us!

7:54 AM  
Blogger BrightHeart said...

As always I'm looking for instructions, as usual I probably will patch together something out of the scraps and tatters of life that has blown across Way of the Mountain. I was give that at Jukai as well as my personal name Bright Heart, but Way Mountain has taken longer to soak in.

1:42 PM  

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