Practice of Sewing Kesa and Rakusu.
Kesa (Sanskrit kāṣāya, literally meaning “ochre”, or “orange”) is the Japanese word for the robe that Buddhist monks and nuns wear, draping it under an arm and fastening it on the opposite shoulder. It is thought that Kesa was shaped following instructions by Buddha himself, who drew inspiration from the patches of rice fields and sewed together strips of discarded burial cloths. A Rakusu is a miniature Kesa, and is made up of five strips; it is worn in place of the Grand Kesa by both monastics, and lays who have received the Precepts and the Dharma name.
Rakusu is black for monastics and dark blue for lay people.
In our lineage, as in all of Soto Zen lineages deriving from Kodo Sawaki Roshi, we follow the Nyohō-e (“according to Dharma”) tradition, which reproduces the ancient Kesa pattern based on what is said to be the directions of the Buddha himself.
The Nyohō-e is hand-sewn by the student self together with other members of the Sangha who wishes to help him or her.
It is a fascinating and challenging Practice, also useful to show one's determination to follow the Way, softening one's ego and developing the Perfections of Giving, of Effort and of Patience.
Sewing Kesa and Rakusu requires the guidance of a Sewing Master or of an experienced student.