Kesa Sewing Weekend
With Annette Seigô Beck and Walter Eko Krepulat
All of the sûtras (…), the entire universe and nature in all its diversity, mountains, oceans, trees and flowers, even rocks, experience the merits of the kesa (…) But to have direct contact with a kesa; to wear, to study, and to sew a kesa, is a rare occassion indeed.
Maître Eihei Dôgen, Japan XIII century. ( Shôbôgenzo, Kesa Kudoku)
Sewing a kesa, the same garment the Buddha wore 2500 years ago, is an important practice in Sôtô Zen Buddhism. The kesa is made of various pieces of fabric from many sources and forms a long robe which covers the body. This tradition has been transmitted from master to disciple through the ages in a spirit of profound faith and austerity.
Kesas also exist in a smaller form, the rakusu. This smaller version is worn throughout the day to remind the practitioner of his or her commitment to Zen Buddhism.
During sewing weekends, participants learn the method of assemly of these garments; peaceful work which requires a great deal of concentration, and develops patience and perserverance. Each stitch is like a grain of rice, the project a rice field, and the teaching of monks and nuns is the water irrigated to nourish the crops.
All the necessary materials are made available : black fabric, needles, thread, silk, etc.Those responsible for sewing during the weekend have been studying kesa sewing for many years. They have received direction from senior monks and nuns and today are able to trasmit that knowledge anew.