Buddha's Robe is Sewn From painting by Shokai (Touyo, the 5th generation from Sesshu of Unkoku-ji Temple)
A booklet about Buddhist robes, their symbolism, and the traditions of sewing them.

Welcome to www.buddhasrobeissewn.org

 

About Suzuki-rōshi
Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi (1904 to 1971) came from Japan to America in 1959 and founded the San Francisco Zen Center in 1962. He is the widely read author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. In the US, he encouraged giving the Buddhist precepts and teaching robe-sewing techniques to both the monastic and lay communities.

Foreword to Booklet
Written by two dharma teachers in the Suzuki-rōshi lineage. Sōjun Mel Weitsman helped Suzuki-rōshi begin the Berkeley Zen Center in 1967. Today Sōjun continues as abbot; he also once served as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. Zenkei Blanche Hartman is a former co-abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center and the senior sewing teacher.

Booklet Writer & Compiler
Jean Selkirk is the sewing teacher at Berkeley Zen Center, Berkeley California. Her teacher is Sōjun Mel Weitsman. Jean was lay ordained by her teacher in 2000.

Endorsements

  • Zenkei Blanche Hartman (see her comments at right).
  • Hee-Jin Kim: "A fine collection of important thoughts and reflections on the Buddhist robe in the Sōtō tradition." Hee-Jin Kim is the author of Eihei Dōgen: Mystical Realist.

How to Order Booklet

  • See Order Page.
  • $17.50 each, 40 pages,
    soft cover.
  • Available at all three San Francisco Zen Center book stores, the Berkeley Zen Center, and by email order. See Order Page.
  • For Buddhist sanghas, Berkeley Zen Center offers a special discount on orders of ten or more copies. 
From painting by Shokai (Touyo, the 5th generation from Sesshu of Unkoku-ji Temple)

Click here to contact us about ordering or to leave a comment.

Buddha's Robe is Sewn - A Booklet about the Traditions of Sewing in the Shunryu Suzuki-roshi American Lineage of Zen Buddhism; Painting by Shoukai, Calligraphy by Ryouan Baishi
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ORDER DETAILS HERE

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When Jean Selkirk became a sewing teacher in 2002, she heard a lecture given at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center that year by Zenkei Blanche Hartman and Shōsan Victoria Austin on sewing Buddha's robe. Jean was already collecting information for students about sewing robes, both rakusu and okesa. Like the lecture, much knowledge about the sewing of Buddhist robes remained unpublished in English. The lecture inspired Jean to create this booklet.

Excerpt from Article by Zenkei Blanche Hartman
The booklet is just really full of the history and details about our devotional practice in a beautiful and inspiring collage of words and pictures. All the teachers in our sewing lineage are presented in a chart which allows for easy understanding of their complex relationships. So many important events led to our sewing Buddha's Robe here today, from Dōgen's returning to Japan from China; to Sawaki-rōshi recovering the practice of sewing robes; to Yoshida-rōshi's visiting the Zen Center in 1971 and (along with Tomoe and Dainin Katagiri-rōshi) encouraging Suzuki-rōshi to offer to give his students the precepts and the opportunity to sew their rakusus and okesas in the traditional way; and to Jōshin-san's arrival and my becoming her disciple. Many quotes of Suzuki-rōshi and his students are included, along with academic sources that cover the robe's creation, types of robes, symbolism of the robe as a whole as well as its parts, care of robes, principles of construction, sewing practice, and the historical record of robes. <Full Story Coming Soon> 

Excerpt from Jean Selkirk's Introduction
My Journey in Sewing Buddha's Robe

When I sewed my rakusu (small robe) to receive the Buddhist Bodhisattva precepts in the ceremony of lay ordination, the sewing teacher explained to the class an ancient tradition. Since Shakyamuni Buddha, generations of his disciples wore robes made from discarded cloth sewn in a rice field pattern. Now we would sew the rice field, linking us directly to our ancestors. After the initial awe, I felt like one of the blind men on the bridge in the classic Zen drawing -- I had no idea where I was going or how to arrive. Despite these challenges, the intention to affirm my aspiration to practice persisted. As the teacher led me across the bridge, stitch-by-stitch, I watched myself reflected in the sewing.

Continuing to practice and learn, I noticed that sewing and wearing Buddha's Robe deepened my understanding, connection with sangha, and meditation practice (J. zazen). Buddha's Robe began to express for me the essence of compassionate bodhisattva practice. First came the effort of offering stitches without thought of gaining anything -- even finishing. Then, in treating the robe with gentle respect as if we were one, not two, the robe became tangibly steeped in the caring stillness and openness cultivated by practice. Perhaps a similar quality drew Kōdō Sawaki-rōshi in 1910 to learn how to make traditional hand-sewn robes. Like Suzuki-rōshi, he was of the Sōtō School of Zen which Dōgen brought home to Japan from China in 1227. Dōgen carried with him the teachings of zazen-only (J. shikan-taza) and Buddha's Robe. Significantly, he intended these practices for lay people and monastics alike. When I became a sewing teacher, all I'd read began to come alive as I experienced the twin challenges of sharing what I learned and helping students find their quiet center within this activity. I wanted to extend these teachings to others. Like Buddha's Robe, this collection of quotes is patched together -- not of found cloth, but of voices from various sources in different styles, sutured into a teaching. Sewing and then receiving Buddha's Robe and the Bodhisattva Precepts is an activity not easily expressed in words, although I offer this effort. If you find this guide in your hands, may it be an encouragement to explore and intimately penetrate this experience with your teacher.
   

© 2005 Jean Selkirk
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