Meditation with Calligraphy

Shakyo (copying the sutra), is a type of breathing meditation that involves tracing sutras.

Tracing the Sutra (Shakyo 写経 in Japanese, or Heart Sutra 心經 in Chinese) is calligraphy that is said to achieve mental well-being in the form of meditation, as well as to become in tune with Buddha’s teachings. By tracing each complex Asian character, shakyo is said to be effective in stabilizing the mind as the mind goes into a concentration mode while tracing. This form of meditation can help one become more present and calm, reaching a state of mindfulness and peaceful zen. During shakyo, evil thoughts such as anger and jealousy are expected to be removed because using a brush makes one focus on the ink and the movement of each stroke on paper. If the mind is disturbed, it will appear in the writing, reflecting the mental state. Understanding the history, meaning of the Sutra, and the purpose of shakyo will further one’s appreciation and motivation to practice the art of tracing the Sutra.

Guideline for Shakyo ~ Transcribing the Heart Sutra

The Origin and the Present-day “Shakyo”

After the introduction of kanji, Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 537 (or 552 according to different theories). The construction of temples required a large amount of Buddhist scriptures, and it is said that copying of sutras began in order to meet this demand. During the era of Emperor Shomu (reigned from 724), culture greatly developed as Buddhism flourished. With the construction of Kokubunji, temples throughout the country were placed under national control, and the copying of Buddhist scriptures became popular.

It is said that for the sake of national peace, there was a major national project to copy the Sutra of the Golden Light Sutra, the Great Prajnaparamiya Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and the Kannon Sutra.

As a result, sutra copying stations were established and organized, and sutra copiers were to take examinations to be accepted as staff. This movement is for the public copying of sutras, but it is also said that it became popular as private religious purposes to pray for the souls of individuals.

About Hannyashingyo (Heart Sutra)

The Heart Sutra is a sutra that condenses the essence of the Mahayana Sutra, which is a compilation of the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism over 600 volumes and approximately 5 million characters, into just 262 characters. This sutra was established in India, so the original text was written in Sanskrit, but the oldest existing manuscript was written in the 6th century, passed down to Horyuji Temple, and was later kept in the Tokyo National Museum. It is said that there are about seven different Chinese translations, and the one by Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty is widely known.

The contents of the Heart Sutra include “Faith in Kanzeon Kuryu,” “Shikisokuzekuu, Kuusokuzeshiki (a belief that nothing is permanent)” and “Worship of Prajnaparamita” and the practice of trying to attain it.

Etiquette and Procedure for Transcribing the Heart Sutra

1. Set up your tools and materials in the proper arrangement on the table.

2. Wash your hands and rinse your mouth to purify yourself.

3. Straighten your posture and gassho (place hands together in front of you).

4. Read the sutra.

5. Copy the sutra.

6. Make corrections.

7. Do the gassho (place hands together in front of you).

*It is also effective to burn incense to calm your mind during the process.

How to hold the brush

Tankouhou (Single hook method): Support the brush shaft with your thumb and index finger, and place your middle finger below the shaft. (This makes it easy to put strength on your fingertips and suitable for fine writing)

Soukouhou (Double hook method): Hold the shaft with your index finger, middle finger, and thumb, and support the shaft from behind with your ring finger. (You have more freedom and strength in brush strokes)

Proofreading (how to correct misprints, etc.)

Hannyashingyo 般若心経: Heart Sutra

摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経ma ka hannya ha ra mitta shin gyou
A sutra that explains the essence of the world of great wisdom perfected by the Buddha.

観自在菩薩kan ji zai bo satsu 行深般若波羅蜜多時gyojin hannya ha ra mitta ji 照見五蘊皆空sho ken go un kai kuu 度一切苦厄do issai ku yaku
(かんじざいぼさつ ぎょうじん はんにゃはらみったじ しょうけんごうんかいくう どいっさいくやく)
When the Bodhisattva Kanzai was practicing the profound “perfection of wisdom,” he recognized that all existence consisting of the five constituent elements was insubstantial, and was saved from all suffering.

舎利子sha ri shi 色不異空shiki fu i ku 空不異色ku fu i shiki 色即是空shiki so ku ze kuu 空即是色kuu soku ze shiki 受想行識ju sou gyou shiki 亦復如yaku bu nyo
(しゃりし しきふいくう くうふいしき しきそくぜくう くうそくぜしき じゅそうぎょうしき やくぶにょ)
The Buddha once said: Shariko, things that have color and form [colors] (physical phenomena) are no different from things that have no substance [emptiness], and things that have no substance are no different from things that have color and form. Things that have color and form are things without substance, and things that have no substance are things that have color and form. Sensing, representation, thought, volition, and discernment are similarly insubstantial.

是舎利子ze sha ri shi 是諸法空相ze sho hou kuu sou 不生不滅fu sho fu metsu 不垢不浄fu ku fu jo 不増不減fu zou fu gen
(ぜしゃりし ぜしょほうくうそう ふしょうふめつ ふくふじょう ふぞうふげん)
Shariko, everything in this world has the property of not having any substance. It neither arises nor perishes, neither becomes unclean nor purified, neither increases nor diminishes.

是故空中無色ze ko ku chuu mu shiki 無受想行識mu ju sou gyou shiki 無眼耳鼻舌身意mu gen ni bi ze sshin i 無色声香味触法mu shiki shou kou mi shoku hou 無眼界mu gen kai 乃至無意識界nai shi mu i shiki kai
(ぜこくうちゅうむしき むじゅそうぎょうしき むげんにびぜっしんい むしきしょうこうみしょくほう むげんかい ないしむいしきかい)
Therefore, from the standpoint of non-substance, there are no physical phenomena, no sensing, no representation, no volition, no discernment, no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, color, form, or sound. There are no smells, no tastes, no sense of touch, no laws, and from the world of the eyes to the world of the spirit there is no such thing.

無無明mu mu myou 亦無無明尽yaku mu mu myou jin 乃至無老死nai shi mu rou shi 亦無老死尽yaku mu rou shi jin 無苦集滅道mu ku shuu metsu dou 無智亦無得mu chi yaku mu toku 以無所得故 i mu sho toku ko
(むむみょう やくむむみょうじん ないしむろうし やくむろうしじん むくしゅうめつどう むちやくむとく いむしょとくこ)
There is no hesitation, and there is no end to hesitation. There is no old age, no death, no end to old age and death. There is no suffering, there is no cause for suffering, there is no way to eliminate suffering, and there is no path to enlightenment. There is nothing to know, nothing to gain.

菩提薩埵bo dai satsu ta 依般若波羅蜜多故e han nya ha ra mitta ko 心無罣礙shin mu kei ge 無罣礙故mu kei ge ko 無有恐怖mu u ku fu 遠離一切顛倒夢想 on ri issai ten dou mu sou 究竟涅槃ku kyou ne han
(ぼだいさつた えはんにゃはらみったこ しんむけいげ むけいげこ むうくふ おんりいっさいてんどうむそう くきょうねはん)
Precisely because there is nothing to be gained, those who attain enlightenment have no questions in their minds due to the “perfection of wisdom.” Therefore, one is not afraid. One is far removed from all dream-like thoughts and has attained Nirvana.

三世諸仏san ze sho butsu 依般若波羅蜜多故 e hannya ha ra mitta ko 得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提toku a noku ta ra san myaku san bo dai
(さんぜしょぶつ えはんにゃはらみったこ とくあのくたらさんみゃくさんぼだい)
The three generations of Buddhas, past, present, and future, have attained this “perfection of wisdom,” and therefore have attained the most correct enlightenment. Precisely because there is nothing to be gained, those who attain enlightenment have no questions in their minds due to the “perfection of wisdom.” Therefore, one is not afraid. One is far removed from all dream-like thoughts and has attained Nirvana.

故知般若波羅蜜多ko chi hannya ha ra mitta 是大神呪ze dai jin shu 是大明呪ze dai myou shu 是無上呪 ze mu jou shu 是無等等呪 ze mu tou do shu 能除一切苦nou jo issai ku 真実不虚shin jitsu fu ko
(こちはんにゃはらみった ぜだいじんしゅ ぜだいみょうしゅ ぜむじょうしゅ ぜむとうどうしゅ のうじょいっさいく しんじつふこ)
That is why people should know. The “perfection of wisdom” is the word of great truth, the word of great understanding, the word of excellence, the word of no comparison, the true truth that can eliminate all suffering.

故説般若波羅蜜多呪ko setsu hannya ha ra mitta shu 即説呪日soku setsu shu watsu
(こちはんにゃはらみったしゅ そくせつしゅわつ)
Therefore, let me preach the mantra of “perfection of wisdom.”

掲諦掲諦gya tei gya tei 波羅掲諦ha ra gya tei 波羅僧掲諦ha ra so gya tei 菩提薩婆訶ha ra bo ji so wa ka
(ぎゃてい ぎゃてい はらぎゃてい はらそうぎゃてい ぼじそわか)
"gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā!" (This passage is transcribed directly from the original Sanskrit text in Kanji, and as it is an important mantra, it is generally not translated. It is interpreted as “You who can go, you who can go, you who can go completely to the other side of enlightenment, be enlightened and happy.”)

般若心経hannya shin gyou
This concludes the heart sutra of perfection of wisdom.

As shakyo becomes a part of everyday life, one may be able to maintain a stress-free and relaxed state of mind. Experience the much needed quiet and serene moments to achieve harmony for the body and mind.

A way of purification:

Meaning of using Zu-koh

What is Zu-koh made of:

Zu-koh is made from fragrant trees and herbs that has been ground down to smooth, brown fine powder. Fragrance of powder incense is typically described as being classic woody, spicy, and medicinal.

Main ingredients usually include clove, camphor, cinnamon, sandalwood, aloeswood, patchouli and spices, star anise, cassia, and other herbs.

How to use Zu-koh:

Pinch a small amount of zu-koh with the right thumb and index finger. Then place the powder onto the left palm and rub it with both hands together. Spread the powder between the fingers and the other side of the hands and wrists while thinking about purifying the mind and body. The body temperature will help spread the fragrance.

CHIË (Chie)