The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

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  • Shujin
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Feb 2010
    • 979

    The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

    Hey y'all. I have the opportunity, thanks to my very patient wife, to sit a day-long zazenkai with the local zen group in town. I haven't been able to sit with them before due to scheduling conflicts, not any great ideological differences. They are affiliated with Atlanta Soto Zen Center which, from the little bit of research I've done on their website, does not seem to have the same traditions in sewing as Treeleaf. For example, those undertaking Jukai seem to receive the hangesa rather than sew a rakusu.

    This brings me to my question. Is it reasonable to ask to wear my rakusu when sitting with the group? Clearly, I could just ask the leader of the group and wait for a reaction. I would like to be polite, however, and avoid a rakusu ruckus.

    gassho,
    Shujin
    Kyōdō Shujin 教道 守仁
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39474

    #2
    Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

    Originally posted by Shujin
    Hey y'all. I have the opportunity, thanks to my very patient wife, to sit a day-long zazenkai with the local zen group in town. I haven't been able to sit with them before due to scheduling conflicts, not any great ideological differences. They are affiliated with Atlanta Soto Zen Center which, from the little bit of research I've done on their website, does not seem to have the same traditions in sewing as Treeleaf. For example, those undertaking Jukai seem to receive the hangesa rather than sew a rakusu.

    This brings me to my question. Is it reasonable to ask to wear my rakusu when sitting with the group? Clearly, I could just ask the leader of the group and wait for a reaction. I would like to be polite, however, and avoid a rakusu ruckus.

    gassho,
    Shujin
    Hi Shujin,

    Yes, it is typical and completely welcome in almost any Zen group I know. When I was in China recently, I wore mine under my Chinese style top robe because it is not the custom there (they were even curious to see my Rakusu, a Japanese innovation )

    viewtopic.php?p=67457#p67457

    However, if visiting another Soto Zen group like the Atlanta center, I would not even ask the teacher for permission ... it is so expected.

    The only case I heard recently was that a San Francisco Zen Center affiliated group noted to someone who had been sitting there for a time that "brown color Rakusu is reserved for teachers", and asked the person to wear another color! That's fine, because "when in Rome" ... however, I informed the person that such "brown color" rule is completely an innovation of San Francisco, and in Japan lay folks wear "brown Rakusu" all the time. A similar rule I encountered in Europe when wearing a Rakusu with a white ring before I was Ordained (our Nyohoe Rakusu do not have rings, but other styles of lay Rakusu do) is that "in the Deshimaru Lineage, only teachers can wear rings". That, again, is not the rule in Japan.

    So ... when in Rome.

    However, when visiting a Soto Zen center anywhere in the world, I would not even ask. I would just naturally recite the Verse of the Kesa when putting on one's sitting clothes and wear it! If anyone even blinks an eye ... I will be very surprised.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Shugen
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Nov 2007
      • 4535

      #3
      Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

      Shujin,

      Please let us know how it goes!

      Ron
      Meido Shugen
      明道 修眼

      Comment

      • Myoku
        Member
        • Jul 2010
        • 1487

        #4
        Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

        Originally posted by rculver
        Please let us know how it goes!
        Yes please. Enjoy the opportunity
        _()_
        Myoku

        Comment

        • Kaishin
          Member
          • Dec 2010
          • 2322

          #5
          Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

          Definitely want to hear how it goes. I'm planning (if I can ever get the scheduling to fit!) to sit a long session with a not-too-distant Kwan Um group, and had similar questions about how I might be received. Especially given their blending of Pure Land practices.

          P.S. "Rakusu Ruckus" would make an awesome band name :mrgreen:
          Thanks,
          Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
          Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39474

            #6
            Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

            Originally posted by Kaishin
            Definitely want to hear how it goes. I'm planning (if I can ever get the scheduling to fit!) to sit a long session with a not-too-distant Kwan Um group, and had similar questions about how I might be received. Especially given their blending of Pure Land practices.

            P.S. "Rakusu Ruckus" would make an awesome band name :mrgreen:
            I am not sure what "blending with Pure Land practices" has to do with the matter though.

            In Japan, Rakusu are not usually worn outside of Zen circles by Buddhists of other flavors, Pure Land, Shingon, etc. However, I doubt it would be offensive to anyone if worn at such a temple. I have taken Zen friends to visit such temples, and when my friends placed on their Rakusu, it was met with curiousity more than anything.

            I intentionally have not worn my Rakusu as well when attending funerals at Zen temples in which I am just a relative or guest of the family (unless specifically asked to attend in some priestly function). I am just a guest or participant, so I do not wish to impose in any way on the family.

            If you are just visiting a Kwan Um temple, and wore a Soto Rakusu, I would be very surprised if anyone had any objection in any way. I could see that, eventually, if one was a regular member of a Kwan Um or other Zen group for a very long time, there might be some feeling that one should eventually consider to undertake Jukai in their way too, and wear a Rakusu (or not) however they do so.

            When in Rome or Tokyo or Seoul ...

            Gassho, J
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • SoR
              Member
              • Dec 2011
              • 103

              #7
              Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

              Originally posted by Kaishin
              I'm planning (if I can ever get the scheduling to fit!) to sit a long session with a not-too-distant Kwan Um group, and had similar questions about how I might be received. Especially given their blending of Pure Land practices.
              Other than some of our chants that include homages to a few Bodhisattvas, I don't think you'll really feel a big Pure Land influence. Certainly nothing like you'd see, for example, at a temple in Sheng Yeng's lineage of Ch'an Buddhism where on certain days of the week formal evening practice consists of chanting Amita Buddha's name.

              Comment

              • Kaishin
                Member
                • Dec 2010
                • 2322

                #8
                Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                Originally posted by SonofRage
                Originally posted by Kaishin
                I'm planning (if I can ever get the scheduling to fit!) to sit a long session with a not-too-distant Kwan Um group, and had similar questions about how I might be received. Especially given their blending of Pure Land practices.
                Other than some of our chants that include homages to a few Bodhisattvas, I don't think you'll really feel a big Pure Land influence. Certainly nothing like you'd see, for example, at a temple in Sheng Yeng's lineage of Ch'an Buddhism where on certain days of the week formal evening practice consists of chanting Amita Buddha's name.
                Isn't nembutsu practice a big part of their daily practice though? From what I've read/seen of Seung Sahn Sunim's lineage (of which this group is a part), chanting of "Kwan Seum Bosal" is part of the practice, as is daily 108 prostrations.

                Jundo--sorry I was mixing concerns. My concern about the Kwan Um visit wasn't about the rakusu so much as concerns about the above differences in liturgy (nembutsu, extensive prostrations).
                Thanks,
                Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39474

                  #9
                  Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                  Originally posted by Kaishin

                  Jundo--sorry I was mixing concerns. My concern about the Kwan Um visit wasn't about the rakusu so much as concerns about the above differences in liturgy (nembutsu, extensive prostrations).
                  Nothing to be concerned about either. When in Rome, chant Nembutsu and prostrate like the Romans do!

                  Gassho, J
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Kaishin
                    Member
                    • Dec 2010
                    • 2322

                    #10
                    Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    Originally posted by Kaishin

                    Jundo--sorry I was mixing concerns. My concern about the Kwan Um visit wasn't about the rakusu so much as concerns about the above differences in liturgy (nembutsu, extensive prostrations).
                    Nothing to be concerned about either. When in Rome, chant Nembutsu and prostrate like the Romans do!

                    Gassho, J
                    Gotcha! :wink:
                    Thanks,
                    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                    Comment

                    • SoR
                      Member
                      • Dec 2011
                      • 103

                      #11
                      Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                      Originally posted by Kaishin
                      Isn't nembutsu practice a big part of their daily practice though? From what I've read/seen of Seung Sahn Sunim's lineage (of which this group is a part), chanting of "Kwan Seum Bosal" is part of the practice, as is daily 108 prostrations.
                      I've been practicing with the Kwan Um School for almost three years and the only time we've ever done Kwan Seum Bosal chanting was at a 100 day ceremony for a newborn baby (the baby was approximately 100 days old, it's a Korean tradition if I'm not mistaken). Kwan Seum Bosal is the Korean name for Avalokitesvara.

                      Daily "formal" practice breaks down like this:

                      [*]Morning Bell Chant if morning, Evening Bell Chant if evening.[*]Homage to the Three Jewels (there are many prostrations during this chant).[*]Heart Sutra in Korean.[*]Heart Sutra in English.[*]Great Dharani[*]Sitting period (20 or 30 minutes).

                      Morning practice does include 108 prostrations. Some of the history of the Morning Bell Chant is available here and talks about the Pure Land influence. All the chants in general are available on the website as well.

                      Comment

                      • Seiryu
                        Member
                        • Sep 2010
                        • 620

                        #12
                        Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                        Originally posted by Kaishin
                        Isn't nembutsu practice a big part of their daily practice though? From what I've read/seen of Seung Sahn Sunim's lineage (of which this group is a part), chanting of "Kwan Seum Bosal" is part of the practice, as is daily 108 prostrations.
                        As was stated already, aside from special cermonies, you probably won't chant Kwan Seum Bosal as a group.

                        But teachers do sometimes give this mantra to students to incorporate as a part of one's personal mediation practice.
                        Humbly,
                        清竜 Seiryu

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39474

                          #13
                          Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                          Originally posted by Seiryu
                          Originally posted by Kaishin
                          Isn't nembutsu practice a big part of their daily practice though? From what I've read/seen of Seung Sahn Sunim's lineage (of which this group is a part), chanting of "Kwan Seum Bosal" is part of the practice, as is daily 108 prostrations.
                          As was stated already, aside from special cermonies, you probably won't chant Kwan Seum Bosal as a group.

                          But teachers do sometimes give this mantra to students to incorporate as a part of one's personal mediation practice.

                          Are you still sitting Shikantaza Zazen each day in the flavor we teach around here? If so, no matter what one chants or bows. There is no obstacle at all if, together with one's Shikantaza practice, someone also chants Kwan Seum Bosal or prostrates daily if sometimes sitting with a group which does so.

                          We also chant the ENMEI JUKKU KANNON GYO (Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra) during our annual Rohatsu Retreat:


                          Kan Ze On
                          Na Mu Butsu
                          Yo Butsu U In
                          Yo Butsu U En
                          Bup Po So En
                          Jo Raku Ga Jo Cho Nen
                          Kan Ze On Bo Nen
                          Kan Ze On Nen Nen
                          Ju Shin Ki Nen Nen
                          Fu Ri Shin


                          Kanzeon!
                          At one with Buddha
                          Directly Buddha
                          Also indirectly Buddha
                          And indirectly Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.
                          Joyful pure eternal being!
                          Morning mind is Kanzeon.
                          Evening mind is Kanzeon.
                          Nen, nen arises from Mind
                          Nen, Nen is not separate from Mind.

                          Gassho, Jundo
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                          Comment

                          • RichardH
                            Member
                            • Nov 2011
                            • 2800

                            #14
                            Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                            Originally posted by Kaishin
                            Definitely want to hear how it goes. I'm planning (if I can ever get the scheduling to fit!) to sit a long session with a not-too-distant Kwan Um group, and had similar questions about how I might be received. Especially given their blending of Pure Land practices.

                            P.S. "Rakusu Ruckus" would make an awesome band name :mrgreen:
                            I have been sitting regularly with a Kwan Um group for some time. There is ( at least in this group) nothing radically different than what is taught here. We begin with chanting the refuges, then the Heart Sutra in Korean and English, then end with the Great Dharani.
                            There is little talk, and no one tells me how to practice. Unless someone is working on a Hwadu, the practice is generally Just Sitting and "making nothing". I definitely relate to how practice is described and put forward here more. Unfortunately the regular weekly venue where we were meeting at is no longer available (a zendo shared with Dharma Drum) but we still meet once a month or so for a one day mini Yong Maeng Jong Jin.

                            I am a due paying member of the Kwan Um school, but have not entered the culture of the school beyond the local group and have no interest in doing so. I have met a Zen Master who was very direct and clear, but have also met "Dharma teachers" who are not Zen Masters and IMO should probably not be teaching .

                            ... there are some pure land elements in the Kwan Um school, it comes up in mailings. At first I saw it as a species of Metta practice, but it does seem to be chanting for stuff around... health, financial woes etc.. It is not part of my world view, I do not engage it.

                            Comment

                            • Kaishin
                              Member
                              • Dec 2010
                              • 2322

                              #15
                              Re: The Case of the Traveling Rakusu

                              Originally posted by Jundo

                              Are you still sitting Shikantaza Zazen each day in the flavor we teach around here? If so, no matter what one chants or bows. There is no obstacle at all if, together with one's Shikantaza practice, someone also chants Kwan Seum Bosal or prostrates daily if sometimes sitting with a group which does so.

                              We also chant the ENMEI JUKKU KANNON GYO (Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra) during our annual Rohatsu Retreat:
                              Thank you, Jundo. I can see there is no conflict. I actually have found myself repeatedly chanting the EJKG to myself throughout the day, has become something of a habit. Does not interfere with my main sitting practice. Not sure if it enhances it either, but I am drawn to it nonetheless. Maybe because the Japanese has such a nice sound/flow to it.

                              Thanks to those who shared experiences with Kwan Um groups. Sounds like it's pretty similar. I look forward to being able to sit with them at some point!
                              Thanks,
                              Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                              Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                              Comment

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