- THE COPYING OF KYO (SUTRAS)
Copyright © 2003 James Deacon
(sutra) copying is an ancient Buddhist activity.
are many reasons people practice shakyo. Some do it simply
as a means of improving calligraphic skill; for others it is primarily
a means of developing focus and concentration; for yet others
still, it is a meditative practice - calming the mind and bringing
a state of inner peace after the ups-and-downs of a hectic day.
a yet deeper level, the practice of shakyo is considered
highly important as a 'Meritous activity' - that is, the practice
of shakyo is a means by which one can accrue Merit - the
Spiritual Blessings or Grace of a Buddha - for oneself - or on
behalf of others.
Way of shakyo
Copying - whether undertaken as concentration exercise, meditation
or in order to gain Blessings - is always a formal practice.
Sutras are traditionally copied with brush and ink on quality
paper. You can also use a pen, but it should be a good quality
one. [Remember this is a special, formal, practice. You are not
jotting down a shopping list, but participating in a Spiritual,
In Japan, it is quite acceptable to copy sutras which are written
in Japanese using kanji characters, however, it is preferable
to copy sutras which are written in in bonji - the sacred
characters of the 'Siddham' Script.
are many ways to undertake shakyo. This is one example:
Choose a sutra to copy, (The Heart
Sutra - being the shortest sutra, makes for a good introduction
to shakyo practice).
You begin with purifying your body - by washing your hands and
rinsing your mouth.
is followed by practice of a simple meditation technique such
as 'watching the breath' for a few minutes in order to clear the
emotions and the mind.
you feel ready, perform Gassho to the Sutra and the 'Light'
it embodies. Recite the Sutra's title three times.
Banish all other thoughts from your mind, release yourself from
all attachments, and concentrate on the moment. Take up your brush
or pen, and, with mindful intent, begin copying the sutra.
is said you should 'copy from your heart', that is, you should
copy with heart-felt dedication and composure.
Focus on what you are doing - take your time - it is said that
you should "let each stroke of the brush or pen be a meditation
When you have completed copying the sutra, once more perform Gassho
to the Sutra and the 'Light' it embodies. Recite the Sutra's title
If you are practicing shakyo as a meritous undertaking
- you may now dedicate the practice to the individual or purpose
it is intended for.
you have performed shakyo for another person, you may wish
to give the copy of the sutra to this person.
on the other hand, you performed shakyo, for example, as
a blessing for a new apartment, you might frame the sutra copy
and hang it on the wall of your new home.
The sutra copy you have made should be treated
is a manifestation of the 'Light'.
If, for whatever reason, at some point you should wish to discard
it, this should be done with some degree of ceremony.
you might light some incense, say a prayer in gratitude for the
benefits you have received, then carefully burn the paper on which
the sutra is written, and respectfully dispose of the ashes.
is held that even 'practice' versions or versions containing many
errors should be disposed of respectfully, rather than simply
crumpled up and dumped in a bin.