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(sutra) copying is an ancient Buddhist activity.

There 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.

At 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.

The Way of shakyo

Sutra 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, meditative ritual.]

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.

There 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.

This 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.

When 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.

It 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 in itself".

When you have completed copying the sutra, once more perform Gassho to the Sutra and the 'Light' it embodies. Recite the Sutra's title three times.

If you are practicing shakyo as a meritous undertaking - you may now dedicate the practice to the individual or purpose it is intended for.

If you have performed shakyo for another person, you may wish to give the copy of the sutra to this person.

If, 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 with respect.

It 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.

Perhaps 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.

It 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.

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