“Shakyo” refers to the practice of copying sutra.
Do you know Shakyo is the recent trend among the young?
Don’t you want to see what makes them to do Shakyo?
It seems not only because of their religious piety.
Let’s get to know about the charm of Shakyo.
Merit of Shakyo (Charm)
Many of you may think that there is no reason to do Shakyo as you do not know much about Buddhism, nor have confidence with your handwriting.
Indeed, there are so many reasons why you do NOT do Shakyo.
However, surprisingly Shakyo have more merits.
You actually do not need to understand the meaning of Hannya Shinkyo (Heart Sutra), nor your handwriting need to be beautiful.
Strengthen your Concentration
Above all, Shakyo strengthen your concentration.
It is rare for busy modern people to spare time to “concentrate on only one thing”.
Many people may always prioritize the efficiency.
In that way, Shakyo is nothing but inefficient work.
It may apparently be meaningless from the point of others’ view.
However, this is very simple to concentrate, which will blow all other thoughts away.
Then, you concentrate so strongly that you could forget about the time.
Moreover, you cannot get the feeling of refreshing after you concentrate on something, anywhere else.
Shakyo also gives you patience.
For example, Hannya Shinkyo (Heart Sutra) consists of 276 letters* in total.
* The number of letters varies whether it includes the title or not.
Normally, it takes 1-2 hours to copy the whole sutra.
It is not easy at first to keep posture and concentrate on copying.
Yet, once you start Shakyo, you will be motivated to complete it.
The more you work on Shakyo, the more you enjoy on copying itself.
Then, it becomes easier to finish it, which used to be hard at first.
Handwriting becomes beautiful
Moreover, Shakyo makes your handwriting beautiful.
Normally, you use a writing brush* on Shakyo, so you can handle well on signing at wedding reception as such with confidence.
* Pens and pencils are also used at some occasions.
Having said that, it is not good idea to start Shakyo to improve your handwriting.
First of all, it is important to enjoy Shakyo genuinely without any intentions, putting handwriting aside.
Forgetting about desires or competitive spirits can be the nearest way to have better handwriting.
Relax your Mind
The biggest charm of Shakyo relaxes your mind.
Shakyo is said to produce brain substance called β-endorphin.
β-endorphin is known for its analgesic effect and giving a feeling of happiness.
With stabilized mind, you will have various changes in daily life.
More people can care for others, as you have room with mind.
It reflects on looks, so it is recommended for you to get beauty from your mind.
There are more other merits on Shakyo besides the above.
For example, moving your fingers on Shakyo helps to activate your brain, and your posture is improved to write beautifully.
How do you feel?
Now you can see more “reasons to do” than “reasons not to do”.
What is Shakyo?
Now do you have some interests in Shakyo?
Then, what refers to Shakyo?
As mentioned, Shakyo refers to copying sutra.
The sutra to copy is normally Hannya Shinkyo (Heart Sutra).
Although only the merits have been emphasized, originally Shakyo was priest practices.
When printing technique was not developed, people needed to copy sutra by hand.
Today, the purposes of Shakyo are;
- Religious piety
- Stabilization of mind (as mentioned)
- Pray for the departed
- Realization of wishes
- Improvement of handwriting
As above, there are various purposes.
Shakyo began in the Go-Kan period (25-220) in China.
It was introduced to Japan in the Nara period(710-794).
In that time Buddhism culture bloomed, many sutras were in need across the country.
That was why Shakyo had been spread as national business.
However, in the Heian period(794-1185), Shakyo started declining.
Moreover, in the Kamakura period(1185-1333), the development of printing techniques accelerated its decline.
Thus, Shakyo changed its purpose from that for the national to individuals (practices and charities).
Let’s try Shakyo
Now why don’t you try Shakyo?
Before you start, let’s walk through essentials of Shakyo.
It is important to be conscious of each letter as Buddha on Shakyo.
That is why you take time to copy each letter carefully.
It is not right to just keep writing.
As mentioned before, it does not matter if handwriting is beautiful or not.
Since it differs from calligraphy, it is more important to write with your heart.
Even if you cannot copy it as the model, you do not need to care.
Just empty your mind to write without thinking.
When you start Shakyo, you need to have the minimum necessary tools.
It is not necessary to have expensive tools.
The easiest way is to buy the starter kit for Shakyo beginners online.
- Writing brush: for fine writing
- Japanese Ink
- Ink stone: Small size is recommended.
- Shakyo paper: Paper with ruled lines is recommended.
- Model: Available online for free
Originally Shakyo has strict manners, but for those doing Shakyo for your hobby, you do not need to follow it.
At Hieizan (Mount. Hiei), you are required to confess for 7 days before Shakyo.
It is impossible to follow.
Indeed, there are various ways to start Shakyo.
The simplest manner is to join your hands in prayer and bow before and after Shakyo.
Also, it is better to choose a clean and quiet space to concentrate on Shakyo, and to clean yourself before you start.
You can try creating the environment to face Shakyo as much as you can.
In addition, it is said that you cannot throw away the paper you copy sutra to a bin.
Each letter on Shakyo represents Buddha, so the recommended way is to offer the paper to a Buddhist altar at home or to Bodaiji Temple.
You can also bind it as art work.
Experience at Temples
Some of you may feel bothered to start Shakyo at home, or offer it to a temple.
Then why don’t you participate in Shakyo gathering held in temples?
Shakyo gathering prepares for the suitable space to concentrate, and your paper is offered to that temple straightaway.
Even if you have never tried Shakyo, now you feel charm of Shakyo.
We hope this attracts you somehow to Shakyo.
Just hold your brush and experience Shakyo once.
You will get “Shakyo-high” like “Runner’s high” for sure!