Sunday, November 29, 2009

Airing Dirty Zen Laundry

So I did my kesa repairs and after a thorough once over I figured it was safe to wash the kesa. I decided to follow the instructions as per Kesa-Kudoku in Gudo Wafu Nishijima Roshi & Chodo Mike Cross translation.

I boiled water and filled the bath tub (cleaned it prior to use) and filled it with the hot water and ashes. submerged the kesa and washed it. I let it sit for a couple of hours. I took the dog out after the first hour and let everyone know to STAY OUT of the main bathroom and use the other. I had set my make shift inscence holder on the side of the tub along with some ground up inscence and such. I say make shift as i used clumping cat litter - unused ;) - to instead of sand as all we have round here is gravel(mud) or clay. and with 4 cats we have an abundance of cat litter!

After giving the pooch a good run Icome back to 2 nervous faces and one 8 month old with a happy, shit eating grin. My wife then informed me that my 3.5 year old girl forgot and opened the door to the off-limits bath in order to brush her teeth and her ever-present speed "scooching" side kick, her brother followed along. He spied the bowl of incense and clumping cat litter sand and dumped the entire contents on top of the Kesa soup.

Now for those in the know that shit is just clay crumbs..when wet, it returns to a clay clump.. great for cat piss, a monumental pain in the ass to get out of cloth or off the floor... if ya have cats... and use this stuff you will know what i mean.

Anwho a few extra hours of cleaning and its drying in front of the fire. Excluding scattering petals...I will follow through the rest of procedure. Fun Sunday activities for sure and a great lesson or 3.

Thats it. My dirty laundry now airing :)

So on sewing I've started cutting out material for another rakusu and getting back in to "the groove" what ever that may be.


Thursday, November 19, 2009


So there is a pile of rags in a sack in my closet. hrmmmmm where to start. How to take these rags and put them together into usable squares. By fabric type? cotton linen in one pile - denim in another? By colour so I can make some beautiful shape, some art out of an already amazing work? Sort it, move it around re-sort and stuff it back in the bag and go watch some tube. Thats where im at.

Why so hesitant to start? Why so resistant? Why why...! Maybe I really just like sorting?
Anywho cotton or burlap, sorted or not, ready or not - sounds like no better time to start - no time to waste!!

Right after Fringe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And They're off!

Nothing new from me on the sewing front Yet. I have, as part of my ango commitment, decided to take up the needle again and do some repairs on my kesa. Also i will be sewing another rakusu as a warm up of sorts. (i will post some updates and such here). The rakusu will be a warm up for my next kesa which will be 100% scraps.

IRL has settled some with the dust of construction settling, a new addition to the house and another new addition to the family. So over at Treeleaf folks are reading and studying for Jukai and taking up a needle and thread and its re-invigorated me to get working on that second kesa.

So on additions...I had great expectations for our addition to the house (why not we paid for it? right??!) And similarly i was barely containing my excitement for our other new addition to the family and in both cases was expecting something.

The house addition I expected to be perfect, on time and on budget. I expected to have my part of the work done and we would be enjoying said space in some "christmas card scene" the fire sipping... whatever, snow settling down.... Anywho we got what we had envisioned.. quickly and under budget but .... perfect... lol far from it! anyways with out droning on to much thing didn't quite meet the ideas in my head. C'est La Vie! Im correcting what i can and making the most of what we got with out making much of a stink.

On the new family addition excitement for our new pup to arrive and those pleasant thoughts of the kids out in the yard playing with her and rolling around (again expections... lol kids play like kids, puppies like puppies and neither of the two like i want them to :P)
were soon cast a side for the shitty reality that presented itself. Our pup is sick and her life may be cut short. Im sad for her (Though shes on meds and they are working the vet had a glumly outlook for her) Im sad for the our little girl and Im quite sad myself. The pup herself is happy and energetic which makes it even tougher to imagine the possible outcome.

On a more positive note she hasn't had a relapse and a second opinion from a another vet (same vet hospital) was much more positive.

Expectations...I think i will, as part of my ango commitment delete the words expect/no/can't from my vocabulary... er After this post.

I also had expected to be following through on all my Ango commitments i had made to myself and instead just ended up a bit frustrated. Rather then dwelling ive re-stated my ango commitments (not too far out things) and have recommitted to sitting Zazen regularly as it went pretty sideways for a month or so. Healing from the Big V (vasectomy for those, if any weren't sure of my reference) and that is going as expected... ouch!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scavenging and reading

Nothing too new on the sewing front. I have been gathering material from various places in preparation of eventually sewing another Kesa. I found a beautiful quilt laying in a nook underneath a cement slab from a burned out old farm house parts of it are still brilliant and untouched others are marked with mold spots that are rather permanant. I plan to use bits of this. Besides that I've taken to reading up on the Kesa.

Over the past few days I have been revisiting Kesa Koduka and Den-e. Few things that stuck out to me. Master Dogen wrote quiet impassioned lines about the Kesa and its merits while quite vehemently chastising those who have ignored the merits of the robe. Both chapters were a great read and boy i make sure I don't toss my kesa carelessly on my desk. the one i wear when im naked its getting a more careful treatment too.

Now, each robe and all nine kinds of robes have been received in the authentic transmission from the Buddha-Dharma itself; the robe could never be inferior to a four-line verse, and could never be less effective than a single phrase of Dharma. This is why, for more than two thousand years, all followers of the Buddha—those with the makings of devotional practice and of Dharma practice—have guarded and retained the kaṣāya and regarded it as their body and mind. Those who are ignorant of the right Dharma of the buddhas do not worship the kaṣāya.

The kaṣāya has been called since olden times “the clothing that wards off suffering from heat” and “the clothing of liberation.” In conclusion, its merit is beyond measure. Through the merit of the kaṣāya, a dragon’ scales can be freed from the three kinds of burning pain. When the buddhas realize the truth, they are always wearing this robe. Truly, although we were born in a remote land in [the age of] the latter Dharma, if we have the opportunity to choose between what has been transmitted and what has not been transmitted, we should believe in, receive, guard, and retain [the robe] whose transmission is authentic and traditional. In what lineage have both the robe and the Dharma of Śākyamuni himself been authentically transmitted, as in our authentic tradition? They exist only in Buddhism. On meeting this robe and Dharma, who could be lax in venerating them and serving offerings to them? Even if, each day, we [have to] discard bodies and lives as countless as the sands of the Ganges, we should serve offerings to them. Further, we
should vow to meet [the robe] and humbly to receive it upon the head in every life in every age. We are the stupid people of a remote quarter, born with a hundred thousand or so miles of mountains and oceans separating us from the land of the Buddha’s birth. Even so, if we hear this right Dharma, if we receive and retain this kaṣāya even for a single day or a single night, and if we master even a single phrase or a single verse, that will not only be the good fortune to have served offerings to one buddha or to two buddhas: it will be the good fortune to have served offerings and paid homage to countless hundred thousand koṭis of buddhas. Even if [the servants] are ourselves, we should respect them, we should love them, and we should value them.
both of those are from Den-e. which is what im currently reading.

Anywho just writing I found interesting. Nothing very smart to say.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Now what?

So almost a month from my last post and i finally got off my ass and started and finished my Kesa bag. Its not to any spec, I winged it really, much the same as i did for my Rakusu bag but i remembered not to add a button and button hole. I have a couple of pics of the finished product. the whole thing took 6 hours from measure to taking the pics below. I wrote on the inside of the bag the robe verse and my dharma name in a very sloppy kanji (So when i lose it i will be able to identify if it ever turned up again). Again not to spec but its more for function then fashion and having the verse there is a help for this newb. The material again is leftover from the kesa and the lining is a very old and scary pillow case. Nice hole right there too, perfectly imperfect. lol

click image for larger view

click image for larger view

I have been wearing the new kesa every night and so far its brought me no mystical powers but it makes going to sit zazen a tiny bit longer process. When i wear this kesa it always think of the story about Shakyamuni Buddha and Ananda and how the kesa came to be. It always makes me smile a silly grin.

I owe a huge thank you again to Taigu for taking the time and having patience to show me how to put it on and for giving it to me. Deep bows.

Next up a 9 stripe kesa. Im going to take what I have learned and put it into practice with the next Kesa. No set start date yet.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tout Finis!

That was fast?
Well I'm pretty sure 6 months is a tad long.
I quit late last night with 2 sides of the en to finish. My family packed up and went for a visit leaving me with some free time so I decided to finish the kesa before Zazen tonight.

Its not "pretty", it may not even be correct or stay together... but here are some pictures.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools!!!

C'ept this time no fooling! (apparently im too late to do so)

So its been awhile since I've taken up sewing. The week after my previous post we added a bouncing baby boy to our family, 2 weeks early according to schedule but of course he arrived perfectly on time!

That said progress ground to a halt and though I thought I would be able to sneak time in our other little one (3 years) needed a bit more attention than usual and she certainly deserved it. So ... stitching took a back seat to family. A very deep practice indeed!

Sitting 2 nights ago, the thought of getting back to work on the Kesa kept popping in there. Better get going. And I did. The en is all on and I'm just making the remaining stitches around the middle of the en. I also measured and ironed out the Joro and Daiza, ironed and stitched the ties. Tonight I am thinking I will be able to finish the stitches on the en and get the button holes stitched and cut in the Daiza.

Now I must say The en was tricky. Because the panels had quite a bit of difference between them I had to measure and cut off the excess (which meant rip some stitches, tie them off and then finish the rest). Some panels were just a tad shy of 4 cm needed to do the en the way I read to. I decided to work in a reverse order and i cut my en to be 4 cm folded so that there was material on both sides of the Kesa. This way it "hid" the imperfections and allows me to put a backing on it. This is going to be my winter Kesa - I plan to sew another very soon with all light weight material I can round up.

Welp off to sit then sew!

Oh um pics will be posted later tonight after i get some of the mess of the poor rags... cats like a folded basket of material :(

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oh no!! The "En" times are here!!

Okay the panels are all together and things are looking good. I'm going to now go about marking, ironing and tying on the en (the frame). This is exciting (wow, I must need to get out more :P), and a bit scary. I plan to proceed as carefully as possible with out over doing it. I have a couple of questions coming to mind on the placement of the 2 larger squares that anchor the ties. I haven't found any suggested distances but by looking at diagrams I think I can make do with out exact measure.

I took a pic again with my poor cell phone cam that is great in perfect light, lamp light in my living room at 12 am* is far from perfect and I am balanced on a chair so I could get far up and back from the project to get it all in frame. My apologies for the quality, but it gives you an idea of where I am at.

*Actually I looked at the pic below and decided to go for another shot today in daylight. Normally I would be at work but I have been taken out by a whooper of a sinus/throat/chest cold thing that seems to be rampant around these parts.
Click the pic for a larger view.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Taking shape

I stitched on more set to the left side of the kesa, leaving one left! At this point things are moving much slower than previous. The size of the kesa makes it a tad difficult to manage on the small work table I have been using.

Last nights endeavour took about 2 hours to measure, mark out, iron folds, and finally stitch the last panel. The actual sewing was only about 20 -30 mins the rest was preparation and adjustments.

I will finish sewing the last panel on Saturday and begin marking and ironing out the en, and starting to attach it!

On Rev. Taigu's Blog, he mentioned that the shape of the kesa, once all panels were together, should be neat and square - but usually didnt work out so. Im glad I read that becase laying mine out there is minor 2 to 2.5cm variation on the panels at the top (surprisingly the bottom is not that bad).

No pictures this time, but there will be an update again soon with one.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Birthday fun!

Thursday was my 33rd birthday and I had great intentions of getting an evening of sewing in. Early into the day we had quite a storm start and dump quite a bit of snow. Arriving home, i found my neighbor across the road digging out his car which got stuck half way in to his drive way.
The tail end was still out on the road.

I grabbed my shovel and headed over well about an hour later his car was freed and while we chatted over our victory, another fellow who lived up the road from us walked towards us, he had his car swamped. So we headed to that fellows place and tried to free up his car with little luck.

Determined, we piled into the car (the one we had managed to free) and drove up the road looking for someone with a truck to give us a hand. We found a fellow in the end and as it ended up he lived 3 houses up from me, and i grew up with the guy! Small world. He kindly helped us, help the other guy out and I got to return home nearing 10 pm, just in time to dig my self out so i could get to work the next day( yeah my car got stuck in a drift as i parked it).

Glad I took a step out and offer a hand to some one, really is the a great gift to non-get!

On a sewing front I finished the right side of the Kesa and finished attaching one panel flanking left. Thats 5 down, 2 to go!

I have a pic but its a poorly lit, cell phone shot (our other camera is MIA presumably at the inlaws), it gets the point across.

click pic for full view

Sunday, February 1, 2009

3 of 7

Just a quick progress update - 2 strips sewn on the right side of the center.

click pic for full view

Friday, January 30, 2009

Moving Right along...

Last night I Sewed finished sewing the last bits to complete the 7 strips (sets). After a couple of funny mishaps including sewing one line of stitches to the table cloth/ironing pad and having to pull a set completely apart because I mixed up to of the longer bits ... Measuring after each stitch is a really good move, wish I had of thought of that before! Anywho I ended my night by preparing, very carefully, the centre set, marking out the measurements, double checking, ironing and then rough stitching a flanking set.

I'm now seeing just how tough it can be sewing with varied material... though only 2 kinds in this kesa the coarseness of the blue fabric (coarse and fluffy??) makes it grab onto other fabric and makes it almost impossible to make small adjustments by slipping on set back or forth, up or down. Also this makes marking things tough as the brown is a tight weave and very easy to mark out measurements the but the blue moves with any amount of applied pressure ... tricky.
Much like sitting... lean towards a goal and you've change the way things happen heck even holding things in place changes the game (sewing and sitting).

Im making progress, Im making mistakes and Im learning. I'll stop rambling and show where the Kesa is at currently :) (YEAH Pictures!)

Picture Below: As you can see this project has moved to the floor due to size, I mean it makes the bus look like a toy :P Also in the upper left is a white shiny thing that is the sum of the instructions i gleened from Rev. Taigu's blog on sewing the Nyoho-e Kesa (with manny thanks and again with deepest gratitude!!!).

click pic for a full view

On that bit of paper I have written out and broken down the measurements for each bit and drawn out by hand with lables for everything. I really
recommend doing this as its nice to have more than just your numbers written out. The diagram shows me how those numbers fit in and how it all works out. This may seem sort of obvious or simple but if your like me... You leave something for a week then come back to it... I rarely remember why I left and extra 4 cm here and not there. :D

Monday, January 26, 2009

New year, old pace

My wife is now off work for our soon to be arriving new bouncing baby boy in March and so this has freed up a couple of extra hours an evening (LOL in theory).

So I hoped to move a bit faster than what I have been with sewing on the Kesa but such is life!
I'm working away on my sixth set out of 7 and I expect to have that 7th done by Mid week. Aiming to have some sets stitched to each other by next week. Then the scary bits (en and smaller bits :S).

Monday, January 19, 2009


The ceremony is over, rakusu is complete and I have received the Precepts - and the Dharma name Shohei. Cool.

The ceremony its self was wonderful! Separated in to a couple or 3 groups (done to accommodate the video conference sites limitations), there were 2 designated speakers for each group, just to prevent 34+ people speaking at once and feeding back in to the speakers. All went quite well (as you can watch for your self on the Treeleaf video blog- Deepest gratitude to Jundo, Mina, Taigu and Everyone, who made this possible for this backwoodser)

As mentioned by others, the need for mics and speakers meant a lot of reverb when the designated speakers for groups spoke and the "Yes I Will"s echoed on beautifully.

And now back to work, parenting and the other daily tasks that are Zazen that takes place with little ceremony, but its definately some of the most important goings on!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rakusu - A sort of mini-kesa?

I have read that often, but it needs to be said that for me its been one large undertaking. Sewing at first seemed tough but actually vowing to keep the precepts has me looking back at the cake walk of sewing and being rather introspective, im not going to get all that deep here but suffice it to say im not approching this lightly.

Tomorrow is our Jukai (receiving the precepts) ceremony at Treeleaf (first ever jukai ceremony done entirely online?) and after a few months of preparation, studying and discussing the precepts and what they mean, mean to each person and so on, its really sinking in tonight.

Quite greatfully(and selfishly- as I have simply been lurking in the shadows with out so much as a 'Thank you I have been reading up on Mike Cross' blog his wonderful translations of the precetps from Saundrananda as written by Ashvaghosha (the preceding information I must admit I hadn't heard of before I began following Mikes blog - and i may have that info all assed up:)) and im extremely greatful to Mike and those who share via the comments on there! Many thanks are owed.

Well on the sewing front, I finished the Rakusu with the back panel (with bit with Jundo's brush work), and stitched on the 4 joro (little squares that aid in holding the back layers to the rakusu). I will continue sewing on the Kesa this weekend and hopefully will be able to start joing the sets together.