Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rags to Rakusu


Well, I've decided to do Jukai. I'm not sure with whom, yet. But I am comfortable that it has relevance to me, particularly with regard to joining the sangha catholic. So step one in this direction is sewing a rakusu.

Taking the advice of Dogen seriously, I have decided to sew my rakusu from rags selected without discrimination. At first I thought I would go down to Goodwill and buy some cheap clothes to turn into rags. On second thought I realized there something non-ragish about clothes for sale that someone could actually use. So I choose to use real rags or clothes that could not, reasonably, be worn anymore.

My seed stock is a pair of jeans gone through in the ass. I would only be throwing them away. That exhausted the possibilities in the house. Inspired in part by the 10 types of rags Dogen described, I went on a rag hunt last Saturday for the remainder of my material. This was done by riding my bike slowly along the major avenue near my home, exploring the parking lots and school yards along the way for fabric that has truely been cast off as useless.

There is alot of plastic and paper in this world. If there were a practical way to make a rakusu from used plastic, that would be the way to go. I was surprised how difficult it was to find real fabric out there.

My first find was in a school yard; an old hoodie. Next was a terry-cloth towel near a car washing establishment. This brought some conflict to mind. The goal is to take rags without discrimination (just like we are supposed to accept people and life's events, I suppose), but, damn, terry-cloth will just look stupid on a rakusu. Oh well, I'll give it a try.

Over by the local dog boarding business I found a sock. Again, conflict about the sew-ability of that fabric type. Again, I'll accept it and give it a shot.

Along a long barded wire fence I found a cut tee-shirt sleeve, stained with a wonderful motely of rust. Some sort of iron batik that might be a very nice accent.

Finally I found an old pillow case in the open field behind the local grocery store. I really wondered about the story behind that. Did someone carry all their wordly possessions around in that for a while? Was it a booty bag from a robbery?

I've got enough to sew the rakusu except for the interface material and the white to right on. I may actually buy some new white silk for that. I'm not sure yet. Dogen seemed pretty clear about just using rags.

I've watched some of the TreeLeaf Zendo video's on Rakusu sewing, and gotten the Katagiri directions. I think I'll build the thing according to Katagiri's guide, in inches.

I'm a bit nervous about this rags direction. Every rakusu I've seen so far looks like it was store bought or made from new material. If I go through with the rags, my rakusu will look very odd. It doesn't quite seem consitent with Buddhist sensibility to have something so different from everyone elses. It's like wearing red into the zendo. It's just not done. But if everyone else had just followed Dogen's instructions, a raggy rakusu would look so odd.

8 comments:

Jordan said...

Lauren,
You are hardcore. Thank you for your practice.

Barry said...

Thank you for and congratulations on your commitment to practice.

Your rakusu plan sounds wonderful. Who knows what you will learn as you sew it together? And as you wear it?

justzazen said...

Hi Lauren,

Great post. Here's a link I found one time that you might be interested in:

http://www.buddhasrobeissewn.org/

I would also like to take Jukai at some point so would love to hear about your experience down this road. Take care and good luck!

Uku said...

Lauren,

thank you very much for your efforts, practice and commitment!

Gassho!

Uku

Lauren said...

Jordan,
I don't think I'm that hardcore. It's embarrassing how seldom I actually sit 2x30. But I sure appreciate your bright opinion and support.

Barry,
Yes, I do like traveling down the road less taken, and the company I meet while doing so!

Just,
Thanks for the link. I will keep you posted on more of the experience.

Uku,
Being linked mainly to this e-sangha we have is what informs and supports all my efforts.


Thanks to all for dropping by and leaving notes!

Cheers,
-Lauren

Marko Traviko said...

Your idea about the rags is inspiring but don't forget about the tradition of not attracting attention from the others by looking too terribly different.

I had mine made from brand new black linen and I love it! The 100% linen medium weight fabric is perfect for a rakusu, especially if one has sensitive skin or is hot-natured as linen feels very cool.

John Renwick said...

Dear Jordan

It has been some time since your post. Maybe you have received Jukai initiation now. At San Francisco Zen Center, in the Katagiri lineage, and I would venture also in the Chogye tradition (though we do not generally sew our own there), it would be customary to receive permission from a preceptor prior to beginning sewing. You might change preceptors from the one who gave you permission to begin. Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi identifies the appropriate language as a request to receive the precepts from the teacher. Does this make sense?

John Renwick said...

Dear Lauren

It has been some time since your post. Maybe you have received Jukai initiation now. At San Francisco Zen Center, in the Katagiri lineage, and I would venture also in the Chogye tradition (though we do not generally sew our own there), it would be customary to receive permission from a preceptor prior to beginning sewing. You might change preceptors from the one who gave you permission to begin. Tenshin Reb Anderson Roshi identifies the appropriate language as a request to receive the precepts from the teacher. Does this make sense?