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Shakyo Sutra Copying Experience in Japan

What is Shakyo?

Shakyo(写経) is hand-copying Buddhist sutras. Before printing has developed, sutras were copied by hand in great number to diffuse the teaching of Buddha.

It is said that all the teachings go Buddha are written in the sutras. They are therefore handled with great care as if they were the Buddha himself. In other words, copying sutras is copying the Buddha himself.

Nowadays, we believe that by copying sutras someone can obtain various blessings. When someone puts all their heart and soul into copying sutras one character at a time, they gradually feel calm and peaceful, and their heart starts to clean. The experience is worth the time spent and something that cannot be explained with words is almost always obtained. If the act of copying is done sincerely and with devotion, the wishes of the practitioner will surely reach the Buddha. Shakyo is an act of pure praying.

How to do Shakyo

1. Join your hands in front of your chest, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and try to calm down.

2. Write carefully the characters following the thin lines already drawn on the paper.

3. When you have finished writing all the characters, take the piece of paper and place it in the black tray in front of you. Then, join your hands in front of the Buddha and pray for the realization of your wish.

How to use the brush

1. Put the piece of paper on the mat and place the paperweight onto her paper to maintain it in place.

2. Pour the ink into the ink stone. Press the ink bottle slowly and carefully to prevent the ink from spilling and spattering your clothes.

3. Hold the brush and dip the black part of the tip into the ink. Arrange the tip of the brush and remove the excess of ink using the portion of the ink stone without ink.

4. Hold the brush as if you were using a pen and draw the characters with the tip of the brush perpendicular to the paper. *Always keep the brush upright, never bend it sideways. 

If you make a mistake with a character, do not worry and continue to copy the characters. The point of Shakyo is not to be good at it or not, so continue to draw the characters carefully until the end. 

Where you can experience Shakyo

Naritasan Shinshō-ji(成田山新勝寺)

A Shingon Buddhist temple located in central Narita, Chiba, Japan. It was founded in 940 by Kanchō Daisōjō, a disciple of Kōbō Daishi(弘法大師). It is a lead temple in the Chisan branch of New Shingon,  includes a large complex of buildings and grounds, and is one of the best-known temples in the Kantō region.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple(成田山新勝寺)

Address: Narita 1, Chiba Prefecture  286-0023
Access: 15 minute by foot from JR Narita Station / Keisei Narita Station
Reservation: +81-476-22-211 (8AM-4PM)

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor