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Earthquake Memorial – Help sought from around the world

10,000 Shakyo For Japan

Last week I heard from Sekine Reiko, secretary of the Tohoku Earthquake Memorial Sutra Mound committee, who is contacting Buddhist groups around the world. He is seeking assistance in a project to set up a memorial for the dead and missing of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that happened last March. Their organisation was formed by a group of ascetic Buddhists (a sort of Shingon/Tendai blend as far as I can tell) in Yamagata Prefecture (info here and here for the curious).

He writes:

We have been asking people around the world to make shakyo,the hand-copying of the Heart Sutra for the victims of the Japanese earthequake,tsunami and nuclear accident.

We will recite all shakyo one by one in a buddhist ceremony(Gongyou). After that, we will bury all the collected copies at the top of Mt.Gassan (literally “Moon Mountain” in Japanese) which represents the 3 Sacred Mountains of Dewa where the souls of the victims of the Tohoku Earthquake are to rest in peace, and at the same time we will erect a “Tohoku Earthquake Memorial Sutra Mound” at this place on coming October 9. Also we have a plan to broadcast the ceremony by UStream or YouTube.

We would like to pray together with the people around the world that the devastated area will be reconstructed as soon as possible and that all the victims can be relieved from terrible sufferings and hardships.

To this end, he has sent us the following documents which you can download from here:

If you would like more information about this project, please see their web page and their Facebook page.

What this involves – the practice of Sutra Copying (Shakyo)

The Sotoshu says on their website of shakyo:

The Buddhist practice of Shakyo is a means of spreading the Buddha Way among people. It is also for praying for the fulfillment of one’s greatest wish. But today, besides these overtly religious purposes, we can do shakyo in order to reflect on ourselves, or to attain mental well-being by mindfully tracing the sacred scriptures. It does not matter if one has faith in Buddhism or not, or if one’s writing is good or not.

Shakyo has been practiced in various sects of Japanese Buddhism for well over a thousand years, and there are now also some groups in the West who use this as a formal practice of mindfulness. Formally, you should start by sitting for a short time to calm the mind, and then reciting the Four Vows and the Heart Sutra, before commencing with the copying itself.

How to do it

Briefly, download the Shakyo sheet and print it out. Trace out the characters of the Heart Sutra, and then return either directly to them at the address on the sheet, or to me at the Dojo. Either drop it off when you’re at the Dojo, or post it to Alasdair Taisen Gordon-Finlayson, StoneWater Zen Sangha, The Dojo, 13 Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BH. We need to receive these by Thursday 11 August (end of August if you’re sending them yourself) and we’ll send them as many as have been done in a bundle.

Sekine San has also prepared a short YouTube video with some more details:

I hope that you will consider getting involved. If you have questions, please use the comments section below to ask me anything you’re not clear on.