Sutra Tracing

The practice of Shakyo 写経 is a meditative and spiritual practice offered in many temples in Japan. It often starts with reading or chanting then a bow before beginning to slowly trace the original text of a chosen Buddhist Sutra. We will trace the Heart Sutra or another sutra, which is inspiring and beautifully written.

Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra is short but poetic, full of energy, a sutra with many interpretations – a popular one is that it helps wellbeing in times of sickness or difficulty.

Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra traced by Shogen
延命十句観音経 Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra traced by Shogen
Zen group member copying the Heart Sutra during shakyo workshop
Zen group member copying the Heart Sutra during shakyo workshop

People do this with care to mindfully copy each character, and often people find the experience is peaceful, and nourishes wellbeing. It doesn’t matter whether your writing is good, and you don’t need to have faith in Buddhism or knowledge of Japanese at all. Either the Japanese or English translation can be copied. For many people Shakyo can also be a dedication to their ancestors. And for monks it is a regular part of their temple activity.

Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra written by Shogen
Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra written by Shogen

This is a quiet practice harmonising body and mind, dating to around the 7th century Tang Dynasty, where you grind your own ink and use a small calligraphy brush and Japanese paper.

Shakyo - Yakushiji Japan
Sutra tracing at Yakushiji temple, Japan (Yogacara school)
Shakyo process by Blair Shogen
Shakyo process by Blair Shogen

If you are interested in practicing sutra tracing, or in one to one practice with Shogen, or have any questions please contact: art(at)drawingandpaintingstudio.com (please change (at) to @) .

Link to Drawing and Painting Studio’s shakyo workshops such as at Kagyu Samye Dzong.