Sutra Tracing

About shakyo practice

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. Take part simply with a pen and copy paper, or brushpen/ calligraphy brush and calligraphy paper.

Next Sutra Tracing group: The Heart Sutra, Sunday 31st October 2021, 2pm – 4pm, £15

GZG member Shogen Blair is organising this event, sharing his skills and receiving payment, Eventbrite tickets are sold by D+P Studio.

As well as the Heart Sutra we also copy the Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra (Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo). This 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. We also trace the inspiring Kaikyoge Sutra Opening Verse 開経偈 and the compassionate Fueko 普回向 Universal Turning of Merit, and the Wonderful Dharma Bodhisattva of Compassion Universal Gateway 妙法蓮華経観世音菩薩普門品偈, known more simply as the Fumonbonge or Avalokitesvara Sutra. It is one of the most famous, heartfelt and inspiring chapters of the Lotus Sutra, filled with excitement and magical imagery.

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 practice Shakyo 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, but you can easily take part with simply a pen or pencil to enjoy copying the characters.

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 @) .

Read the blog post from our recent shakyo event. Link to Drawing and Painting Studio’s shakyo workshops such as at Kagyu Samye Dzong.