Namu kie butsu. Namu kie butsu. Namu kie butsu.
"I take refuge in Buddha."
The three-part stitch used in the sewing of the rakusu is done while chanting (internally) namu kie butsu. It is a reminder that with each push of the needle, we are meditating, and preparing for our lay ordination (jukai).
Today I spent three hours at home sewing. I stitched the outer edge of the face of the rakusu, and the seams of the straps. When we began this process in October, I had no idea how involved it would be. Had I known, I would have been more terrified. Luckily, I only know one step at a time. And I am amazed at the results. It actually looks like something! And my stitches, while not perfect, are pretty darn consistent. It is intensely gratifying to do this work.
While I sat at the kitchen counter, bent low over my sewing, my kitten Kenji kept coming up to investigate. I am paranoid about the pins and needles, which can be incredibly dangerous for a kitten. So I removed him numerous times - but he always returned. Finally, he sat down on top of my sewing envelope, curled up tight, then sat mesmerized, watching me work. It's always good to have helpers.
On Sunday, at my sewing class, I will be attaching the four tiny squares to each corner of the face of the rakusu, a step which I have been told is the most difficult, because the pieces are so small. Part of me is dreading it, because I think it will be hard and I'll probably mess up and it will take forever. But another part of me is excited, because it means I will be one step closer to finishing, and coming in on the home stretch.
Tomorrow one of my sangha members, Frederika, will be going through her jukai ceremony with two other people at Russian River Zendo. I am going to attend. It will be the first time I've seen a jukai ceremony. At the heart, of course, is receiving the completed rakusu, after our Zen teachers have written on the white silk back, giving us our Buddhist name. My own jukai is only six months away. I am very much looking forward to being a witness at the ceremony tomorrow, and getting a taste of what is coming up for me.
Until then...keep on sewing, one stitch at a time.