Shakyō: Buddhist Calligraphy Workshop with Yakushi-ji


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The practice of tracing a sacred scripture (sutra), or shakyō, is considered a way to obtain merit in Buddhism. Since ancient times, it has been thought that merit is obtained by simply seeing a sutra and even more by reading one aloud. However, the greatest merit is achieved by tracing characters one by one. It is also a form of meditation to calm the mind.

Yakushi-ji is a temple in Nara with more than 1300 years of history, commissioned by Emperor Tenmu in 680 as a place to pray for recovery from illness for his consort. The hall in Yakushi-ji was burned down in the past but was rebuilt, it is said, with the power of shakyō

In this workshop led by monks from Yakushi-ji, participants have the opportunity to learn about shakyō and the temple’s history through a short lecture and then engage in this ancient practice by tracing characters with ink and brush on washi paper.

This event is part of a season of events allowing Japan House visitors to experience the sacred rites and rituals of the religions of Buddhism and Shinto led by representatives from the temples and shrines of Japan’s ancient capital of Nara. It coincides with the British Museum’s display of rare Buddhist and Shinto treasures ‘Nara: sacred images from Early Japan’.


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