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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

The Heart Sutra (2) Sutra copying

Heart sutra copying at a temple

Today, many temples offer experience of “Sutra copying” experience, and some old temples, such as Yakushi-ji Temple in Nara encourage people to take part in the “copying the Heart Sutra” campaign to raise funds for the temple restoration.

In case of Yakushi-ji Temple, another famous World Heritage site in Nara, more than seven million people have joined in this campaign so far. Sutras are copied usually by hand writing with Indian ink and brush, takes about 1-2 hours.

As words are all in Chinese characters in small size, it requires a lot of effort and concentration to write each word by word without making mistakes. It is almost like a meditation in motion.. If your mind gets destructed, soon, the writings get damaged as you miss the correct strokes.

Once I was given one of a copied Sutra by a man who made 3,000 copies during everyday ritualistic prayers for his daughters' recovery from illness as a protection from evil spirit. I bet he must have put a lot of energy to it.

In Japan, it is recited by reading all the Chinese characters in Chinese grammers, so technicaly, they are not written in modern Japanese languages.

Just as in Shintoism, we believe everything has spirit. Sutra is regarded not as a direct teachings like the stories in Bible, but as “Mantra”, or words with powers.

In Sanskrit, "mantra" is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. Mantra meditation helps to induce an altered state of consciousness.

Well, in fact, it is not easy to comprehend the meaning of this sutra, to one’s rational mind.

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