Guam Buddhist Sangha

American Humanistic Buddhism

Calligraphy: How to Copy Sutras and Enjoy It November 13, 2010

Filed under: Calligraphy — memeandbojo @ 11:10 pm

We hope that you can join us each Saturday at 9:30am for our Calligraphy class. If you cannot, you are welcomed to come to the Calligraphy Hall anytime from Tuesday-Sunday from 9:30am – 5 pm.

There are also sutras for copying that you can purchase from the temple bookstore to take home with you and develop your calligraphy at your convenience at home. Please ask the receptionist which sutra that you are purchasing and ask if there is an English translation of it. (Sutras range in price from $5-$10. The Heart Sutra that is currently being copied by devotees around the world to be placed in the belly of the statue of Buddha in Taiwan is $35. This is considered a donation for the building of the Buddha statue in Taiwan and is tax deductible. It comes with a pen and once you complete the sutra, please return your sutra so it can be shipped to be included with the other sutras in the statue’s belly. You can keep the pen which is very nice since it has the title of the Heart Sutra written on it. You will have to request that sutra from the receptionist since it is not located on display in the store and is in limited supply.)

As an English only speaker, I think it is important to know the meaning of the sutra that I am copying. I always take an English translation of the sutra and read it first and then copy the Chinese calligraphy. Often on my calligraphy, I write the translation of it in English, or in my own words, the meaning that I have obtained from the translation, along with the copied Chinese calligraphy. This makes it where I can understand what I am copying, and also allows me to review it once I am completed with it so that I can go back to it any day for reflection of the sutra.

Below are the words of Venerable Abbot Hsin Pei from his book, How to Copy Sutras and Enjoy It since his words are clear and resonate with the heart:

Copying sutras is a way of practice for our minds and bodies. However, instead of the posture, it lies in the sincere attitude with which we uphold what was taught in the sutras. When we are copying sutras, it is better for us to contemplate the contents to purify our bodies, speech, and minds, and to free us from attachments and delusion. We should also realize the fundamentals of the sutras, and practice them in our daily lives to purify ourselves from ignorance and defilements. If we practice what we have learned continuously, the miraculous effect of merits will be naturally produced.

Tools and Methods

  1. Prepare brush, ink, and ink stone, and select a sutra of your choice and a clean room. It is better to copy during the same time each day.
  2. Meditate for a short time, adjust breathing, and calm down the mind. Recite the name of the Buddha three times or recite the verse for opening a sutra.
  3. Sit properly and concentrate on the three points: the mind, the eyes, and the hand.
  4. Copy gently and clearly each line with regular script.
  5. Copy sutras from the beginning to the end gradually. Put a paper on the right side in order to keep the hand clean and adopting the vertical writing form.
  6. If any character was missing or miswritten, do not throw the rice paper away or rewrite the entire sutra. You can put a dot (with your brush) on the miswritten character and compose the correct one along its side.
  7. When the sutra has been completely copied, recite the “Dedication of Merits” at the end or do your own dedication with joined palms.

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