The color of the kesa
Mokusho Zeisler translating Master Deshimaru's teaching about the kesa*.
When I made my first kesa, I wanted to do it as traditional as possible. A friend found some nice old blankets. I cut the best parts out of it. In the Gendronnière there was a walnut-tree and I started to gather the nutshells. From the peels I made a kind of soup and started to impregnate the tissues. The tissues were not impressed and stayed almost there original white colour. I made some compromise and bought bottles of concentrated nut liquid. After hours and hours of work and a lot more bottles the tissues got a beautiful light brown colour.
I choose a green yarn and started to sew. The more it advanced the more I liked the combination and the more also increased the protest from the ancient nuns. Masters only wore this colour. I should dye it again but in a dark colour, which fits for all and especially for beginners.
I became in a moral dilemma and decided to subject me to the Salomon’s judgement of Etienne, who had already ordained me monk. He was godo of this sesshin and I went to the master room. I showed him the kesa and explained my embarrassment. Etienne smiled at me. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘you should respect the old nuns!’I got fear. Then he said: “Tell them you’re going to paint it after you’ve received it!” He gave me a big comprehensive smile and left me alone.
The kesa lasted only for 5 years. The old tissues and the long soaking process had made it vulnerable. I sewed a new kesa, a black one.
Paul Dokusan Loomans
European Zen Center, Amsterdam
* Audio sent by Alain Kaisen Krystaszek