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Harada Roshi


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Why do we use Dharma names in the Zen sect and when did the tradition start? What is a Rakusu?


Originally people gathered around the Buddha, but it had not formed into an established school yet. During the times of Hyakujo Zenji, the Zen sect was organized with different rules (Hyakujo Shingi).
In China from the age of 12 people would enter the monastery and receive the precepts, receiving a Buddhist name from their priest. After that they started to study the Buddhist philosophy. Around the age of 15-17, these students would enter a monastery, so they already had experience in Buddhism and had already received a Buddhist name. Nowadays people join the monastery without studying and receiving the precepts beforehand, so they receive a Buddhist name in the monastery.
A Rakusu also did not exist in the past. The practice was for ordained people, and ordained men and women were wairing a Kesa. Nowadays also lay practicioners join the monastery, so for easier use, a rakusu - an abbreviated version of a kesa - was developed. So a rakusu can be seen as being like a kesa.


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