In Japan, the copying of Buddhist texts by hand is done by religious and non-religious people alike. This meditative activity cultivates inner focus and attention. But the vital practice of hand-tracing religious texts - whether with brush, pen, or electronic device - is little known outside Japan.
The symposium introduced shakyō, the living tradition of copying Buddhist texts by hand. After opening remarks by Donald Lopez, the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Bryan Lowe, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Religious Traditions of Japan and Korea, Vanderbilt University, presented a lecture entitled "Copying Sutras in Premodern Asia: Technical, Ritual, and Human Dimensions." Next, Micah Auerback, Associate Professor of Japanese Religion, University of Michigan, lectured on the production of shakyō from the 19th through the 20th century. Dawn Lawson, Head, Asia Library, spoke briefly on shakyō in Japan today and then instructed the 30 attendees in the practice of using a Japanese brush pen to copy the Heart Sutra.