Welcome to our Sangha….

What to Wear in the Zendo

In order to support ease of sitting for the body and reduce distraction for the group, we recommend loose comfortable clothing in subdued colors. Keep dress comfortable but modest avoiding, for example, large images, printed words on shirts and strong scents.  Whenever possible, allow feet be bare and heads hatless in order to open up all your senses to your surroundings.  Please feel free to ask a senior (someone wearing a rakusu) if you have any questions.

Traditional Zen Garments


Samue are traditional Japanese work clothes that have become common in Western sanghas as general meditation clothing. The matching jacket and pants are generally found in subdued colors and are easy to sew. Everyone is welcome to wear samue – they are convenient in that you can wear the jacket over your day clothing and they remind your of the importance of your practice.



Meditation Sitting Robes for Lay Practitioners

Full length lay meditation robes are often worn during longer retreats (sesshin) or for special ceremonies. In our sangha, they are not generally worn during our usual general sittings. Again, they are convenient to wear over other everyday clothing and remind us of our practice. Lay robes should have more modest sleeves than traditional priests robes and are also easy to sew.


Jubon are white or light grey undergarments that are traditionally worn beneath samue or sitting robes. In general, they are used for more formal events or teachers, but everyone is welcome to wear these if they so choose.

Samue, meditation robes, and jubon are open to all and do not confer status upon their wearer.


The Wagesa is a thin strip of cloth connected by an eternal knot. Those who have received Buddhist precepts wear these after they have undergone the ceremony called “Jukai.”  The Wagesa is a helpful reminder of one’s vows and the value of practice.  These, in addition to the Rakusu, are placed upon the head during the robe verse often chanted before zazen.





The Rakusu, a bib like garment with a ring, is a small version of the Buddha’s robe. It was originally sewn out of discarded garments in the pattern of rice fields. Those with rakusu’s have also received the Bodhisattva precepts and have made an additional commitment to train in the Dharma Cloud lineage and support the Empty Field ~ Zen West sangha. The sewing of the rakusu is a very meaningful experience for many practitioners.

Rakusu colors signify different relationships to the lineage. Green is worn by formal students of Seido’s at Empty Field ~ Zen West. In our Dharma Cloud tradition, black is also a color you may see for lay practitioners. Blue is used for transmitted lay teachers, brown and gold are reserved for transmitted priests. If someone received precepts while living, a white rakusu is given to that person after they have died. Other lineages may use these colors differently, so if you’re curious, please feel free to ask.


The zagu is a traditional rectangular bowing mat used with the kesa. In our lineage, the zagu is also carried by lay practioners when they’re serving as Shuso (lead student) and by Shoki’s (former Shusos) during formal ceremonies.





The Kesa is the large Buddhist robe worn by priests and those who are transmitted teachers in our Dharma Cloud lineage, generally used for formal ceremonies and sometimes Ango.


If you have any questions about these, please feel free to ask. We appreciate your respect for our tradition and look forward to joining together in practice.