Customs & Rules

There are some Komusō-Shakuhachi players who from time to time put on the traditional costume of the Edo period Komusō and play their Shakuhachi in the streets of Japanese cities. If that is done to receive alms (for personal use or for charity) that is called takuhatsu 托鉢 or gyōke 行化. If someone engages in a longer pilgrimage relying on mendicancy for that time, the correct term would be angya 行脚 instead.

The religious attitude of playing the Komusō-Shakuhachi outside is expressed in the Komusō-vow:

"I will play to cut off all evil - I will play to do all that is good - I will play that all people may become bodhisattvas - and I vow to play that I together with all sentient beings will complete the Buddha's path."

It goes without saying that a Komusō-Shakuhachi player who wants to go out into the streets need to have an official permit, which is issued by the Myōan-dōshu-kai. You would need a sponsor and that would in many cases be your teacher.

There are some rules to be observed which concern the compulsory wearing of the tengai which might only be taken off when resting or when inside a house. Other rules are describing the right way to dress and how to carry the Shakuhachi (in the left hand, the thumb over the mouthpiece and the Shakuhachi close to the body). Takuhatsu is only allowed during daytime and when it gets dark the Komusō must put on his everyday clothes and remove his tengai and kesa. There are also rules for approaching temples.

A Komusō can walk through the streets and play Shakuhachi alone or together with other companions. When the tengai is worn, talking is never allowed and that is also true when two or more Komusō are together. Another way of doing takuhatsu is to play in front of private houses, this is called kadozuke 門付. After playing in front of the gate he would receive donations with his fan or in his bag, without touching the money with his hand.

Pictures of a Komusō-license, the Komusō-vow and Komusō doing takuhatsu you can find on the web page of the Dōshu-kai / Komusō. The same site has also a photo gallery.