Zendo Officers
The Warning Staff (kyosaku) by Sato Zenchu
The Warning Staff (Kyosaku) by Sato Zenchu

Kyosaku from BLS: A lotus blooms in the desert.
Kyosaku from Bisbee Lotus Sangha inscribed with:  A Lotus Blooms in the Desert

 

Maintaining Harmony in the Zendo

While zazen is underway in the zendo there is no talking and everything operates without verbal instructions so as to maintain a quiet and meditative atmosphere.  To make this possible, we have the service of four zendo officers who use various instruments to signal the sitters.

The four zendo officers are:

The Jikijitzu (timekeeper)
The Ino (chant leader)
The Jisha (Roshi's attendant)
The Tanto (practice leader and mentor)

  The service positions promote harmony in the zendo. These traditions expressed every Sunday in our zendo and have roots that go back to ancient China and beyond.

     The Jikijitzu is responsible for timekeeping and for the general condition of the zendo such as heating, lighting, seating, the altar and dealing with irregularities that may arise.  The Jikijitzu (often shortened to "Jiki") is also responsible for leading kinhin.  A great emphasis is placed on timeliness, neatness and order in the zendo.  Because one can trust the Jiki to attend to these needs, we are free to fully relinquish ourselves to our practice on the cushion.

     The Ino leads the sutra service.  Ideally we chant as one voice.  With small variations, the liturgy we chant is being chanted througout the world and has been since ancient times.  We are making visible the body of the Buddha with our vows, voices and minds.  The Ino also dedicates the merit of what we do to our ancestors.  It is a recognition of gratitude and of our oneness with all beings.

     The Jisha is the attendant of the Roshi and plays an important role during dokusan, sesshins and as an officer assumes leadership responsibilities.

     The Tanto is the practice leader and is here to encourage and help us with practice-related problems.  During sesshins the Tanto is responsible for the use of the kyosaku, sometimes called the compassion stick or sword.  The kyosaku is used only when asked for by the sitter and is never a form of punishment.   To request the kyosaku, the sitter puts his/her hands in gassho as the Tanto approaches and leans forward.  The Tanto then applies a swift, sharp blow with the kyosaku to accupressure points on each side of the upper back. This blow is not painful.  It activates the pressure points which wake the person up and clears the mind.  The sitter then bows from his/her cushion to the Tanto for having received this compassionate help with the practice.  The Tanto is also responsible for 'opening' and 'closing' the zendo and tends to the altar.

     In reality, all the officers work together to make the zendo a fertile and beneficial place of practice.  Their service is a practice of its own and a job of selflessness and service for the liberation of all beings.

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Note on where to sit: 
We try to keep the zabutons assigned to the Jisha and Tanto open.  If all other places are being used, the Jiki
may direct you to use those zabutons.
We do not currently have the service of a Jisha or Tanto because we do not have a resident teacher. 
However, we keep these zabutons open symbolically
until the day a teacher appears.

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Instruments used by officers of the zendo

The zendo officers maintain harmony during zazen by the use of various percussion instruments.  The sitters soon learn the meaning of the distinct sounds that are produced and know how to respond.

 

Zendo Hall bell: The Densho

The Densho, (Bell of the Hall) is usually brass, which is suspended on a stand. It is struck by the Jikijitzu for ten minutes before the first zazen period. The sequence includes three accelerandi-- strikes coming faster and faster until they merge to a point-- by which the students are able to tell how much time before the zazen begins.

The Leadership Bell: Inkin

The Inkin (Leadership Bell) is a handbell shaped like a small bowl, mounted on a handle. A metal striker is attached by a cord. The tone is high-pitched and penetrating. The Ino uses the Inkin to signal Rahai (bowing) as well as signals for certain sutras.

The Cease and Be Quiet Bell: Shijo

The Shijo (Cease and Be Quiet) bell is a brass bowl and striker used by the Jikijitzu. Three bells signal the beginning of a sitting period of zazen, two bells signal kinhin, and one bell signals the closing of zazen.

The Clappers: The Taku

The Taku (Clappers) are two pieces of hard wood. They are held parallel and struck together, making a sharp clack. The Jikijitzu makes one clack prior to the three strikes on the Shijo signaling the start of zazen, and again at the end of a sitting period to begin kinhin (walking meditation). The clack during kinhin is a signal to speed up the pace and return to the cushions. Upon returning to one's place, the Jiki will use the Taku to signal an exaggerated bow which is done in unison.

Mokugyo

The Mokugyo (Wooden Fish) is a hollow wooden drum, roughly spherical, carved as a stylized fish. It is struck on top with a mallet, and rests on a pad. The Ino plays it with a steady beat to keep time for sutra chanting. The form of the fish is used because the fish is said to never sleep, symbolizing wakefulness.

 
Real enlightenment is always with you,
so there is no need for you to stick to it or even think about it.
Shunryo Suzuki