A question about the position of tenken
Michael Wenger, VP of SFZC, asks the following:
1/ Historically what lead to the tenken system at Tassajara and city center?
2/ Does this have a present or historical analog. If so, how is it done and what is it addressing?
If you know anything about this, please read my comments and respond to the email address listed below. Thanks. DC
A few thoughts, sparked by "tenken":
Trungpa Rinpoche used attendance records as well, esp at Seminary. Don't know, though, if he got it from ZC, as he did so many things. (By the way, soon the article I did -with your help- on Trungpa Rinpoche and Zen will be coming out in a collection of articles about the man, from Shambhala Pubs. I'll let you know.)
Bob Harris - Mark's brother, I think - used to leave very long notes for the tenken; notes that included cartoons, stories, doodles and ran to many pages. They amused Philip W. no end, as he suspected the kid of just being a writer, working at night, and then tacking his evening's productions to the door.
My favorite story is the time that I knocked softly on Arnie Kotler's door, opened it a crack, and said, "Arnie, it's the tenken." He replied, "I can't believe I'm not there already."
4-09-05 - DC comments: I remember a little about the origins of the tenken position at Tassajara. Let me say what comes to find first.
The tenken is part of the doanryo or the inoryo, the group under the ino that takes care of the zendo and buddha hall and ceremonies. Jiyu Kennett Roshi, who tended to translate Japanese terms into more Anglican ones, called the Ino, as I remember it, the Sacristan and Disciplinarian. That seems pretty accurate. The tenken, at Tassajara, was the person who took attendance in the zendo. Doanryo jobs rotated among the six or so doans who also hit bells and so forth. The tenken probably had other roles but I can't remember. The word has been used by other groups with other meanings such as timekeeper. I just saw that on the web.
Tatsugami Roshi started the doan system at Tassajara in the spring of 1970 and refined it over the next three practice periods that he led. I can't remember how we took role before he came but we did something. If someone didn't come to the zendo or to anything they'd hear about it, at least if they repeated.
The tenken is the most disliked role for a doan, indeed, in the temple, because you've got to go at least leave a note on the absent person's door as they do today at Page Street, or knock on their doors and ask them if they're sick as we did at Tassajara in the old days. I don't know what happens there now. Also, just having someone in black robes standing there with a list checking to see who's there and not is a bit much for some.
I think maybe the abbot was to be presented with a tenken report at morning tea, ostensibly so people would know who was sick. Oh yes, I think the tenken brought food to the sick and kept up with their condition.
That's all I can remember right now. Please, anyone who remembers more, send an email not to dchad3(at)sonic(dot)net [add the number "2" after the dchad to get to DC directly. This avoids spam]
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