Zendo Roles

One of the ways we embody Zen Buddhist practice for all beings is to serve our own sangha in various ways.  Sitting zazen together side by side, walking, eating, working together, taking part in discussions, helping with sewing Buddha's Robe, serving on the Board, contributing to the bowl for operations/scholarships--offering dana paramita in so many ways, the overflowing of our gratitude pours over all we encounter.  Taking roles in the zendo is an offering of generosity to our fellow sangha members, and also a teaching for us in learning to enter each situation freely, fearlessly, and with great heartfelt not-knowing.  We encourage you to experience this valuable area of practice.  Here are some of the roles at Twining Vines Sangha:    

The Ino is the Practice Leader and the person who is in charge of the zendo. In our San Francisco Zen Center lineage, this person is usually an ordained priest, or someone in training for ordination.  Patty currently serves in this role at TVS. If you have any questions about your zendo position or general questions about zendo customs or procedures, please ask the Ino. In our sangha the Ino is also in charge of training people in zendo roles, asking someone to serve in one of these positions on any given occasion, and making any corrections or suggestions that might be helpful. 

The Work Practice Leader gives out work practice/temple cleaning jobs, supervises the work practice period, gives instruction when needed, and often offers a few words of teachings on what work practice entails and how it appears and integrates into our daily lives.

The Tenzo or Head Cook has a long history in Zen Buddhism; this person is in charge of feeding the sangha, organizing meals at retreats or other occasions, sometimes cooking and sometimes arranging for cooks to make various dishes depending on the size of the group and the event.

The Jisha is the Teacher's Assistant.  In weekly practice, he or she offers incense with the teacher; at day-long retreats and sesshin this person has a broader role of helping the teacher organize the schedule of the retreat as well as assisting with dokusan logistics, carrying any books or materials, as well as the incense offering, and anything else that the teacher may need.

The Doan at TVS takes the role of timing the periods and ringing the proper gongs to begin and end zazen and kinhin, to signal bows and chants, and also participates in our weekly chanting service in this role.   

Also in services, an ordained priest may serve as the Doshi, who leads the service; a sangha member hits the Mokugyo (fish) drum to keep time during dharanis; and the Chant Leader guides us in chanting harmony, introduces sutras, readings and dharanis, and offers the dedications.

A sangha member hits the Han several minutes before a block of zazen begins.  This instrument was used in monasteries to call the monks in from their work to the zendo; it is used in a similar manner in lay sanghas, reminding people to be settled in their seats. There is a specific pattern of its rhythm, indicating impermanence.

The Chiden or Altar Attendant makes sure there are candles and incense on the altars, that the flowers/plants are fresh and watered, and the incense bowls are refreshed when needed and that the altar is clean and neat.


Some Haiku written by TVS members September, 2015


Bird erupts from the hedge

Scared by the leaf blower noise

It startled me too


In late September

a last bee hovers over

a pink zinnia


Cool crispy morning

leaf blowers tinge morning air

summertime has ended


Pumpkins beginning

to appear on their doorsteps

neighbors' children laugh


A bird calls loudly

the bees sense of urgency

in late September


His paws wet with dew

his toes and claws outlined in

summer's morning gift


Haiku workshop--we

stand looking at flowers, like

people on acid


Yellow joyround heart

reminding me of lost joys

summer's not lost yet