Doanryo Training

The Doanryo is a dedicated group of practitioners (called “Doans” generically) who have received training in the various ceremonial roles of the temple and who compose the orchestra of the meditation hall in our daily services. Not only do they keep the instruments and other implements of our ceremonial life clean and well-tended, they also care for each person who comes to practice at AZC by exemplifying our zendo forms and by cultivating connection within the community of practitioners.

Going deeper with zendo forms and participating in ceremonial roles enriches and deepens our practice, both individually and collectively. Each of the Doanryo positions, whether it be caring for our altars, calling people to the zendo for zazen or ceremonies, sounding bells, leading chants, playing the drum, carrying incense and so forth, offers a unique opportunity to study both settledness and unsettledness of the self in an intentional and specific way. For example, by seeking balance and harmony with one another while in our individual roles, there lies an opportunity to see within ourselves and to practice finding our composure with whatever arises: whether it be nervousness, arrogance, self-consciousness, judgment or, feelings of deep interconnectedness and loving-kindness. Working with the nuances of our felt experience while simultaneously letting go of our limited and egoistic self-concerns is both a devotional practice as well as a practice of mindfulness. And when we take responsibility for our communal practice with others, it strengthens our community and our shared container for practice.

Doanryo training may be conducted by the Ino (Zendo manager) or the Tanto (Head of Practice). In traditional Zen training all monks and nuns would be trained in each of the positions. At AZC, Doanryo training is available to any member who regularly attends services and zazen and is interested in deepening their practice by supporting the practice of others. For more information, send an email request to Mako at mako@austinzencenter.org.

Doanryo Roles:

Members of the Doanryo are generically called “doans” despite the doan being one of the particular roles.

  • Chiden: the person who cares for the altars and all of the ceremonial implements; from dusting altars to sifting ash to making flower arrangements.
  • Greeter: the person who welcomes visitors, answers general questions, and direct newcomers to zazen or meditation instruction, ensuring that they feel met and welcome.
  • Jiko: the ceremonial attendant; carries the incense for and attends to the officiating Priest.
  • Fukudo: the person who sounds the Han (wooden block), or the Densho (big bell) which calls people to the Meditation Hall for Zazen, ceremonies, and lectures. The Fukudo also plays the drum or mokugyo (wooden fish) during service to keep the beat.
  • Doan: the person who keeps time and rings bells during service and zazen. The doan also begins and ends walking meditation (kinhin) with clackers (kaishaku).
  • Kokyo: chant leader; announces and leads the chant and invokes the dedication (eko).

Beyond the Doanryo – Other Temple Roles at AZC:

  • Zazen instructor: the person who gives zazen instruction to newcomers at the Beginners Meditation Class or Next Step Class. A strong daily zazen practice and formal training in giving Zazen instruction is a requirement for taking up this position.
  • Ino: literally the “bringer of joy,” the Ino works closely with the Tanto (Head of Practice) to perform a number of temple duties, including training and oversight of the Doanryo, coordinating scheduling and logistics for AZC Programs, making announcements, ordering zendo supplies, and planning and orchestrating ceremonies. Distinct from other roles at AZC, the Ino position is usually a longer term training position appointed by the Head Teacher.
  • Tenzo: the person who serves the community as Head Cook, whether it is for a single retreat, a sangha work-practice day, or for a longer training period. They are responsible for meal-planning, preparation, and serving of meals in alignment with Zen Kitchen-Practice as it is expressed in Dōgen Zenji’s Tenzokyokun, or Instructions to the Cook.
  • Work Leader: the person who organizes and assigns work tasks to practitioners during scheduled work-times, like soji or on sangha work-days. The Work Leader endeavors to set a tone of respect, kindness and gratitude for our volunteers’ work-practice by physically working with them as much as possible and teaching through example.
Hitting the Bell

Most great Zen masters have been monks who had a difficult time in their early life. One example is Morita Zenji who became an abbot of Eihei-ji Monastery in the great Meiji Period. Morita Zenji went to Eihei-ji Monastery when he was very young. At the time, his father was extremely ill. He know he could not take care of the boy, so he persuaded him to go to Eihei-ji Monastery. As you know, life in Eihei-ji Monastery is not so easy, especially for a boy thirteen or fourteen. His father must have been a very good teacher to realize how important it was for the boy to continue his practice. When the boy was leaving, his father told him that his first duty at the monastery would be to collect garbage or collect radishes or to hit the big bell. You should know that to collect garbage is the most important duty in the monastery. The older students will gather the leaves and the garbage at a certain time and place, and the young monks collect it. So you are doing half of the work, and the other monks with many heads and hands will do the other half. The other task, to hit the bell, means to give birth to, or to make a path for Buddha. So each time you strike the bell, Buddha will appear. Each time you strike the big bell at Eihei-ji, you make a bow. His father told him that striking the bell should be done with this kind of spirit. In this way, his father instructed him. The first morning when the boy hit the bell, the old abbot was sitting in his room and asked his attendant to go and see who had hit the bell. And here came this small boy. He thought that some well-trained monk would appear. But just a small boy appeared. So he asked him, “With what kind of feeling did you hit the bell?” The boy told him that to hit the bell was to give birth to Buddha, as his father had told him when he left home. The old abbot was very much impressed and took good care of the boy until years later when he became a Zen master.

by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi March, 1970