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John's Notes on Jisha

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Laurel's Notes on Jisha

Question: Noticed Norman struggling with tucking in the back of his robe a few times--should I help him with that, or is that too much? Had the urge to help, but then felt it might be too intimate.

And a suggestion or two: I suggest we cap the number of part time attendees to 14, and divide them evenly between the first half and second half of the sesshin, rather than clumping them at the beginning.The ones who opt to only come for the first half should perhaps be given a little extra job upon leaving. I think, given a choice between attending and not attending, people will choose the second half if it's the only option. This should be announced well in advance so people can plan for it. First half attendees not only get Norman when he is more fresh, but they also don't have to stay and help clean up at the end, so there won't be incentive to do the second half unless we create some. Also, it really was hard for me to bump to the front of the dokusan line those who were not committed to staying the whole period--though I'm sure they all had very good reasons.

Two: Find a bell for the second dokusan room that does not sound at all like the bell from Norman's dokusan room.


5:30 a.m., and all other services except the morning service immediately before breakfast:

Wait for Doshi (priest) on your cushion. After s/he arrives, chant the robe chant together, get up when s/he gets up, and go to the altar's right side, passing her/him once s/he gets to the bowing mat. Bow off to the side, at an angle to the altar, light the incense from the small candle, and then put out the small candle only. Stand off to the side of the altar, facing wall left of the altar, and wait for Doshi to approach. When Doshi puts hands in gassho, jisha presents the incense to the doshi, and s/he takes it. Jisha has one hand in gassho while offering incense to doshi, and returns both hands to gassho while waiting for doshi to make incense offerings. Jisha faces in direction of the doshi. When doshi steps back to bow, jisha steps back as well, and bows in the direction of the doshi. Jisha turns and allows doshi to go ahead to bowing mat, again passing her/him once he gets there, and returns to seat, or to an area behind doshi, for three bows.

Jisha always follows doshi out of the zendo.

It seems that doshi and jisha bow together once out of the zendo, except for certain instances, but this is still unclear to me.

Morning Service

Mostly this is the same as above, except jisha does not go immediately up to the altar the first time the doshi goes, but waits while the purification chant is chanted, then goes up. Jisha DOES NOT put out the candle the first time incense is offered, but goes back to bow and chant. When "All Buddhas, ten directions..." starts, jisha goes up to altar a second time and does the usual incense lighting, and puts the small candle out.

Dharma Talk

Jisha will most likely be sitting in zendo the period before Norman's dharma talk, as that is when he takes his break. When everyone gets up, Ino will say, "prepare for dharma talk." Find his pedestal and place it nearby, so that you can put his talk notes on it when you re-enter. Situate your cushion nearby (but out of the path) and his cushion at front of room (someone will show you where). Wait for Norman before the talk in the vestibule or outside. When he comes he will hand you his dharma notes (in a cloth envelope), with a bow. (Be careful, sometimes there's an iPad in the envelope). Hold this at breast height. Follow him into the zendo, placing the envelope on the pedestal, and then go up to the altar and do the incense offering as usual. Come back to cushion and do three bows with the group. When Norman sits down and adjusts his robes, get the pedestal and place it in-front-of him, with the envelope right side up toward him. Make sure the Soku has brought in his tea. Sit and chant with group. Listen to talk. At end of talk, chant with group, and watch for Norman to place his papers back in envelope. When they are in, get up and remove the pedestal with a bow, and set it to the side, (not sure here whether to leave envelope until he walks out, or get it now and stand with it?) Walk out with envelope and give back to Norman with a bow in the vestibule. He then lets you know (or you may have to ask) if he will be seeing anyone for dokusan after the talk, so proceed accordingly.

End of Day

Walk out with doshi and tanto, bow together.


Go to the zendo and after folks settle and...

The essential areas of complexity are around jobs, doshis, jikos, jishas and ceremonies, and fitting people in before they leave if there are early leavers. Check the lists to find out who is doing services, and be mindful of that. I found it was pretty easy to work priests in on the days they didn't do any services. The other consideration is now there are several transmitted teachers doing dokusan, so they all need to be worked around as well. It might be good to have a meeting with the other jishas around this--let the jishas know the order of who is being called (more or less), and have them check in with you. Seems like some work needs to be done around this, in terms of establishing some sort of order. It's a good idea to have a couple of checklists, and to make a daily plan (though you won't be able to follow it).

Otherwise, jisha will be provided with a seating chart. I chose to work from A through D, in order, after Norman saw all of the early leavers. I then planned to work through in that order again when the new people came in, always using that as a means to decide who goes in. I wrote seat numbers and jobs next to people's names, but that's obsessive/repulsive.

Of course, all plans will have to be abandoned and mostly the jisha has to do her/his best and grab whomever is available.

A certain amount of forethought is needed around tea ceremony time, as Norman will often work through it, and it is followed by walking meditation. So you'll want to have the dokusan room loaded up before tea starts so you don't have to chase people all across the area. The Soku serves tea in the dokusan room, so I would let him or her know how many you have in there before they go off to serve.

Norman will be late, often. It's stressful. But it's not your fault. Don't worry. Be happy.

Notes specific to coffee, tea, and food for Norman:

Tea: Provide a thermos of tea for the dokusan room in the early morning, with Ceylon, Assam, Earl Grey, Tazo Awake, or other black tea. (I preheat the thermos and the tea pot with hot water). Provide a mug. He won't want decaffeinated tea until the evening, so you can make that at dinner break. His favorite decaffeinated teas are ginger (when his stomach acts up), and Bengal Spice (there may be others), which I had to bring myself. (Samish camp has a teapot available to make tea, and there's very hot water for preheating thermos and pot at the silverware sink). Ginger tea is very important to have on hand, something without caffeine. He likes Traditional Medicinals organic ginger.

Coffee: You don't have to, but I brought an espresso blend known for it's mildness and low acidity, ground for a home espresso maker. Tim brings his espresso machine from home, and Norman makes it in his room. His stomach can't tolerate regular, acidic coffee. Provide Norman with a small pitcher of 1% (or nonfat if not available) milk every couple of days, as needed.


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