Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Tenken Report

Once a month the ino is supposed to present the tenken report, detailing people's attendance or otherwise for the morning schedule, at the Practice Committee. Today is the day for the March report, and as happened last month, my intention to update the report every week did not survive the activities of the past few weeks. When I am busy, I prioritise what needs to be done soonest, and the tenken report has less of a deadline than just about everything else I do. It is also my intention to post the dharma talks online weekly, but right now I have three sesshins' worth of talks to put up...
Another reason it is easy to defer this task (like I am doing right now by writing this - I can call it a brain break if not a screen break) is that it is somewhat monotonous data entry (a predecessor delegated this to an assistant for that very reason): I look through the sheets for each day, filled out by the kokyo, check against the tenken book where people write their reasons for not being in the zendo or at service, and enter things into a spreadsheet according to a number of codes. Strangely, we don't have a code for sleeping in or being exhausted, which is the main excuse round these parts.
The tenken book is an interesting lens through which to view life at Zen Center. It lays open on a table outside my office, next to the quote from Dogen I have printed out, and is thus available for anyone to peruse, though it is also said that you should not go looking through to see what other people are up to. You get to see who has insomnia, who is sick most often, who needs the most rest. Occasionally there are more individual excuses. Highlights this month include someone who missed service because they were "overwhelmed by services" (I checked in with that person after reading that, and was assured it was a one-off). Another person was "hungover from one beer - it won't happen again" (zen students are very cheap dates on the whole). Someone else missed oryoki due to a "crisis with set" (perhaps the set was overwhelmed by oryoki). There was one person "freestyle dancing and working out" instead of being at morning service (overwhelmed by too much immovable sitting, maybe), which made a contrast with "overslept and depressed" a few lines later (overwhelmed by just about everything it seems).
Still, this month's offerings have a long way to go to catch up with my two favourites from Tassajara (people have been known to collect tenken excuses, just as Genine made a poem out of work meeting announcements) : the first was "chased by bats", the second "total rebellion of the organism on a cellular level". The person who wrote the latter did not make it to the end of the practice period.

6 comments:

Sandy's witterings said...

Sounds like the Tenken report may absorb all the goodness of your day off.
Perhaps offering a prize for best excuse wouldn't encourage attendance - anyway "chased by bates" is going to take some beating.

Shundo said...

Indeed it did not do much for my joie-de-vivre today.

emanon said...

my first & most heartfelt excuse which i told to the ino at green gulch while pulling the covers over my head: "i won't get up and you can't make me"

Shundo said...

Absolutely right - you can't gainsay that.
Blanche used to tell nice stories of being at Tassajara, and the tenken coming to her door and saying 'won't you please come and join us?' which made her feel guilty rather than defensive.

Sierra said...

haha, chased by bats, darn why didn't I ever think of that one.

Shundo said...

It might work at Tassajara, Sierra, but maybe not with your employer.