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Glossary - individual


six stewards (roku chiji 六知事)

A set of senior monastic officers; literally the "six" (roku 六) "managers" (chi 知) of "affairs" (ji 事). They are: (1) prior (tsūsu 都寺), (2) comptroller (kansu 監寺), (3) assistant comptroller (fūsu 副寺), (4) rector (ino 維那), (5) head cook (tenzo 典座), and (6) labor steward (shissui 直歳). In Song dynasty Chinese and medieval Japanese Zen monastic bureaucracies, the steward positions were considered the most important, exceeded only by that of abbot. They were called the "east row" (tōjo 東序) of officers because they lined up in the front row on the east side of the buddha hall and dharma hall when attending major observances held in those facilities. Among the stewards, only the rector was concerned primarily with the discipline and training of the great assembly of monks based in the sangha hall (sōdō 僧堂). The other five all had their quarters in the administration hall (kudō 庫堂), the center for managing all the practical affairs of the institution, such as finances, building maintenance, and supplies of food and other necessities. The administration hall was on the east side of a monastery, opposite the sangha hall, which was on the west side.

The system of six stewards evolved from a simpler model of monastic bureaucracy in Tang dynasty (618-906) China, in which there were but three top officers (sankō, C. sangang 三綱): the "top seat" (jōza, C. shangzuo 上座) or "elder" (chōrō, C. zhanglao 長老), who served as spiritual leader; the rector (ino, C. weina 維那), who was charged with enforcing rules and maintaining discipline; and the monastery chief (jishu, C. sizhu 寺主), who handled all practical and administrative affairs. By the Song, the position of "elder" had evolved into that of abbot (jūji 住持); the office of rector had spawned a number of subordinate positions held by officers called prefects (chōshu 頭首); and job of monastery chief had come to be divided among the prior, comptroller, assistant comptroller, and labor steward.

In contemporary Soto Zen, only training monasteries have the six stewards as actively functioning monastic offices. The steward positions survive, for the most part, only as a honorific titles and seating position in various ritual observances, which senior monks hold for the duration of the ceremony. →"six prefects."

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