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SOTOZEN.COM > Archivio > Glossario (Inglese) > secretary

Glossario (Inglese)


secretary (shoki 書記)

Literally "writer" (sho 書) and "recorder" (ki 記). An officer in a monastic bureaucracy; one of the six prefects (roku chōshu 六頭首). In Song dynasty Chinese and medieval Japanese Zen monasteries, the position of secretary was subordinate to that of rector (ino 維那). The secretary was in charge of all official correspondence, especially that which went back and forth between a monastery and the civil authorities. In China, Buddhist monasteries were obligated to submit census records for their populations of monks, nuns, postulants, laborers, and serfs, as well regular reports on landholdings, crop yields, and activities such as ordinations held and building projects. They also had to get official approval for the appointment of high ranking monastic officers, especially abbots, and to obtain travel permission and passports for itinerant fund raisers and monks who wished to go on pilgrimages. The secretary thus took care of the sort of legal business and correspondence that, in a modern institution such as a university, would be handled by attorneys. In contemporary Soto Zen, only training monasteries (Eiheiji and Sōjiji foremost among them) have a functioning office of secretary held by a senior monk who actually serves as an official correspondent and keeper of records. The position of secretary survives, for the most part, only as a honorific title and seating position in various ritual observances, which some senior monk holds for the duration of the ceremony. →"six prefects."