Tenken Instructions

Tenken means timekeeper. The tenken keeps the sangha on schedule through all formal events and also plays the mokugyo (fish drum) for the Japanese chants which use it.

Wake up bell

  • one loud hit on han on way to zendo
  • wake-up bell should be under altar
  • light small candle at altar, offer one short stick incense, three prostrations with bell to your side in front of bowing mat
  • walk around zendo counter-clockwise, ringing bell, loudly in each corner
  • snuff candle, leave zendo with bell
  • run (yes, run) around camp, right in front of doors of all cabins and e-cabins ringing bell loudly
  • after last cabin, stop ringing, walk (quickly but you can take a break from running) to han
  • two loud hits says end of wake up 
  • put bell back under altar

Zazen periods

  • Zazen always starts with 3 rings on the bell.
  • Bells to start zazen after a break or start of day is coordinated with the priest offering incense:
    1. bows at mat after incense offering
    2. bows towards seat
    3. bows away from seat
  • If zazen is followed by kinhin it is ended with 2 rings on the bell.
  • If zazen is followed by anything else (service, dharma talk, etc) it is ended with 1 ring on the bell.


  • Han should be very loud at Samish, but more moderate at Red Cedar.
  • Samish only: Echo han player echoes you through the 2nd roll down

Lighting the Altar

Lighting the altar and snuffing candles when we leave is the tenken's job. Here is the altar lighting procedure:

  • light large candle if not lit
  • light small candle
  • use small candle to light pair of short incense sticks and place in incense bowl at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock – these are the greeting sticks
  • if kobako needed: light charcoal with small candle and remove lid. Hold the charcoal in the flame until sure the corner is glowing orange and place charcoal in ash with glowing side up.
  • set out incense sticks on low table, next to small votive candle (1 stick usually, 2 sticks for morning service)
  • leave small candle lit (for jisha to light incense stick)
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