It was my first year at the Zendo and my first Ango. Almost immediately on arrival, someone showed me the service position assignments. Next to my name, a mysterious word: "Ji RI do?" I asked. "What's that?" "JI ki do." "What's that?"
"That" turned out be the equivalent of master of ceremonies for practice! Forget shuso. The jikido is not only time-keeper but one who orchestrates an array of instruments, each to be struck in a different way at different times at different zazen periods! I madly took notes as I received oral transmission; later, so-called rest period was given over to a frantic effort to re-copy my notes, and try to memorize them. I actually color-coded the name of each instrument so I could get a visual grasp of where and how it appeared in each service. .
The day would begin with the dawn tour of the house, calling the faithful to zazen with the mok—I soon gave up any attempt to maintain the prescribed rhythmic structure. And somehow I kept finding myself stumbling in front of the priests in their speedy matutinal rounds! I managed to get through morning and afternoon zazen sessions, however clumsily, but in the evening, the call and response with the doan, and then those momentous sequences of bell and drum—it proved to be more than I could handle! As I sat there in the Buddha hall, facing that giant drum, overwhelmed, I had to ask Joshin, alongside me, to take over.
What I loved, however, was saying the evening gatha: "Do not squander your life!" I would say it with full expression, urgently. I think this should always be said by an elder—who else has such a vivid sense that time swiftly passes by!
After two or three days, it was mutually agreed that I was not quite ready to be jikido, and the role was mercifully passed on to someone wiser in the ways of ritual, while I gratefully retreated to the homely tools of the kitchen.