It is still very much daylight at this time of year at around 10.00 pm when a senior goes around the monastery locking doors and switching off lights. I was scheduled to do this the night before last and was hard-pressed to remember which lights needed to be switch ON! For security reasons, we keep several outside lights on during the night as well as a number of night lights in corridors. However there is more to it than the physical security and safety of the monastery and all staying here.
In the past when we used mostly Japanese terms the ‘lights out’ monk was called the Tenkein, now translated to ‘Heavenly Guardian’. The spiritual safety of those resident in the monastery is primary and so the Tenkei’s task is to help settle the ‘air’, so to speak after the busy day of activity. The monk on duty processes around the halls purposefully and formally; wears a full kesa, makes bows in several places, offer incense and also recites the Three Homages in front of the main altar and main gate. Needless to say one remains very still inside – it’s basically a ceremony. The whole thing a blessing.
At a certain point by the Skanda Altar at the entrance to The Hall of Pure Offerings, the lay guests came into mind in the form of a wordless blessing. Immediately I thought, ‘Oh! there are no guests here’! Then I thought, ‘there are ALWAYS guests here’!
Sleep well, stay safe where ever you are.