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common quarters (shu ryō 衆寮)

Monks who belong to the sangha hall assembly (sōdōshu 僧堂衆), a.k.a. great assembly (daishu 大衆), are also assigned seats in a facility known as the "quarters" (ryō 寮) for the "assembly" (shu 衆). That common quarters is the place where they are allowed to read and write, mend their robes, use moxa, drink tea informally, and engage in other activities that are not permitted in the more strictly regulated sangha hall. In Chinese Buddhist monasteries of the Song and Yuan dynasties and the Zen monasteries that were modeled after them in medieval Japan, the common quarters were located in close proximity to the sangha halls and were outfitted in much the same way, with a number of long low platforms arranged along the walls and in blocks in the middle of the room. As with the sangha halls, the common quarters had an altar for a "sacred monk" (shōsō 聖僧) located in the center, but the image enshrined was one of Kannon Bodhisattva rather than Monju Bodhisattva. The assignment of a place in the sangha hall to a new arrival was followed immediately by a similar assignment to a reading place (kandoku i 看讀位) in the common quarters, in accordance with ritual procedures that were no less formal and solemn. If the sangha hall had no boxes at the rear of the platforms, new arrivals were to store all of their gear at their places in the common quarters, and even if boxes were available in the sangha hall, they were to keep their personal tea cups and reading materials in the common quarters. The common quarters differed from the sangha hall in that the platforms were outfitted with desks, the ceiling had illuminating windows (meisō 明窗) (skylights) to facilitate reading, and bookshelves containing sutra literature as well as Zen records were located between the platforms. In addition to serving as a study hall, the common quarters were equipped for serving tea. At least some of the tea services held there were highly ritualized affairs involving the monastic officers and the abbot as well as the monks of the great assembly. The location of a sewing room behind or sometimes in the common quarters shows that the facility was also used by the monks of the great assembly for personal tasks such as mending robes. Behind or in the rear of the main quarters (honryō 本寮) were rooms for the head seat and manager of the common quarters, the two monastic officers in charge of the facility. In Japanese Zen today, only a handful of Soto monasteries (Eiheiji and Sōjiji first among them) are equipped with fully operational Song Chinese style sangha halls; those are the only places that still have Song style common quarters. →"sangha hall."