The Practice of Cooking Your Life With Jody Hojin Kimmel, Osho and Joris Sankai Lemmens September 20 – 22, 2013

What happens when we treat the kitchen as a sacred space? When we handle each ingredient and utensil as a sacred object? When the activity of preparing a simple, nourishing meal is a creative activity, instead of a chore to get through? What happens when we extend this open, caring, yet unbiased mind to every activity of the day?

In the 13th century, Japanese Zen master Dogen wrote Instructions for the Tenzo, or head cook. In examining the manners and methods of preparing a meal at the Monastery, he reveals how to “cook”—or refine—your whole life. In one such instruction, he says to “take care of [the ingredients] as your own eyes.” In another: “When you boil rice, know that the water is your own life.” How do we cultivate the mind that cares as deeply for an“ordinary” object as it does for its very own eyes and life“ordinary” object as it does for its very own eyes and life?

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Principles of Engagement

The four noble truths, taught by Shakyamuni Buddha soon after his enlightenment, have functioned in Buddhism as fundamental principles for individual liberation. They are:

1. Suffering is pervasive in life.

2. The cause of suffering is craving/self-centered desire.

3. Nirvana (the experience of non-duality) is the realm free from suffering.

4. The means for attaining nirvana is the practice of the eightfold noble path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration).

Some of you may say that we need to reinterpret these truths at a time when the survival of humanity and the earth is at stake. Others may say that we need new principles of action for social change that supplement the four noble truths. In addition to common sense, all those engaged in work for social change must have some understanding of their personal principles of social action. In some cases they may hold these beliefs without noticing them. I personally felt a need to reflect on the basic beliefs I have been following unconsciously through my participation in peace and environmental work. Thus, the following draft which may be called “the four commonplace truths” has emerged:

1. No situation is impossible to change.

2. A communal vision, outstanding strategy, and sustained effort can bring forth positive change.

3. Everyone can help make a difference.

4. No one is free of responsibility.

While changes happen on the social and environmental levels, they can also happen on personal levels — physical, emotional, mental, and behaviorial, as well as the relational levels. When changes that seem impossible become possible, we call them breakthroughs. In my understanding, a breakthrough is a sudden and overwhelming unfolding of freedom from long-held limitations. The limitations broken through can be a lack of scientific or technological knowledge, as well as a prejudice or an injustice.

Thus, breakthrough can be a key concept for social engagement. But like “campaign,” “operation,” and “strategy,” the English word “breakthrough” seems to be closely related to military concepts with violent implications. It suggests crushing the front line of the other side and destroying the enemy.

The East Asian counterpart for the English word “breakthrough” seems to be the ideograph zhuan in Chinese (pronounced ten in Japanese, chon in Korean, and chuyen in Vietnamese). It means to turn, to rotate, to roll, to shift, to change. This word may remind us that our true objective is possibly to change the situation, rather than removing or crushing the block. We may want to bring forth a dramatic change nonviolently, not only for others but for our own body, mind, and life.

As an artist who lacks expertise in science, law, business, defense, international affairs, and activism, I often need to consult with specialists to make the peace and environmental work I participate in more effective. I have had opportunities to talk with people in various fields whom I meet at conferences and those who come to my brush workshops. (“Breakthrough with the Brush” has been one of the themes of my classes.) Thus, the concept of “the ten laws of breakthrough” has emerged:

1. Breakthrough may or may not occur. It is unpredictable. How it happens is mysterious. All we can do is work toward breakthrough.

2. Some breakthroughs are life-affirming, others destructive.

3. The chance for breakthrough increases when the objective and the process of change are clearly stated.

4. The chance for breakthrough increases when blocks are clearly identified.

5. The smaller the objective, the greater the chance for breakthrough.

6. An effective, intense, and continuous effort builds a foundation for breakthrough.

7. The larger the force combined with many others, the greater is the chance for breakthrough.

8. The greater the objective, the easier it is to bring together forces for breakthrough.

9. The chance for breakthrough increases when more attention is directed to the process than the goal.

10. Non-attachment is a crucial element for breakthrough.

Most of these “laws” should be obvious to you. Laws Five and Eight, however, may seem contradictory, but they are not. To collect large forces together, it is good to have a large objective. But to accomplish the objective it is helpful to break the problem up into smaller segments. Laws Six and Ten may also appear contradictory. Attachment is clinging to success, which leads us to disappointment, upset, and depression when we fail. Detachment is giving up and being indifferent. On the other hand, non-attachment is freedom from being stuck. It helps us be more engaged.

These “laws” are still a work-in-progress. They need to be tried and tested before they can become a useful tool for our action. Your thoughts and comments would be greatly appreciated.

Children, Children Everywhere…….

Sesshin. Early morning. The great drum sounds dramatically while the Buddha offering is carried to the altar. The opening chant of oryoki comes to an end: “Now I open Buddha Tathagata’s eating bowls. May we be relieved from self clinging with all sentient beings.” The voices die in a falling tone. The zendo is solemn and silent. The sangha begins to unwrap their oryoki bowls with grace and precision. Suddenly, a loud clatter breaks the silence. A dropped bowl rolls into the center of the zendo. Then a small nervous giggle. Is it an inept or spaced out practitioner not being sufficiently focused and aware? No, it’s the seven-year-old sitting next to me at ZMM’s first (and only) family sesshin. A blushing parent retrieves the bowl, and oryoki continues.

Experimenting with a family sesshin is only one of the many ways ZMM has tried to incorporate families with children into a full-hearted Zen practice at the Monastery. Recounting some of the history of children at the Monastery is helpful as we go forward into the new millennium mindful of the fact that most practitioners here are lay students and that many have children.

From its beginning in 1980 ZMM had to confront the question of whether to include children in the practice and training matrix. Roshi himself had a young child, Asian, who at the time, was eight years old. He was incorporated into the sangha at informal meal times and those who came early on grew used to sitting zazen to the calls of his play activities heard through the halls or out the zendo windows. Soon, two women, both single parents, asked to move in with their children, one a boy about six and the other a girl about ten. They moved in, the children were registered at the local elementary school and the parents embarked on residential Zen training. They were soon followed by other parents and children. Over the first few years of the Monastery’s existence three babies were actually born while their mothers were in residence. The pregnant women often remarked on how peaceful it felt to do zazen while feeling the movements of their still unborn babies. One of the babies was born during sesshin in the guest room across the hall from the zendo. The child was delivered by Daido Roshi and the zendo monitor when the mother went into labor during dawn zazen while retreatants carried on with sesshin listening to the birth cries of both mother and child. The three babies in residence often accompanied their mothers into the zendo to sit and the sangha became familiar with their individual cries and the sucking sounds of their nursing during sitting. At the peak of its family activity the Monastery housed fourteen children and their various parents.

The children gave and received great affection from the many adult practitioners, both resident and nonresident, and it was often a joy to have these bubbly, naughty, delightful and exasperating sentient beings around. But they also made for a rowdy couple of years at the Monastery. After a while certain dif&fi;culties began to develop for the parents and children who lived here. Parents began to feel, at times, a conflict between the demands of the training schedule and the demands of child rearing. Various patterns of allowing time off the schedule for parenting depending on the age and needs of the child were tried, but in the end nothing really “worked” satisfactorily for everyone. Children often wanted more of their parents and resented the demands of the Monastery. Parents sometimes wanted more training and resented the demands of their children. At other times, as they were pulled and pushed by the training, parents resented the requirements of the schedule and felt them to be incompatible with their responsibilities as parents.

In the early years all the children who were in residence were either infants, toddlers, or of elementary school age. Later, however, several teenagers came into residence. Teens posed new difficulties for the sangha. Women practitioners found sharing the sparse bathroom facilities with two teenage girls getting ready for school in the mornings a challenge. Hair dryers and beautification clutter graced the bathroom counters. To these developing beauties monopolizing the mirrors felt like a necessity; but to busy practitioners trying to get to the caretaking meeting on time, it felt like an invasion. From the point of view of the young people wanting to fit in with their peers, the most difficult question was how to bring friends home to this weird place with baldheaded people, strange chanting, and exotic images. The isolation they felt because of these differences between them and their friends was often painful.

During this time the Monastery also tried other kinds of experiments to allow parents to practice intensely. One such experiment was the family sesshin mentioned earlier. About thirty people attended this sesshin, approximately half of them children, some of whom were in residence and some who had non-resident parents. Aside from joining the adults in the zendo for oryoki breakfast and lunch, the children also did all liturgy services, and participated in caretaking practice. Each child was assigned a simple job as part of a crew supervised by a grown up, but they were never on the same crew as their parents. When the adults were sitting zazen the children remained up the hill in one of the cabins, having a play and activity period supervised by several adults. The children — except for the smallest — were housed in a sleeping cabin, boys on one side, girls on the other, again with an adult counselor to supervise them at night. To accommodate families the sesshin schedule was modi&fi;ed by changing the afternoon schedule from a Dharma Discourse to a circle activity held outdoors. Daido Roshi addressed the group and adults and children responded. On the &fi;nal afternoon of the sesshin, Daido Roshi left the choice of the afternoon’s activity up to the children. They all voted to go swimming, which we did. At the end of this sesshin we did an evaluation and found that the kids loved it and the parents hated it, and never wanted to do it again. We never did. It seemed that for most parents the potent mixture of children and sesshin just didn’t blend smoothly.

The final result of these and many more experiments was that Daido Roshi and the senior students &fi;nally decided that having resident children didn’t work very well, either for the children, the parents, or the Monastery. Roshi had nightmares of spiritual orphans unattended while their parents “got enlightened.” Both children and parents too often felt conflicted about which imperative to respond to: family responsibilities or the requirements of Zen training. It became obvious that both residential Zen training and parenting were full time, intensive jobs which needed to be done wholeheartedly and therefore didn’t fit well in the same framework.

Thus, as time progressed we scaled down our expectations about practicing with children and offered Family Practice Weekends instead of week long sesshins. Most importantly, the weekends were carefully planned to keep the needs and interests of children central while also devoting some time to the religious training of their parents. Since there were quite a number of children of all ages at these weekends and the adult agenda was secondary, the Monastery was very flexible in allowing parents to put the needs of their children first, missing adult sessions and being with their children whenever it was necessary to keep the children happy and secure.

The first of these weekends stressed wilderness skills. Children and their parents camped out on the environmental studies site. Paddling a canoe, knot tying, campfire activities and many other outdoor activities were carried out. We have also had a storytelling family practice weekend which featured Jataka tales. Today these weekends are a successful and well attended part of our retreat schedule. The next family practice weekend which will take place July 9-11 is a Zen Arts retreat in which parents and children will share the joy of creating their own art projects together.

Despite the failure of the experiments of these early years we also had some less ambitious programs to include children in the practice. From the beginning parents with children, both resident and nonresident, wanted to be able to do the Sunday morning program, so in an informal way they arranged to take turns staying at the abbacy with all the children who showed up on Sunday morning. The Monastery provided a snack and the children played and watched cartoons on TV. This worked well as the older children helped with the younger and there were only five or six children altogether. This informal program run by parents but supported by the Monastery continued through an interim period when the program left the abbacy and moved into the Monastery’s library. About two years ago this informal program was formalized. It became the Zen Kids Program, named by the children themselves. Though basically a parent coop, Monastery staff is involved in running the program and a different parent helps each month. The program includes outdoor activities, drama, arts and crafts, and some short chanting and liturgy sessions. At this point the program is held only once a month rather than every Sunday, but is carefully structured around a theme of interest to children but with some relation to Buddhism.

Aside from these more extensive activities, children are also invited to take part in certain special holiday activities at the Monastery: Easter, Buddha’s Birthday, Thanksgiving, Summer Solstice Celebration, the Fourth of July, and Dana dinner, a Christmas dinner given for the community outside the Monastery in need of holiday cheer. There are also liturgy services inspired by the presence of children: a Newborn Ceremony and an Unborn Ceremony.

Lately ZMM has developed, at the request of teens children of the lay sangha, a program in which teenagers who wish to can receive precept training and then take part in a Coming of Age Ceremony at the Monastery. Thus far, three of our young people have participated in this ceremony. It is a formalized ceremony in the zendo, similar to Jukai, which involves the taking of five precepts.

The integration of children into Monastery life and practice is an ongoing project at ZMM. Trying experiments, evaluating them, staying open and changing what doesn’t work, staying with what does work; all these have been a part of the development of our work with children.

Despite all the difficulties, many joys result from the presence of children at ZMM. Many sangha children have been coming for so long they now know the gatha recited before meals by heart. Who can resist the fresh faces, hands palm to palm, and the childish voices piping — some with utmost seriousness, some with impish playfulness — “First seventy-two labors brought us this food….”

Children, Children Everywhere…….

Sesshin. Early morning. The great drum sounds dramatically while the Buddha offering is carried to the altar. The opening chant of oryoki comes to an end: “Now I open Buddha Tathagata’s eating bowls. May we be relieved from self clinging with all sentient beings.” The voices die in a falling tone. The zendo is solemn and silent. The sangha begins to unwrap their oryoki bowls with grace and precision. Suddenly, a loud clatter breaks the silence. A dropped bowl rolls into the center of the zendo. Then a small nervous giggle. Is it an inept or spaced out practitioner not being sufficiently focused and aware? No, it’s the seven-year-old sitting next to me at ZMM’s first (and only) family sesshin. A blushing parent retrieves the bowl, and oryoki continues.

Experimenting with a family sesshin is only one of the many ways ZMM has tried to incorporate families with children into a full-hearted Zen practice at the Monastery. Recounting some of the history of children at the Monastery is helpful as we go forward into the new millennium mindful of the fact that most practitioners here are lay students and that many have children.

From its beginning in 1980 ZMM had to confront the question of whether to include children in the practice and training matrix. Roshi himself had a young child, Asian, who at the time, was eight years old. He was incorporated into the sangha at informal meal times and those who came early on grew used to sitting zazen to the calls of his play activities heard through the halls or out the zendo windows. Soon, two women, both single parents, asked to move in with their children, one a boy about six and the other a girl about ten. They moved in, the children were registered at the local elementary school and the parents embarked on residential Zen training. They were soon followed by other parents and children. Over the first few years of the Monastery’s existence three babies were actually born while their mothers were in residence. The pregnant women often remarked on how peaceful it felt to do zazen while feeling the movements of their still unborn babies. One of the babies was born during sesshin in the guest room across the hall from the zendo. The child was delivered by Daido Roshi and the zendo monitor when the mother went into labor during dawn zazen while retreatants carried on with sesshin listening to the birth cries of both mother and child. The three babies in residence often accompanied their mothers into the zendo to sit and the sangha became familiar with their individual cries and the sucking sounds of their nursing during sitting. At the peak of its family activity the Monastery housed fourteen children and their various parents.

The children gave and received great affection from the many adult practitioners, both resident and nonresident, and it was often a joy to have these bubbly, naughty, delightful and exasperating sentient beings around. But they also made for a rowdy couple of years at the Monastery. After a while certain dif&fi;culties began to develop for the parents and children who lived here. Parents began to feel, at times, a conflict between the demands of the training schedule and the demands of child rearing. Various patterns of allowing time off the schedule for parenting depending on the age and needs of the child were tried, but in the end nothing really “worked” satisfactorily for everyone. Children often wanted more of their parents and resented the demands of the Monastery. Parents sometimes wanted more training and resented the demands of their children. At other times, as they were pulled and pushed by the training, parents resented the requirements of the schedule and felt them to be incompatible with their responsibilities as parents.

In the early years all the children who were in residence were either infants, toddlers, or of elementary school age. Later, however, several teenagers came into residence. Teens posed new difficulties for the sangha. Women practitioners found sharing the sparse bathroom facilities with two teenage girls getting ready for school in the mornings a challenge. Hair dryers and beautification clutter graced the bathroom counters. To these developing beauties monopolizing the mirrors felt like a necessity; but to busy practitioners trying to get to the caretaking meeting on time, it felt like an invasion. From the point of view of the young people wanting to fit in with their peers, the most difficult question was how to bring friends home to this weird place with baldheaded people, strange chanting, and exotic images. The isolation they felt because of these differences between them and their friends was often painful.

During this time the Monastery also tried other kinds of experiments to allow parents to practice intensely. One such experiment was the family sesshin mentioned earlier. About thirty people attended this sesshin, approximately half of them children, some of whom were in residence and some who had non-resident parents. Aside from joining the adults in the zendo for oryoki breakfast and lunch, the children also did all liturgy services, and participated in caretaking practice. Each child was assigned a simple job as part of a crew supervised by a grown up, but they were never on the same crew as their parents. When the adults were sitting zazen the children remained up the hill in one of the cabins, having a play and activity period supervised by several adults. The children — except for the smallest — were housed in a sleeping cabin, boys on one side, girls on the other, again with an adult counselor to supervise them at night. To accommodate families the sesshin schedule was modi&fi;ed by changing the afternoon schedule from a Dharma Discourse to a circle activity held outdoors. Daido Roshi addressed the group and adults and children responded. On the &fi;nal afternoon of the sesshin, Daido Roshi left the choice of the afternoon’s activity up to the children. They all voted to go swimming, which we did. At the end of this sesshin we did an evaluation and found that the kids loved it and the parents hated it, and never wanted to do it again. We never did. It seemed that for most parents the potent mixture of children and sesshin just didn’t blend smoothly.

The final result of these and many more experiments was that Daido Roshi and the senior students &fi;nally decided that having resident children didn’t work very well, either for the children, the parents, or the Monastery. Roshi had nightmares of spiritual orphans unattended while their parents “got enlightened.” Both children and parents too often felt conflicted about which imperative to respond to: family responsibilities or the requirements of Zen training. It became obvious that both residential Zen training and parenting were full time, intensive jobs which needed to be done wholeheartedly and therefore didn’t fit well in the same framework.

Thus, as time progressed we scaled down our expectations about practicing with children and offered Family Practice Weekends instead of week long sesshins. Most importantly, the weekends were carefully planned to keep the needs and interests of children central while also devoting some time to the religious training of their parents. Since there were quite a number of children of all ages at these weekends and the adult agenda was secondary, the Monastery was very flexible in allowing parents to put the needs of their children first, missing adult sessions and being with their children whenever it was necessary to keep the children happy and secure.

The first of these weekends stressed wilderness skills. Children and their parents camped out on the environmental studies site. Paddling a canoe, knot tying, campfire activities and many other outdoor activities were carried out. We have also had a storytelling family practice weekend which featured Jataka tales. Today these weekends are a successful and well attended part of our retreat schedule. The next family practice weekend which will take place July 9-11 is a Zen Arts retreat in which parents and children will share the joy of creating their own art projects together.

Despite the failure of the experiments of these early years we also had some less ambitious programs to include children in the practice. From the beginning parents with children, both resident and nonresident, wanted to be able to do the Sunday morning program, so in an informal way they arranged to take turns staying at the abbacy with all the children who showed up on Sunday morning. The Monastery provided a snack and the children played and watched cartoons on TV. This worked well as the older children helped with the younger and there were only five or six children altogether. This informal program run by parents but supported by the Monastery continued through an interim period when the program left the abbacy and moved into the Monastery’s library. About two years ago this informal program was formalized. It became the Zen Kids Program, named by the children themselves. Though basically a parent coop, Monastery staff is involved in running the program and a different parent helps each month. The program includes outdoor activities, drama, arts and crafts, and some short chanting and liturgy sessions. At this point the program is held only once a month rather than every Sunday, but is carefully structured around a theme of interest to children but with some relation to Buddhism.

Aside from these more extensive activities, children are also invited to take part in certain special holiday activities at the Monastery: Easter, Buddha’s Birthday, Thanksgiving, Summer Solstice Celebration, the Fourth of July, and Dana dinner, a Christmas dinner given for the community outside the Monastery in need of holiday cheer. There are also liturgy services inspired by the presence of children: a Newborn Ceremony and an Unborn Ceremony.

Lately ZMM has developed, at the request of teens children of the lay sangha, a program in which teenagers who wish to can receive precept training and then take part in a Coming of Age Ceremony at the Monastery. Thus far, three of our young people have participated in this ceremony. It is a formalized ceremony in the zendo, similar to Jukai, which involves the taking of five precepts.

The integration of children into Monastery life and practice is an ongoing project at ZMM. Trying experiments, evaluating them, staying open and changing what doesn’t work, staying with what does work; all these have been a part of the development of our work with children.

Despite all the difficulties, many joys result from the presence of children at ZMM. Many sangha children have been coming for so long they now know the gatha recited before meals by heart. Who can resist the fresh faces, hands palm to palm, and the childish voices piping — some with utmost seriousness, some with impish playfulness — “First seventy-two labors brought us this food….”

Zen Peacemakers announce 2014 Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda

The twentieth anniversary of the genocide in which Rwandan Hutus claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi…….

From April 14 to 19, 2014, Zen Masters Bernie Glassman and Grover Genro Gauntt will lead a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda to mark the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in which Rwandan Hutus claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis. The retreat will be sponsored by the Rwandan organization Memos: Learning from History, the Hudson River Peacemaker Center, and the Zen Peacemakers. Attendance is limited, but you can reserve your spot now at this website.

The website explains that “the retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action.” Meditation and other contemplative practice will take place at and around the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre and remains of some of the dead there. In addition, “participants, including Rwandans who experienced various aspects of the Rwandan genocide, will meet daily in small Council groups designed to create a safe place for people to share their inner experiences. The whole group will meet in the evenings to bear witness to stories of survival, as well as themes of anger, guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation. For more information, visit zenpeacemakers.org/2014-bearing-witness-retreat-in-rwanda.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Japanese Tea Ceremony

 

 

The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, chadō, or sadō, or chanoyu – “the way of tea”) is a traditional ritual based on Taoism (Daoism) and influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea, or matcha (抹茶), is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting.

The pronunciation sadō is preferred by some schools, including Omotesenke and the Mushanokōjisenke, while the pronunciation chadō is preferred by others, including Urasenke.

Cha-no-yu (literally “hot water for tea”) usually refers to either a single ceremony or ritual, while cha-ji or chakai (literally “tea meeting”) refers to a full tea ceremony with kaiseki (a light meal), usucha (thin tea) and koicha (thick tea), lasting approximately four hours.
Read about the History of Chanoyu

Since a tea practitioner must be familiar with the production and types of tea, with kimono, calligraphy, flower arranging, ceramics, incense and a wide range of other disciplines and traditional arts in addition to his or her school’s tea practices, the study of the tea ceremony takes many years and often lasts a lifetime. Even to participate as a guest in a formal tea ceremony requires knowledge of the prescribed gestures and phrases, the proper way to take tea and sweets, and general deportment in the tea room.

The tea ceremony requires years of training and practice . . . yet the whole of this art, as to its detail, signifies no more than the making and serving of a cup of tea. The supremely important matter is that the act be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful, most charming manner possible.

— Lafcadio Hearn

History

Drinking of tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century in the form of the boiled tea (団茶 dancha) by the Buddhist monk Eichu (永忠), who had returned to Japan from China, where it had already been known, according to legend, for more than a thousand years. Tea soon became widely popular in Japan, and began to be cultivated locally.

The custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then for purely pleasurable reasons, was already widespread throughout China. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote the Ch’a Ching (the Classic of Tea), a treatise on tea focusing on its cultivation and preparation. Lu Yu’s life had been heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the Zen-Chán school. (This form of buddhism is known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan). His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.

In the 12th century, a new form of tea, matcha, was introduced by Eisai, another Japanese monk returning from China. This powdered green tea, which sprouts from the same plant as black tea but is unfermented and ground, was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha as they adopted Zen Buddhism, and the foundations of the tea ceremony were laid.

Tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice,” and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of wabiWabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, “is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials” (“Introduction: Chanoyu, the Art of Tea” in Urasenke Seattle Homepage). Ikkyu, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, had a profound influence on the tea ceremony.
By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master, Takeno Jōō’s, concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in Japanese architecture and gardens, fine and applied arts, and the full development of tea ceremony. The principles he set forward – harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei,), and tranquility (寂 jaku) – are still central to tea ceremony today.

 

Equipment

Tea equipment is called dōgu (道具, literally tools). A wide range of dōgu is necessary for even the most basic tea ceremony. A full list of all available tea implements and supplies and their various styles and variations could fill a several-hundred-page book, and thousands of such volumes exist. The following is a brief list of the essential components:

  • Chakin (茶巾). The “chakin” is a rectangular, white, linen or hemp cloth used to ritually cleanse the tea bowl. Different styles of chakin are used for thick and thin tea.
  • Fukusa (袱紗). The fukusa is a square silk cloth used for the ritual cleansing of the tea scoop and the tea caddy, and to handle hot kettle or pot lids. Fukusa are sometimes used by guests to protect the tea implements whilst examining them. These fukusa are a special style called kobukusa (“old fukusa“) or dashibukusa (“fukusa for serving”). They are thicker, brocaded and patterned, and often more brightly coloured than regular fukusaKobukusa are kept in the kaishi wallet or in the breast of the kimono. When not in use, the fukusa is tucked into the obi, or belt of the kimono. Fukusa are most often monochromatic and unpatterned, but variations exist. There are different colours for men (usually purple) and women (orange, red), for people of different ages or skill levels, for different ceremonies and for different schools. Some schools, including the Urasenke, prefer to introduce variants with brocades or patterns, while some prefer to use simpler ones. The size and way of making fukusa was purportedly established by the Rikyu’s second wife, who was also an expert of this way.
  • Ladle (hishaku 柄杓). This is a long bamboo ladle with a nodule in the approximate center of the handle. It is used to transfer water to and from the iron pot and the fresh water container in certain ceremonies. Different styles are used for different ceremonies and in different seasons. A larger version is used for the ritual purification undergone by guests before entering the tea room.
  • TanaTana, literally “shelves,” is a general word that refers to all types of wooden or bamboo furniture used in tea preparation; each type of tana has its own name. Tana vary considerably in size, style, features and materials. They are placed in front of the host in the tea room, and various tea implements are placed on, or stored in, them. They are used in a variety of ways during different tea ceremonies.
  • Tea bowl (chawan 茶碗; main article: chawan). Tea bowls are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and different styles are used for thick and thin tea (see Tea ceremony, below). Shallow bowls, which allow the tea to cool rapidly, are used in summer; deep bowls are used in winter. Bowls are frequently named by their creators or owners, or by a tea master. Bowls over four hundred years old are in use today, but only on unusually special occasions. The best bowls are thrown by hand, and some bowls are extremely valuable. Irregularities and imperfections are prized: they are often featured prominently as the “front” of the bowl.

Broken tea bowls are painstakingly repaired using a mixture of lacquer and other natural ingredients. Powdered gold is added to disguise the dark colour of the lacquer, and is known as kintsugi or “joint with gold,” and additional designs are sometimes created with the mixture. Bowls repaired in this fashion are used mainly in November, when tea practitioners begin using the ro, or hearth, again, as an expression and celebration of the concept of wabi, or humble simplicity.

  • Tea caddy (cha-ire 茶入 and natsume 棗; main article: chaki). Tea caddies come in two basic styles, the natsume and the cha-ire, though there is variation in shape, size and colour within the styles.Cha-ire, which are used for koicha, are usually tall and thin (but shapes may vary significantly) and have ivory lids with a gold leaf undersides. Cha-ire are usually ceramic, and are stored in decorative bags called shifukuNatsume are used for usucha, and are named for their resemblance to the natsume fruit (the jujube). They are short with a flat lid and rounded bottom, and are usually made of lacquered or untreated wood.
  • Tea scoop (chashaku 茶杓). Tea scoops are carved from a single piece of bamboo or ivory. Sometimes, they are made of the tree of Japanese apricot, pine, or cherry blossom. Bamboo tea scoops in the most casual style have a nodule in the approximate center. They are used to scoop tea from the tea caddy into the tea bowl. Larger scoops are used to transfer tea into the tea caddy in the mizuya(preparation area), but these are not seen by guests. Different styles and colours are used in various tea traditions.
  • Whisk (chasen 茶筅). Tea whisks are carved from a single piece of bamboo. There are thick and thin whisks for thick and thin tea.

Old and damaged whisks are not simply discarded. Once a year around May, they are taken to local temples and ritually burned in a simple ceremony called chasen kuyō, which reflects the reverence with which objects are treated in the tea ceremony.

All the tools for tea ceremony are handled with exquisite care. They are scrupulously cleaned before and after each use and before storing. Some components are handled only with gloved hands.

Tea ceremony

When tea is made with water drawn from the depths of mind

Whose bottom is beyond measure,
We really have what is called cha-no-yu.
—Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Two main schools, the Omotesenke (表千家) and Urasenke (裏千家), have evolved, each with its own prescribed rituals. A third school, Mushanokōjisenke, is largely unknown outside Japan. These three main schools are collectively known as the Sansenke. There are various lesser-known schools as well. Currently, the Urasenke School is the most active and has the largest following, particularly outside Japan. Within each school there are sub-schools and branches, and in each school there are seasonal and temporal variations in the method of preparing and enjoying the tea, and in the types and forms of utensils and tea used.

 All the schools, and most of the variations, however, have facets in common: at its most basic, the tea ceremony involves the preparation and serving of tea to a guest or guests. The following description applies to both Omotesenke and Urasenke, though there may be slight differences depending on the school and type of ceremony.

The host, male or female, wears a kimono, while guests may wear kimono or subdued formal wear. Tea ceremonies may take place outside (in which case some kind of seating will usually be provided for guests, whether benches or chairs, or even woven straw tatami mats) or inside, either in a tea room or a tea house, but tea ceremonies can be performed nearly anywhere. Generally speaking, the longer and more formal the ceremony, and the more important the guests, the more likely the ceremony will be performed indoors, on tatami.

Both tea houses and tea rooms are usually small, a typical floor size being 4 1/2 tatami, the traditional Japanese floor covering. The smallest tea room can be as little as one-and-a-half mats, and the size of the largest is determined only by the limits of its owner’s resources. Building materials and decorations are deliberately simple and rustic.

If the tea is to be served in a separate tea house rather than a tea room, the guests will wait in a garden shelter until summoned by the host. They ritually purify themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths with water from a small stone basin, and proceed through a simple garden along a roji, or “dewy path,” to the tea house. Guests remove their shoes and enter the tea house through a small door, and proceed to the tokonoma scroll alcove, where they admire the scroll and other decorations placed therein and are then seated seiza-style on the tatami in order of prestige.

Guests may be served a light, simple meal called a “kaiseki” or “chakaiseki,” followed by sake, Japanese rice wine. They will then return to the waiting shelter until summoned again by the host.

If no meal is served, the host will proceed directly to the serving of a small sweet or sweets. Sweets are eaten from special paper called kaishi, which each guest carries, often in a decorative wallet tucked into the breast of the kimono.

Each utensil – including the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop – is then ritually cleaned in the presence of the guests in a precise order and using prescribed motions. The utensils are placed in an exact arrangement according to the ritual being performed. When the ritual cleaning and preparation of the utensils is complete, the host will place a measured amount of green tea powder in the bowl and add the appropriate amount of hot water, then whisk the tea using set movements.

Conversation is kept to a minimum throughout. Guests relax and enjoy the atmosphere created by the sounds of the water and fire, the smell of the incense and tea, and the beauty and simplicity of the tea house and its seasonally appropriate decorations.

The bowl is then served to the guest of honour, either by the host or an assistant. Bows are exchanged between the host and guest of honour. The guest then bows to the second guest, and raises the bowl in a gesture of respect to the host. The guest rotates the bowl to avoid drinking from its front, takes a sip, murmurs the prescribed phrase, and then takes two or three more sips before wiping the rim, rotating the bowl to its original position, and passing it to the next guest with a bow. The procedure is repeated until all guests have taken tea from the same bowl, and the bowl is returned to the host. In some ceremonies, each guest will drink from an individual bowl, but the order of serving and drinking is the same.

If thick tea (koicha) has been served, the host will then prepare thin tea, or usucha, which is served in the same manner. In some ceremonies, however, only one or the other type is served.

After all the guests have taken tea, the host cleans the utensils in preparation for putting them away. The guest of honour will request that the host allow the guests to examine some of the utensils, and each guest in turn examines and admires each item, including the water scoop, the tea caddy, the tea scoop, the tea whisk, and, most importantly, the tea bowl. The items are treated with extreme care and reverence as they may be priceless, irreplaceable, handmade antiques, and guests often use a special brocaded cloth to handle them.

The host then collects the utensils, and the guests leave the tea house. The host bows from the door, and the ceremony is over. A tea ceremony can last between one hour and four to five hours, depending on the type of ceremony performed, the number of guests, and the types of meal and tea served.

Types of ceremony

The ceremonies described below are performed in both the Omotesenke and Urasenke styles. Note that for the word temae (roughly, “ceremony” or “procedure”), Omotesenke prefers the Chinese characters点前, while Urasenke prefers 手前.

Chabako demae

Chabako demae (Omotesenke: 茶箱点前; Urasenke: 茶箱手前) is so called because the equipment is removed from and then replaced into a special box (chabako, literally tea box).This ceremony is approx 35-40 minutes

Hakobi demae

Hakobi demae (Omotesenke: 運び点前; Urasenke: 運び手前) is closely related to ryū-rei (see below), but is performed in seiza position. The name comes from the fact that the essential equipment – bowl, natsume, waste water container, fresh water container, scoops, and so on – are carried into and out of the tea room.

O-bon temae

In O-bon Temae (Omotesenke: お盆手前, “tray ceremony”; Urasenke: 略盆、略点前 ryaku-bon or ryaku-demae — ryaku: “abbreviated”), the host places a tea bowl, whisk, tea scoop, chakin andnatsume on a special tray; these items are covered by the fukusa. Thin tea is prepared on the tray while kneeling seiza style on the floor. This is usually the first ceremony learned, and is the simplest to perform, requiring neither much specialized equipment nor a lot of time to complete.

Ryū-rei

In Ryū-rei (立礼, literally standing bow) the tea is prepared at a special table. The guests are seated either at the same table (one guest) or at a separate table. The name refers to the practice of performing the first and last bows standing at the entrance to the tea room. In Ryū-rei there is usually an assistant who sits behind the host and moves the host’s stool out of the way as needed for standing or sitting. The assistant also serves the tea and sweets to the guests.

Tea ceremony and calligraphy

Calligraphy, mainly in the form of hanging scrolls, plays a central role in the tea ceremony. In Japan the formal name for this process of brush strokes is zenga. Scrolls, often written by famous calligraphers or Buddhist monks or painted by well-known artists, are hung in the tokonoma (scroll alcove) of the tea room. They are selected for their appropriateness for the season, time of day, or theme of the particular ceremony. Calligraphic scrolls may feature well-known sayings, particularly those associated with Buddhism, poems, descriptions of famous places, or words or phrases associated with tea ceremony. A typical example might have the characters wa kei sei jaku (和敬清寂, harmony, respect, purity and tranquility). Some contain only a single character; in summer, kaze (“wind”) would be appropriate. Painted scrolls may contain seasonally appropriate images, or images appropriate to the theme of the particular ceremony. Rabbits, for example, might be chosen for a nighttime ceremony because of their association with the moon. Scrolls are sometimes placed in the waiting room as well.

Tea ceremony and flower arranging

 Chabana (茶花, literally “tea flowers”) is the simple style of flower arranging used in tea ceremony. Chabana has its roots in ikebana, another traditional style of Japanese flower arranging, which itself has roots in Shinto and Buddhism.

Chabana evolved from a less formal style of ikebana, which was used by early tea masters. The chabana style is now the standard style of arrangement for tea ceremony. Chabana is said, depending upon the source, to have been either developed or championed by Sen no Rikyu.

At its most basic, a chabana arrangement is a simple arrangement of seasonal flowers placed in a container. Chabana arrangements typically comprise few items, and little or no “filler” material. Unlike ikebana (which often uses shallow, wide dishes), tall, narrow vases are frequently used in chabana. Vases are made from natural materials such as bamboo, as well as metal or ceramic, but rarely glass.

Chabana arrangements are so simple that frequently no more than a single blossom is used; this blossom will invariably lean towards or face the guests.

Kaiseki

 Kaiseki ryōri (懐石料理, literally “breast-stone cuisine”) is the name for the type of food served during tea ceremonies. The name comes from the practice of Zen monks of placing warmed stones in the breast of the robes to stave off hunger during periods of fasting.

Kaiseki cuisine was once strictly vegetarian, but nowadays fish and occasionally meat will feature.

In kaiseki, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used, prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavour. Exquisite care is taken in selecting ingredients and types of food, and finished dishes are carefully presented on serving ware that is chosen to enhance the appearance and seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes designed to resemble natural plants and animals. The serving ware and garnishes are as much a part of the kaiseki experience as the food; some might argue that the aesthetic experience of seeing the food is more important than the physical experience of eating it, though of course both aspects are important.

Courses are served in small servings in individual dishes, and the meal is eaten while sitting in seiza. Each diner has a small lacquered tray to her- or himself; very important people may be provided their own low, lacquered table or several small tables.

Kaiseki for tea ceremony is sometimes referred to as chakaiseki (cha: “tea”) meaning “tea kaiseki.” Chakaiseki usually includes one or two soups and three different vegetable dishes along with pickles and boiled rice. Sashimi or other fish dishes may occasionally be served, but meat dishes are more rare.

Tea ceremony and kimono

While a kimono used to be mandatory for all participants in a Japanese tea ceremony, this is no longer the case. Still, it is traditional, and on formal occasions most guests will wear a kimono. Since the study of kimono is an essential part of learning tea ceremony, most practitioners will own at least one kimono which they will wear when hosting or participating in a tea ceremony. The kimono used to be mandatory dress for students of tea ceremony, and while this practice continues many teachers do not insist upon it; it is not uncommon for students to wear western clothes for practice. This is primarily born of necessity: since most people cannot afford to own more than one or two kimono it is important that they be kept in good condition. Still, most students will practice in kimono at least some of the time. This is essential to learn the prescribed motions properly.

Many of the movements and components of tea ceremony evolved from the wearing of a kimono. For example, certain movements are designed with long kimono sleeves in mind; certain motions are intended to move sleeves out of the way or to prevent them from becoming dirtied in the process of making, serving or partaking of tea. Other motions are designed to allow for the straightening of the kimono and hakama.

Fukusa (silk cloths) are designed to be folded and tucked into the obi (sash); when no obi is worn, a regular belt must be substituted or the motions cannot be performed properly.

Kaishi (paper) and kobukusa are tucked into the breast of the kimono; fans are tucked into the obi. When Western clothes are worn, the wearer must find other places to keep these objects. The sleeves of the kimono function as pockets, and used kaishi are folded and placed into them.

For tea ceremony, men may wear a combination of kimono and hakama (a long divided or undivided skirt worn over the kimono), but some men wear only kimono. Wearing hakama is not essential for men, but it makes the outfit more formal. Women wear various styles of kimono depending on the season and the event; women generally do not wear hakama for tea ceremony. Lined kimono are worn by both men and women in the winter months, and unlined ones in the summer. For formal occasions men wear montsuki kimono (plain, single colour kimono with three to five family crests on the sleeves and back), often with striped hakama. Both men and women wear white tabi (divided- toe socks).

While men’s kimono tend to be plain and largely unpatterned, some women’s kimono have patterns on only one side; the wearer must determine which side will be facing the guests and dress accordingly.

Tea ceremony and seiza

Seiza is integral to the Japanese tea ceremony. When not seated at tables, both the host and guests sit in seiza style, and seiza is the basic position from which everything begins and ends in a tea ceremony. The host sits seiza to open and close the tea room doors; seiza is the basic position for arranging and cleaning the utensils and preparation of the tea. Even when the host must change positions during parts of the ceremony, these position changes are made in seiza position, and the host returns to sitting seiza when the repositioning is complete. Guests maintain a seiza position during the entire ceremony.

All the bows (there are three basic variations, differing mainly in depth of bow and position of the hands) performed during tea ceremony originate in the seiza position.

Tea ceremony and tatami

 Tatami is an integral part of tea ceremony. The main areas of tea rooms and tea houses have tatami floors, and the scroll alcove in tea rooms often has a tatami floor as well.

Tatami are used in various ways in tea ceremony. Their placement, for example, determines how a person walks through the tea room. When walking on tatami it is customary to shuffle. This forces one to slow down, to maintain erect posture and to walk quietly, and helps one to maintain balance as the combination of tabi and tatami makes for a slippery surface; it is also a function of wearing kimono, which restricts stride length. One must avoid walking on the joins between mats; participants step over such joins when walking in the tea room.

The placement of tatami in tea rooms differs slightly from the normal placement in regular rooms, and may also vary by season (where it is possible to rearrange the mats). In a 4 1/2 mat room, the mats are placed in a circular pattern around a centre mat. Purpose-built tea rooms have a sunken hearth in the floor which is used in winter. A special tatami is used which has a cut-out section providing access to the hearth. In summer, the hearth is covered either with a small square of extra tatami, or, more commonly, the hearth tatami is replaced with a full mat, totally hiding the hearth.

It is customary to avoid stepping on this centre mat whenever possible, as well as to avoid placing the hands palm-down on it, as it functions as a kind of table: tea utensils are placed on it for viewing, and prepared bowls of tea are placed on it for serving to the guests. To avoid stepping on it people may walk around it on the other mats, or shuffle on the hands and knees.

Except when walking, when moving about on the tatami one places one’s closed fists on the mats and uses them to pull oneself forward or push backwards while maintaining a seiza position.

There are dozens of real and imaginary lines that crisscross any tearoom. These are used to determine the exact placement of utensils and myriad other details; when performed by skilled practitioners, the placement of utensils will vary infinitesimally from ceremony to ceremony. The lines in tatami mats (行 gyō) are used as one guide for placement, and the joins serve as a demarcation indicating where people should sit.

Tatami provide a more comfortable surface for sitting seiza-style. At certain times of year (primarily during the new year’s festivities) the portions of the tatami where guests sit are covered with a red felt cloth.

Studying tea ceremony

 In Japan, those who wish to study tea ceremony typically join what is known in Japanese as a “circle,” which is a generic term for a group that meets regularly to participate in a given activity. There are also tea clubs at many junior high and high schools, colleges and universities.

Most tea circles are run by a local chapter of an established tea school. Classes may be held at community centres, dedicated tea schools, or at private homes. Tea schools often have widely varied groups that all study in the same school but at different times. For example, there may be a women’s group, a group for older or younger students, and so on.

Students normally pay a monthly fee which covers tuition and the use of the school’s (or teacher’s) bowls and other equipment, the tea itself, and the sweets that students serve and eat at every class. Students must provide their own fukusa, fan, paper, and kobukusa, as well as their own wallet in which to place these items. Traditionally students also provided their own kimono and related accessories, though western clothing is very common today. On the other hand, if the teacher is in the higher rank of tradition, especially an iemoto, wearing kimono is still considered essential, especially for women. In some cases, advanced students may be given permission to wear the school’s mark in place of the usual family crests on formal montsuki kimono.

New students typically begin by observing more advanced students as they practice. New students are normally taught mostly by more advanced students; the most advanced students are taught exclusively by the teacher. The first things new students learn are how to correctly open and close sliding doors, how to walk on tatami, how to enter and exit the tea room, how to bow and to whom and when to do so, how to wash, store and care for the various equipment, how to fold the fukusa, how to ritually clean tea equipment, and how to wash and fold chakin. As they master these essential steps, students are also taught how to behave as a guest at tea ceremonies: the correct words to say, how to handle bowls, how to drink tea and eat sweets, how to use paper and sweet-picks, and myriad other details.

As they master the basics, students will be instructed on how to prepare the powdered tea for use, how to fill the tea caddy, and finally, how to measure the tea and water and whisk it to the proper consistency. Once these basic steps have been mastered, students begin to practice the simplest ceremonies, typically beginning with O-bon temae (see above). Only when the first ceremony has been mastered will students move on. Study is through observation and hands on practice; students do not often take notes, and some schools discourage the practice of note-taking.

As they master each ceremony, some schools and teachers present students with certificates at a formal ceremony. According to the school, this certificate may warrant that the student has mastered a given ceremony, or may give the student permission to study a given ceremony. Acquiring such certificates is often very costly; the student typically must not only pay for the preparation of the certificate itself and for participating in the ceremony during which it is bestowed, but is also expected to thank the teacher by presenting him or her with a gift of money. The cost of acquiring certificates increases as the student’s level increases.

Typically, each class ends with the whole group being given brief instruction by the main teacher, usually concerning the contents of the tokonoma (the scroll alcove, which typically features a hanging scroll (usually with calligraphy), a flower arrangement, and occasionally other objects as well) and the sweets that have been served that day. Related topics include incense and kimono, or comments on seasonal variations in equipment or ceremony.