Japanese Tea Ceremony and Zen
During May 2017, I had the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony presented by Maiko and Keiko.
Kamogawa Odori is an annual spring dance performance held three times a day by Ponto-cho Maiko and Geiko held three times a day May 1 to 24, 2017. More information can be found below.
What is the Japanese tea ceremony?
In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯?) or sadō, chadō (茶道), while the manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, is called (o)temae ([お]手前; [お]点前) Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony. Much less commonly, Japanese tea ceremony uses leaf tea, primarily sencha, in which case it is known in Japanese as senchadō (煎茶道, the way of sencha) as opposed to chanoyu or chadō; see sencha tea ceremony, below.
Representative denomination of tea ceremony in Japan
Chanoyu, which attained greatness under Rikyu, has been handed down for over 400 years at Omotesenke’s Fushin’an. Fushin’an is the name of the tea room that was run by Rikyu and which has been inherited by the successive Iemotos since then. Fushin’an refers not only to the Senke residence but to the whole organization. It is also one of the Iemoto Sen Sosa’s names.
You may visit the building only through reservation. Because photography in the building is prohibited, the pictures below were taken from the homepage of Omoto Senke.
The tea room (chashitsu) and the tea garden (roji) form a single unit for the purpose of holding a tea gathering. In order to enter this world of play which transcends the ordinary world, the guests pass through the small kuguri entrance and walk through the refreshing landscape of the tea garden. The tea garden path is made of tobiishi (stepping stones) and nobedan (long slabs of stone), and with its planted trees it has the atmosphere of a quiet village among the hills. After washing their hands at the tsukubai (stone wash basin) the guests enter the tea room through the nijiriguchi (‘crawl-through’ entrance). Unlike an ordinary living space, the tea room is small with a low roof and is slightly dark. It is made very simply of natural materials, with log pillars and clay walls. Within this simple structure tea devotees commune with each other in the spirit of chanoyu, and with sensitive attention to detail create a space which is refined in every part.
Japanese tea ceremony is based on harmony with nature. While most of the tea rooms are made up of independent spaces for the ceremonies, the buildings are connected by gardens to harmonize with nature. At the entrance of the tea room, there is a small sliding door of 60 to 70 centimeters,
so guests should be careful when entering outside and kneel and crouch their heads. The reason for narrowing the entrance is to distinguish the outside world from that of the tea ceremony. Bowing ones head humbles the mind in preparation for the ceremony.
The spirit of a host
In chanoyu the host entertains the guests with delicious tea which the guests thankfully receive. This is a way of deepening their spiritual ties. Delicious tea is not just a matter of the taste of the tea, but includes the selection of utensils to illustrate the theme of the tea gathering, their expression of the season and the year’s events, the beauty of the host’s movements and the elegance of his conversation, and the consideration of like-minded guests. It is the flavour of an event that can happen only once in a lifetime.
The powdered green tea that is drunk in chanoyu is called ‘matcha’. This was being drunk in China in about the 12th century, but is now drunk only in Japan. About 1.5 grams of powdered tea is put into a tea bowl, hot water is poured onto it and then the tea is stirred with a chasen (tea whisk). Preparing tea in this way is called ‘ocha wo tateru’. ‘Tateru’ means to skilfully bring out the flavour and aroma of the tea. It is extremely good for the health.
It is said that the purpose of the tea ceremony is to give importance to the mind by teaching guests to abandon their ego.
A characteristic of the Japanese tea ceremony by formal style rather than simple daily tea drinking. Is the sublime, artistic peace or mine one can achieve through formal practice, differentiating it from simple, daily tea drinking.
In the tea ceremony, it is the basic mind posture of the tea ceremony that the mind is important, and lowering oneself and treating the guests. I feel the most important thing in hosting a guest is gratitude.
Animportant mindset to adopt throughout the process is one of humbleness & gratitude.
Daitokuji is a large walled temple complex in northern Kyoto and the head temple of the Rinzai sect’s Daitokuji school of Japanese Zen Buddhism. The complex consists of nearly two dozen subtemples and is one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens and to experience Zen culture and architecture.
Daitokuji was founded in 1319 and like most of Kyoto suffered severe damage during the Onin War (1467-1477). After its reconstruction, the temple grew into a center of the tea ceremony and became associated with tea master Sen no Rikyu, as well as the warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, both of whom were fond tea ceremony practitioners.
Around the many places in Daitokuji, my personal recommendation is the Daisen-in Garden.
Daisen-in (大仙院) is a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji, a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen in Buddhism, one of the five most important Zen temples of Kyoto. Daisen-in was founded by the Zen priest Kogaku Sōkō (古岳宗亘?) (1464–1548), and was built between 1509 and 1513. Daisen-in is noted for its screen paintings and for its kare-sansui, or zen garden.
Zen (Chinese: 禪; pinyin: Chán) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty as Chan Buddhism. Zen school was strongly influenced by Taoism and developed as a distinguished school of Chinese Buddhism. From China, Chan Buddhism spread south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and east to Japan, where it became known as Japanese Zen.
The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahayana thought, especially Yogachara, the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the Huayan school, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal.The Prajñāpāramitā literature and, to a lesser extent, Madhyamaka have also been influential in the shaping of the “paradoxical language” of the Zen-tradition.
Feel the spirit of Zen through a walk in the famous garden. Zen is famous for the practice of “zazen” or religious meditation. Daisen-in Shoin Temple Garden in the compound is a stone-and-sand type of garden called Karesansui, which expresses the flow of water from the mountains to the sea using only stones, sand, trees and plants, and no water.
Would you like to try to Feel the spirit of Zen?