Chinese tea drinking is simply about the taste of teas, I was once told. Whilst Japanese tea ceremony aims to cultivate the person as a whole.
Tea practice can be subtle. I noticed a habit of control that hijacked other’s opportunity to learn. Some food for thought.
Japan stepped into a new era – Reiwa (Enabling Harmony) – when Crown Prince took the throne on May 1st. “What is Harmony?” has been on my mind since a friend said, “It went really smoothly. It was harmonious.” she said of a New Years tea gathering we helped host. Harmony has great significance in Japanese tea ceremony. As a Japanese Tea student, we are introduced to the concept of Harmony early on – a four character scroll, summarizing the four tenets of Chado Wa (Harmony) Kei (Respect) Sei (Pure) Jaku (Tranquility) written in large ink brush script would hang in the centre of the alcove – like a Buddhist master transmitting his teachings, reminding the student to hold these tenets of the practice to heart. Despite trays of exquisitely arranged food of more than 10 items each needing to be assembled, bowls of tea to be whisked and served, sake to be poured and a few mishaps thrown-in, the new year tea gathering flowed like clockwork. Everyone on our service team stepped up to complete …
As an ‘outsider’ to Japanese culture, I notice a stark contrast in how Japanese tea ceremony is taught versus how I am used to being “taught.” Growing up in Hong Kong and the US, I am used to being “directed”, “instructed” most of my life. So it was eye-opening to observe teaching through discovery.
We got a slap on our hands without an actual slap. I realise that we judged him from how he looked, not how he was as a person. And that was surely not the Way of tea, or the Way of Life in any manner. Big lesson learnt.