The Japanese Way of Tea (Chado)
Chado is the way of tea. Its history, known as tea ceremony (Chanoyu) is closely connected to Zen Buddhism. Like all arts that originate from the mind it is a way of spiritual practice.
Japanese monks travelled to China to study Buddhism and brought a tea plant back to Japan. During the Nara time (709-784) tea was drunk for the first time by Japanese monks as a medicine to stay awake during meditation.
The Buddhist abbot Eisei wrote the first essay about tea. Eisei not only described the health promoting properties of tea but also provided detailed instructions on how to prepare and drink tea. He raised the act of drinking tea to a religious ceremony, with gong strokes and the burning of incense. To this day, some of this religious context has remained.
All the various forms and transformations of drinking tea lead to the development of the tea ceremony in the 14th century in Zen monasteries. Sen no Rikyu defined the perfected form in the 16th century. This great Tea Master, who was also trained in Zen, devised a very simple form, reduced to the very essentials called "wabicha" that could be translated as "tea of tranquil taste". Sen no Rikyu established four principles that are still valid today and are the basis of the Way of Tea:
"Wa" - harmony (in the relationship between guest and host)
"Kei" - reverence (for people and all things)
"Sei" - purity (in the order of things and the heart)
"Jaku" - tranquility (through contemplation and its reflection on the community)
The tea ceremony follows precise rules and is celebrated with the highest attentiveness. Each tea meeting is unique; the momentary experience cannot be repeated. It is related to sitting in silence (Zazen). Both support each other and lead to peace of mind and a deep experience of reality and community. Chado is a life-long way of practise.
One of Rikuyu's students once asked:
"What exactly are the most important things that must be understood and followed during a tea meeting?"
"Prepare a delicious bowl of tea; build the charcoal fire so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers like they are growing in the field; in the summer, create a feeling of coolness, in the winter warm cosiness; prepare everything in time; prepare for rain and give your heart to those who come to meet you."
The student was not very happy with this answer because he could not find anything of superior value in it that would reveal the secret of this procedure.
"All of this I know already ..."
Rikyu replied: "If you can lead a tea meeting without digressing from any of the rules I named, I want to become your student!"
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