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14.1: Rinzai Zen Tea Ceremony

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    In the excerpt that immediately follows, a scholar of Japanese culture, Horst Hammitzsch, describes in detail one of his first experiences of ceremonial tea, Cha-no-yu.1

    A marvelous autumn day, the sky high and clear, illuminating in their deep red the leaves of the dwarf maples. The yellow foliage of the gingko trees, which enclose the garden against a range of hills, still radiates back the warmth of the dying day. Leaving the house forecourt, which is enclosed by a whitewashed wall capped with blue-grey tiles, I follow a path laid with large, round, dark-hued pebbles. Then I step through a gate made of bamboo wickerwork into the garden. Here I come to a halt. Is this garden really a world made by human hands? It is an entrancing landscape such as one finds in the coastal valleys of the Japanese islands, a landscape that reflects all the characteristics of those valleys. The visitor fancies that he can detect in the distance the roar of the branches of ancient pines.

    I follow the path, and it leads me to a simple hut with a shingle roof, nestling close against a grove of bamboo. Dark green moss spills from between its shingles. The place exudes an aura of secluded homeliness. I am the first guest to arrive at this machiai, or waiting lodge. Here I shall meet the other guests invited by my friend the Tea Master, in order to go on and experience the Tea Ceremony, chanoyu, together.

    The waiting-lodge is open towards the garden. It contains a simple bamboo bench. On this lie a few cushions of woven straw, and next to it stands an incense-burner. I sit down and look out across the garden. Here and there are groups of stones with moss and dwarf bamboo growing luxuriantly between them. The star shaped blooms of clumps of wild asters twinkle white, lilac and dark red among the tree trunks. The crystal clear water of a tiny stream hurries gaily over coloured pebbles, a symbol of the impermanence of all earthly existence. The panicles of the pampas-grass bow to the gentle autumn wind. The foliage of the bushes has already been thinned by this year's fall, and behind it there is a glimpse of woodwork of artful simplicity, betraying the presence of a small bridge. A picture of quiet solitude, of secluded tranquillity-such is this garden.

    Soon the other guests appear. They are four in all. An aged scholar of distinguished bearing, a well-known painter and his wife, and a merchant who has his fine taste to thank for his reputation as an art collector. We greet each other, bowing deeply from the waist. Few comments are exchanged. Merely the odd word of praise for the layout of the garden, for the beauty of the autumnal colours, for our host's exquisite taste. For the most part, however, we devote ourselves to the silent enjoyment of this hour of inner self-recollection, its solemnity deepened even further by the gentle rustling of the bamboo leaves in the breeze.

    . . . [We guests are] left alone and without a guide to follow the narrow path that leads through the beauty of the garden to the silent, secluded waiting-lodge. And with every step into the depths of the garden, the everyday world, with its bustling haste, fades from the mind. One steps into a world that is free of everyday pressures, forgets the whys and ceases to enquire into the wherefores. The deeper the guest penetrates into the garden, this world of solemn tranquillity, the freer he becomes of everyday cares. The other guests, too, seem to have become changed people. The scholar, normally so reserved, is more communicative; the painter has lost his strong tendency to engage in aesthetic argument, the merchant his preoccupation with business deals. All of them have forgotten the everyday things that normally rule their lives from early morning until late at night. Casting them off, they have committed themselves unreservedly to this world of silence, of inner freedom.

    After a short wait our host appears on the path that leads out of the grove of bamboos. With a serious solemn air he strides toward us. At a certain distance from us, he stops, bows low. That is his greeting. No word, no other gesture. Then he turns around and walks back along the path. Now he is ready to receive his guests-that is the meaning of this little ritual.

    A moment of stillness follows. Then the shokyaku, the principal guest, bows to the other guests and follows the host. In no particular order and at short intervals the others follow suit. I am the third guest to leave the waiting-lodge.

    The path first leads for a short distance through the bamboo grove. Here the cicadas are shrilling their last song. Then the path slopes gently downhill. Clumps of sweet clover are displaying their pale pink blooms to right and left of the path. But this is no garden path in the European sense. The visitor is guided by a series of single stones, each set at a distance of a pace from its predecessor. Tobiishi, stepping-stones, they are called. Between the stones, rich green moss and thick shiba-grass luxuriate. Other paths cross our own. Occasional smaller stones, laid on the stepping-stones, show the walker which direction is closed to him. These small stones, called tomeishi, are inviolable barriers. Slowly I follow the windings of the path, hesitating here and there to admire the skillfully-contrived "natural" views of the garden landscape. There is no longer the slightest hint of their manmade nature. Via a bridge I cross the stream and then find myself standing before a large, flat stone. A basin has been hewn out of its surface, and fresh springwater trickles softly into it out of a bamboo pipe. A simple bamboo scoop lies beside the basin. A short distance away there rises a stone lantern, grey with age, its gently curving roof festooned with plaited hangings.

    I take up the scoop, dip it into the water of the basin, fill it and take a sip of its contents to rinse out my mouth. The rest I let run over my hands. In this way I perform a symbolic purification. Now even the last dust clinging to me from that earthly world has been washed away. Clean and free, I can enter the world of tea and stillness.

    Only a few more steps and there-! am brought to a sudden halt-what a symphony of art and nature, what an ensemble of perfect imperfection! There it is, the chashitsu, the tea-room. Expression of an indescribable taste; artistic and yet not artificial, consciously conceived and yet so pure in form and so natural in construction that it seems almost unbelievable to behold. Can the human creative spirit have produced such a work of nature? One might call the tea-room a mere hut, but for the fact that it displays this extraordinary refinement of taste. A deeply overhanging thatched roof, thick with moss. The guttering a length of split bamboo. The walls clad half in reed-wattles, half in daub. The entrance a low slidingdoor covered with rice-paper of spotless white. In front of it, the stone threshold.

    Bending low [after having removed my shoes], I slip into the tea room, walk slowly to the alcove-tokonoma-which lies diagonally opposite the door, sink to my knees before it and bow deeply to the floor. Then I contemplate the flowerarrangement that stands in the alcove. In a bamboo vase stands a branch bearing red berries against a background of autumnal foliage to which, like drops of dew, pearls of water are clinging. Next, after another slight bow, I stand up and take my place beside the guest who preceded me. The guests sit with their backs to the rice-papered sliding-doors that shut off the tea-room from the garden.

    Not until the guests have all assembled does the host appear. Consequently I have time to examine the room. Four and a half tatami-mats of rice straw with a covering of rushes-cover the floor and at the same time establish the size of the tea-room as being some nine square metres in area. The flowers in the tokonoma provide the only decoration. In the centre of the room a piece of tatami has been left out. The space is occupied by the fire-pit with its dark wooden edging. Within it, a cone of fine ash has been brushed together to half conceal the glowing charcoal. A heavy iron kettle stands on a tripod over the fire, its colour bespeaking great antiquity. On a small stand I see an incense-burner and a small feather duster. Otherwise the room is without adornment. Unless, that is, one classes as adornment the exquisite graining of the woodwork that divides up the dark wall-surfaces, or the timber-clad ceiling.

    As soon as we guests have begun to converse softly-a sign that we have concluded our contemplation of the tea-room-the host enters. He does so through a sliding-door that screens off the mizuya, the room which is used for preparing the Tea Ceremony. Kneeling down, he bows deeply to his guests. Then he disappears through the door again, returning at once with various utensils-a basket of charcoal, lifting-rings for raising the kettle from the fire, and so on. He also brings in a pan of fine ash. Then he settles down at the fire and heaps more ashes on top of the charcoal. He also sprinkles incense on the fire. During these manoeuvres we have all moved closer to the fire and have been watching attentively. Now, however, we resume our original places. The chief guest asks the Tea Master if he may examine the incense-holder more closely. The Tea Master duly brings the holder to where the guest is sitting and sets it thoughtfully down on his fukusa, a small piece of silken cloth. This cloth has an important role to play in supporting the tea utensils while they are being examined. The chief guest unfolds his own fukusa, a rich lilac in colour, and transfers the vessel onto his own cloth. Then he examines it thoroughly, and finally it is passed from guest to guest, until the last one hands it back gratefully to the host. The latter goes back into the mizuya, only to return and announce that the "simple meal" will now be served. One at a time he brings in five trays, one for each guest. The number of courses is less than the usual Japanese ceremonial meal, but for that reason the dishes are of choicer quality and most tastefully prepared. Even the cutlery displays exquisite taste. With a slight bow we receive the trays and take them with both hands from the host. The drink is hot sake, rice-wine. Finally, sweets are handed around. And so the tea meal, kaiseki, comes to an end. With a bow the host invites his guests to rest a little, and withdraws. Bowing once more before the tokonoma, we leave the tearoom in the same order as we entered it and make our way back to the waiting-lodge.

    In the waiting-lodge a conversation strikes up, and the odd guest even lights up a cigarette or a little japanese pipe. However, after a short interval, the sound of a gong reverberates from the tea-room-long, penetrating gong-beats, five in number. Our conversation ceases on the first beat, and gives way to a reverent silence. One feels as though transported to a Zen temple in some secluded mountaincleft. The atmosphere is solemn.

    Once again the chief guest is the first to take the path back to the tea-room. We others follow in the same order as before. Between the stones and on the path itself stand small bamboo lanterns, for dusk is now falling. At the water-basin each once again performs the purification ceremony and then re-enters the tea-room.

    There, the flowers in the alcove have now given way to a hanging scroll. It bears a simple black-and-white drawing representing a broom made of bamboo shoots. On the fire in the fire-pit, the water in the kettle is gentle singing. On the tatami a mizusashi (a water jar) and the cha'ire (the tea caddy) are standing in their prescribed places. As soon as all the guests are present. the Tea Master appears. He is carrying the tea-bowl with both hands. In the tea-bowl lies the chasen, the tea-whisk (a brush made of bamboo) and the chakin, a narrow, white linen cloth. Across the tea bowl lies the tea-scoop, chashaku. Going out again, he then brings back a water-vessel for used water, koboshi, the water dipper, hishaku, and the lid-stand, futa'oki, for the hot lid of the kettle. The tea-whisk, the white linen cloth and the water-dipper are new and sparkling clean. The rest of the tea utensils are clearly of great age and bear witness to a highly-developed artistic taste.

    The Master sits down in the prescribed attitude, and the actual ceremony now begins. In a precisely predetermined series of gestures and movements, each individual part of the ceremony is performed in its correct sequence. The folding of the teacloth, the grasping of the water-dipper, the rinsing out of the tea-bowl with hot water, the movements of tea-whisking-all this is firmly established by tradition and is carried out strictly according to the rules of the school in question.

    While the host is attending to the initial preparations, the first guest takes one of the proferred sweet cakes and hands on the cake-stand to the next guest in the manner laid down. Then the host places the bowl of thick, green, whisked tea in front of the first guest. Mutual bows ensue, as well as a further bow on the part of the first guest to the one sitting next to him, as though to beg forgiveness for drinking before him. Only then does he take the tea-bowl, placing it on the palm of his left hand and supporting it with his right. He takes one sip, then a second and a third, each time gently swilling the bowl around. With a thin piece of white paper he then wipes clean the place on the rim from which he has drunk, and passes the bowl to the next guest, the prescribed bows once more being duly exchanged, And so on, in turn.

    One praises the taste of the tea, its strength, its color, and generally speaks of such things as will fill the host with pleasure. All conversation in the tea-room takes place on a level far from everyday things. One speaks of painters, poets, Tea Masters and their achievements, of the tastes and opinions of various periods, of the exquisite tea utensils.

    When the ceremony is at an end, the first guest asks if he may examine the utensils. And now there commences a detailed examination of the tea-bowl, the tea-caddy and the teaspoon. Questions and answers are exchanged between guests and host. We enquire about the origin and history of the tea utensils, the names of the craftsmen who made them, for every good piece has its own individual history....

    What impression did I take away with me from this first Tea Ceremony? ... The effect of the Tea Ceremony was so strong as to engender a feeling of self-surrender, a feeling of oneness with all others, an extraordinary feeling of satisfaction with myself and with my surroundings. . . .

    Hammitzsch begins to explain some of the meaning of the Tea Ceremony by reflecting on the lore that a person must assimilate to become a Tea Master.2

    . . . There are innumerable rules to master before one can proceed to the performance of such a ceremony.3 The rules are interlinked so closely, and in so organized a manner, that each always proceeds-must proceed--quite inevitably from the one before it. In fact the rules in their totality are so numerous, so comprehensive, that at first sight they seem to leave no room for the addition of any personal touch to either tea cult or Tea Ceremony. And yet such is not the case. . . .

    The most basic principle underlying these rules is that everything must be in harmony with its surroundings; it must be simple, yet eschew the actual natural state itself; it must be honest-thus its true nature and construction must be recognizable and devoid of all pretense. And just as everything must be in harmony with its surroundings, so it must also stand in a harmonious relationship with the wider environment-with the seasons, for example. Winter imposes different constraints from summer on fireplace, temperature and similarly on the form of utensils. All these fine gradations and distinctions are extremely well-founded. Even the attitudes and movements of host and guests are subject to rules whose detailed rubric cannot be gone into here. The real question we shall be trying to answer is, where does the Tea Way lead? . . .

    A Japanese will speak of chado, of the Tea Way. There are many such Ways [do] in Japan. There is a Way of Flowers, a Way of Painting, a Way of Poetry and numerous others. Each of the Japanese arts possesses its own Way. What inner significance, then, does the concept "Way" ... hold? ...

    A Way comes from somewhere and leads to somewhere. Its goal is the grasping of eternal values, of Truth, makoto. In the process it acts as a strict guardian of tradition-which carries a valuation very different to that in Europe. Thus, in the Japanese view, it maintains an unbroken link between past, present and future. On this foundation is based the Master-pupil relationship that is so important for the development of the Japanese arts. It is seen as vital that the pupil should start by achieving a sure mastery of traditional ways.

    In Japan, the learning of any one of the many arts is an almost wordless process. The Master supplies the model, the pupil copies it. This process is repeated again and again, month after month, year after year. For the Japanese learner this constitutes far less of a test of patience than it might seem to us. From childhood on, his method of upbringing has prepared him for it. The Master seeks nothing in the pupil, no gift, no genius. He simply trains the pupil fully to master the pure skills of the art in question. Once this mastery is attained, a day will eventually come when the pupil is able to represent perfectly what is there in his heart, precisely because the problem of formulation, of mere technical realization, no longer burdens him. Only when the heart has attained maturity does true spontaneity arise. Every art must, like every natural being, grow organically: it can never create by act of will.

    . . . [T]he Tea Way ... grants man a sense of liberation, a freedom that is simultaneously a form of security. It translates him into a condition where earthly things are no longer of any significance. It is the strict rules and laws that have to be mastered by the celebrant, the firmly laid-down sequence governing the performance of individual actions, that provide the basis for this sense of freedom. This arises once the practitioner of the Tea Way has become free of them in his heart, in that he himself has become the law, and the law himself.

    In connection with the ultimate grasping and experiencing of these basic teachings, we also have to bear in mind what the tea doctrine calls the secret transmission, hiden, which was handed on by the Master of each school to his spiritual heir-that is to say, to the future transmitter of his teaching tradition. The true "secret doctrine" has nothing in common with the outer forms by means of which it is transmitted. These are merely teaching aids, in the Buddhist sense, to help the disciple experience the inner meaning that cannot be expressed in words....

    At the present time, we often find the purely aesthetic side of the Tea Way very much overdone. In the process the Way loses much of its authenticity. The core of kei-wa-sei-jaku [the central principles of the Way of Tea, to be briefly explained below4] is lost-that mutual willing-heartedness which resides in a total surrender to the Whole, which exudes goodness and benevolence, and to which the aesthetic arrangements merely give external form. The essential point is not form, but the personality of the host and the goodwill that proceeds from his heart toward the guests....

    Implicit throughout the Tea Ceremony and its physical setting are principles, values, and allusions that directly connect it with the Zen Buddhist tradition in which it remains rooted. The very architecture of the tea room analogically corresponds to the architecture of the Zen monastery, writes Okakura Kakuzo:5

    The simplicity and purism of the tea-room resulted from emulation of the Zen monastery. A Zen monastery differs from those of other Buddhist sects inasmuch as it is meant only to be a dwelling place for the monks. Its chapel is not a place of worship or pilgrimage, but a college room where the students congregate for discussion and the practice of meditation. The room is bare except for a central alcove in which, behind the altar, is a statue of Bodhi Dharma, the founder of the sect or of Sakyamuni attended by Kashiapa and Ananda, the two earliest Zen patriarchs. On the altar, flowers and incense are offered up in memory of the great contributions which these sages made to Zen. We have already said that it was the ritual instituted by the Zen monks of successively drinking tea out of a bowl before the image of Bodhi Dharma, which laid the foundations of the tea-ceremony. We might add here that the altar of the Zen chapel was the prototype of the T okonoma,-the place of honour in a japanese room where paintings and flowers are placed for the edification of the guests.

    All our great tea-masters were students of Zen and attempted to introduce the spirit of Zennism into the actualities of life. Thus the room, like the other equipment of the tea-ceremony, reflects many of the Zen doctrines. The size of the orthodox tea-room, which is four mats and a half, or ten feet square, is determined by a passage in the Sutra ofVikramadytia. In that interesting work, Vikramadytia welcomes the Saint Manjushiri and eighty-four thousand disciples of Buddha in a room of this size,-an allegory based on the theory of the non-existence of space to the truly enlightened. Again the roji, the garden path which leads from the machiai to the tea-room, signified the first stage of meditation,-the passage into self-illumination . . . .

    Reprinted by permission of the publisher from Okakura Kakuzo, The Book ofTea (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1956), pp. 58-60.

    The religious significance of Tea Ceremony as embodying the essence of Zen Buddhism according to the Rinzai tradition is explored by Daisetz T. Suzuki:6

    What is common to Zen and the art of tea is the constant attempt both make at simplification. The elimination of the unnecessary is achieved by Zen in its intuitive grasp of final reality; by the art of tea, in the way of living typified by serving tea in the tearoom. The art of tea is the aestheticism of primitive simplicity. Its ideal, to come closer to Nature, is realized by sheltering oneself under a thatched roof in a room which is hardly ten feet square but which must be artistically constructed and furnished. Zen also aims at stripping off all the artificial wrappings humanity has devised, supposedly for its own solemnization. Zen first of all combats the intellect [strictly speaking, the intellect as dominant, not the intellect as such]; for, in spite of its practical usefulness, the intellect goes against our effort to delve into the depths of being.... Zen-or, more broadly speaking, religion-is to cast off all one thinks he possesses, even life, and to get back to the ultimate state of being, the "Original Abode," one's own father or mother. This can be done by every one of us, for we are what we are because of it or him or her, and without it or him or her we are nothing. This is to be called the last stage of simplification, since things cannot be reduced to any simpler terms. The art of tea symbolizes simplification, first of all, by an inconspicuous, solitary, thatched hut erected, perhaps under an old pine tree, as if the hut were part of nature and not specially constructed by human hands. When form is thus once for all symbolized it allows itself to be artistically treated. It goes without saying that the principle of treatment is to be in perfect conformity with the original idea which prompted it, that is, the elimination of unnecessaries.

    Tea was known in japan even before the Kamakura era (1185-1338), but its first wider propagation is generally ascribed to Eisai (1141-1215), the Zen teacher, who brought tea seeds from China and had them cultivated in his friend's monastery grounds. It is said that his book on tea, together with some of the tea prepared from his plants, was presented to Minamoto Sanetomo (1192-1219), the Shogun of the time, who happened to be ill. Eisai thus came to be known as the father of tea cultivation in japan. He thought that tea had some medicinal qualities and was good for a variety of diseases. Apparently he did not teach how one conducts the tea ceremony, which he must have observed while at the Zen monasteries in China. The tea ceremony is a way of entertaining visitors to the monastery, or sometimes a way of entertaining its own occupants among themselves. The Zen monk who brought the ritual to japan was Dai-o the National Teacher (1236-1308), about half a century later than Eisai. After Dai-o came several monks who became masters of the art, and finally lkkyu (1394-1481 ), the noted abbot of Daitokuji, taught the technique to one of his disciples, Shuko (1422-1502), whose artistic genius developed it and succeeded in adapting it to japanese taste. Shuko thus became the originator of the art of tea and taught it to Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-90), Shogun of the time, who was a great patron of the arts. Later, Jo-o (1504-55) and especially Rikyu further improved it and gave a finishing touch to what is now known as cha-no-yu, generally translated "tea ceremony" or "tea cult." The original tea ceremony as practiced at Zen monasteries is carried on independently of the art now in vogue among the general public...

    We can see now that the art of tea is most intimately connected with Zen not only in its practical development but principally in the observance of the spirit that runs through the ceremony itself. The spirit in terms of feeling consists of "harmony" (wa), "reverence" (kei), "purity" (sei), and "tranquillity" (jaku). These four elements are needed to bring the art to a successful end; they are all the essential constituents of a brotherly and orderly life, which is no other than the life of the Zen monastery.... While Zen teaching consists in grasping the spirit by transcending form, it unfailingly reminds us of the fact that the world in which we live is a world of particular forms and that the spirit expresses itself only by means of form. Zen is, therefore, at once antinomian and disciplinarian....

    Tranquillity, which is the last "principle" governing the art of tea, is the most pregnant one; where this is lacking, the art will lose its significance altogether. For each particular performance that goes to a successful conduct of the art is so contrived as to create the atmosphere of tranquillity all around. The massing of rocks, the trickling of water, the thatched hut, the old pine trees sheltering it, the mosscovered stone lantern, the sizzling of the kettle water, and the light softly filtering through the paper screens-all these are meant uniformly to create a meditative frame of mind. But in reality, the principle of tranquillity is something that emanates from one's inner consciousness as it is especially understood in the art of tea. This is where Zen Buddhism enters and turns the whole situation into an intimate relationship with the larger sphere of reality. The tearoom is a sense organ for the teaman to express himself. He makes everything in it vibrate with his subjectivity. The man and the room become one, and each speaks of the other. Those who walk into the room will at once realize it. Here is the art of tea. . . .

    Tranquillity is par excellence Buddhistic. The character (jaku in Japanese, chi in Chinese) has a special connotation in Buddhism. Originally, and nowadays also, jaku means "to be quiet," or "to be lonely," but when it is used in the Buddhist and especially in the Zen sense, it acquires a deep spiritual significance. It points to a life transcending mere worldliness, or to a realm beyond birth and death, which men of penetrating spiritual insight alone are able to inhabit. The Buddhist stanza generally found affixed at the end of a Mahayana sutra reads:

    All composite things are impermanent,
    They belong in the realm
    o f birth and death;
    When birth and death is transcended,
    Absolute tranquillity is realized and blessed are we.

    Suzuki, Daisetz T., Zen and japanese Culture. Copyright© 1959 by PUP. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press. Renewed 1987.

    Horst Hammitzsch goes even further to explain the way in which the Tea Ceremony is itself not just an expression of Zen but a "way" (do) of Zen, a practice of Zen that leads to Enlightenment. In doing so he translates from a revered classic on Cha-no-yu, Zencharoku, written by one of its great masters.7

    The Tea Way ... is a Way designed to bring man to the annihilation of the ego, to pave the way for the ultimate experience of enlightenment. And the wellknown saying on the unity of Tea Way and Zen doctrine, chazen-ichimi, thus has every justification. We are informed specifically about this close association in a posthumous work by Sen Satan, which was handed down under the title Chazendoitsumi, but later appeared under another title. A pupil of the Tea Master Takuan of Edo had transcribed it, and in the year 1818 it appeared as Zencharoku.

    The Zen Way as the heart of tea drinking

    The idea of making the Zen Way the heart of tea drinking originated with the Zen Master lkkyu of the Purple Heather. For it so happened that Shuko of the Shomyo temple in the southern capital of Nara became his spiritual pupil. He showed a special penchant for everything to do with tea and practised day after day. The Zen Master lkkyu, observing this, came to the conclusion that the Tea Way accorded excellently with the essential points of the Buddha's teaching. Thus arose the Tea WaYt which mirrors Zen ideas in the whisking of the tea, and causes us to reflect in our hearts on behalf of all living beings about the teaching of the Buddha. Thus there is no single aspect of the practice of the tea doctrine which deviates at all from the Way of Zen....

    If, consequently a person discovers within himself a serious inclination to Zen-tea, then given a willingness to practise, he has already fulfilled the main prerequisite of our Way. Whisking tea is Zen practice in the truest sense, and a spiritual exercise leading to the clear understanding of our own deeper nature. When it comes to the essence of the doctrine, as Sakyamuni taught it for forty years, the heart is the sole valid means of bringing about the breakthrough of absolute enlightenment on behalf of all worlds and sentient beings. Apart from this there is no other possibility. Sakyamuni presented his teaching in various ways, using moralizing sermons, parables and speeches as his teaching aids. The tea doctrine likewise recognises as valid the use of teaching aids, in its case in the form of the procedure for preparing tea. It is this that now becomes the method of contemplation and the means of revealing the depths of the self....

    Anyone who scorns the spiritual exercise of Zen-tea, designed as it is to lead to the knowledge of the law of life, is like a blind man who destroys himself in despair, or like a person who beats himself with his own fists or belabours his own head. The followers of our school must fulfill this one, great, ethical duty with total reverence, as they practise that true tea drinking which has about it the taste of Zen.

    The practice ofthe tea-doctrine

    The essence of the Tea Way lies, not in selecting tea utensils according to their value, nor in discussing their form while the tea is being prepared, but only in entering the state of contemplation in which one spontaneously handles the utensils correctly, and in attaining the religious attitude of heart through which we may grasp the Buddha-nature within us. Now in this respect the religious practice of devoting oneself to the Tea Way as a means of seeking the basis of one's own being is without compare. Possessing a heart that is not shackled to outer things, and handling the tea utensils in this light, is the purpose of one's contemplation. Even if it is only a matter of the handling of the tea-scoop, let a person give his heart unreservedly to this tea-scoop and think o f nothing else whatever; that is the correct way o f going about it from beginning to end. Even when one lays the tea-scoop aside, let it be done with the same deep devotion of the heart as before. And not only does this apply to the tea-scoop-it is similarly valid for the handling of every utensil.

    On the true meaning of the tea doctrine

    The true meaning of the tea doctrine is equally the true meaning of Zen doctrine. Anyone who sets aside the true meaning of Zen doctrine will find no meaning in the tea doctrine. One who has no taste for Zen likewise has no taste for tea. On the other hand, the meaning of the tea doctrine as conceived of in profane circles is the mere cultivation of a kind of aestheticism....

    The quest of the Tea Way, then, is nothing less than the quest for ... [an ultimate, that is to say, a religious] transformation-in the course of which one must allow nature to have its way, and which may not be consciously sought.

    We follow these laws, and when we enter the tea-room we entrust ourselves to the spontaneous workings of nature, renounce our tiny knowledge and draw near to the absolute emptiness and silence: that is what we have to realize from beginning to end. Then, again, the distinguishing marks ofZen- tea are but few and there is no warrant for practising it as something secret or hidden. It meanwhile, one is drawn to the various tea practices that have been mentioned, and wastes one's time hoping for Buddhahood, then one is not realizing the true Way-and when, in any case, would one then attain the mystery oftransformation? But ifone preserves the true form ofZen-tea and strives after it in religious devotion and practice, then one will enter auto- matically into the mystery o f transformation.

    From Zen in the Art of the Tea Ceremony by Horst Hammitzsch, translated by Peter Lemesurier, Translation copyright© 1958 and 1977 (abridged version) by Otto Wilhelm Barth Verlag. Translation copyright 1979 by Peter Lemesurier. Used by permission of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

    This page titled 14.1: Rinzai Zen Tea Ceremony is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.