Monday, December 26, 2011

The essentials of The Way of Tea

What are the essentials of The Way of Tea?  One day, a disciple asked his master.  The master was Rikyu, an ancient tea master who perfected The Way of Tea.   He answered it with the seven theorems, which are well-known as the essentials of The Way of Tea.  I think they seem too common, and also vague.

The seven essentials of The Way of Tea by Rikyu
1.    Prepare the tea just right
2.    Place the charcoal appropriately to boil the water
3.    Arrange the flowers as if they were in the fields
4.    Make it seem warm in winter, and cool in summer
5.    Do things ahead of time
6.    Have umbrellas ready even if it is not raining
7.    Care about the guests

“I’ve already known those things enough” the disciple said.  Rikyu replied “If you can do them all, I will be your apprentice.”  Rikyu probably wanted to say that doing basics naturally and perfectly is the most difficult.  Knowing and doing are different.

The abovementioned thought might be the first thing that Rikyu wanted to tell, but I still think that some of the theorems are ambiguous.  Do you get what Rikyu really want to say?   What does “Prepare the tea just right” really mean?  You can interpret it superficially, but it might have a great message behind.  I translated the seven essentials literally without getting my personal perspective involved.  So, I’d like you to interpret Rikyu’s words yourself.  There are different interpretations and opinions on each theorem.  I would like to introduce mine on the future entries. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello,Kohei,

    this sounds like one of the short Zen stories where you get caught in paradoxes and double meanings as a way to an ''enlightenment''.l think The way of tea beautifully reflects this through a complex ceremony and approach to a tea pottery.To make a trivial act of pouring hot water over green leafs for the highest form of art.ln an essence,to search for the meaning of life and existence in the Nature,her laws,ordinary life and everyday activities.Not somewhere beyond.To see the beauty in simple things we let to pass by us too often.l think master Rikyu's answer would make a good mental training for a Zen disciple but may prove to be a pretty hard nut for us,ordinary folks.:)...l think you're very right,it may be very prone to one's own interpretation due to its ambiguousness.

    Best regards.