We began with a review of the four principles of Chado, or Chanoyu for our second class on Japanese tea ceremony. I had been unable to recall all of those principles in the last blog post since taking notes and photos during the lessons are not encouraged. Total focus is demanded.
The four principles of Chanoyu are wa (harmony), kei (respect), sei (purity) and jaku (tranquility). Harmony is cultivated by using teaware and other articles that are in consonance with the season; by judicious selection of guests; and also through appropriate pairing of food and confections both with the season and the tea.
Respect is pretty much front and centre of the ceremony. One has to bow many times during the ceremony, and it is not just to each other but even to the tea articles! This kind of respect seem to go much deeper the politeness or civility of a genteel gathering. It appears to be based on a humility and that makes us respect everything around us; acknowledgement that we are not the centre of the universe, but just a small part of something much larger.
Purity is emphasized by ritualistic cleaning of the tea articles. Traditionally, before entering a Japanese tea house, the place where the tea ceremony is performed, guests are required to wash their hands. Although a traditional tea house is spartan, there is great emphasis on having it spick and span. Nishida-Mitchell Sensei, who has been giving us the lessons, pointed out that that all this cleansing is meant to be reinforce the idea of keeping our inner lives “pure.”
The final principal of tranquility is achieved after all the other principles are attained, said Sensei. Emerging out of Buddhist practices, the tea ceremony has deep spiritual motivations. Although there is much aesthetic pleasure to be had in the ceremony itself, a lot of that experience addresses our spiritual aspect and aspirations.
For our second class we were taught how to clean or purify the natsume and chasaku. Natsume is a small lacquer container where you store the matcha during the ceremony. The natsume comes with beautiful designs on them, and you choose according to the season. Some of these containers are works of art and can cost hundreds of dollars!
The chasaku, or the bamboo scoop that you use to take the matcha out of the natsume, seem to be humblest article around. But when you have to clean it with great care that involves several precise movements using the fukusa or the napkin, you suddenly begin to realize the immense value of this article in your hand. You begin to appreciate the flowing lines of the chasaku and the regal sweep of its tip. And as Sensei put it, it becomes a part of you.
We finished our class with a fine bowl of matcha whisked up by Rie san. As I watched Rie San whisking, I realized I still have a long way to go on the way of tea. I look forward gratefully to the next weekend's class.