10/13/2013 – Tea Dharma

Payton engaged the sangha with Tea Ceremony today,and offers these comments by way of perspective.

Making tea, like anything, can be used as a target of meditation.
There is a certain ritual nature in making and drinking tea
(especially loose tea) that we can use to focus our minds on the
present. Honor this moment – which is unique and will never happen
again. As written by Shunryu Suzuki, the old Zen master, “Treat every
moment as your last; it is not preparation for something else.” Or, in
Japanese, Ichi-go, Ichi-e, literally, “one time, one meeting”.

A tea ceremony can be short, just enough time to make some tea, and
can be conducted in silence. The essence of the tea ceremony is
simplicity. No clutter, just simple tools. Each gesture, like all the
materials involved, is reduced to the essential. In the ladling of the
water and the whisking of the tea we can experience the
moment-by-moment nature of life. Sen Rikyu, who formalized this style
of tea ceremony 600 hundred years ago, wrote, “When you hear the
splash of water drops that fall into the stone bowl, you will feel
that all the dust of your mind is washed away.” Please take this time
to pay attention; to your breathing, to your neighbors, to the grass
and the trees, and to the sounds around you.

In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks about
the importance of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes”. He writes,
“If while washing dishes we think only of the cup of tea that awaits
us… then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes’. What’s
more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes… If
we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink
our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be
thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands.”

Near 1906, Kakuzo Okakura wrote The Book of Tea, which explores the
history and philosophy of “teaism” as he saw it relating to East and
West. According to Okakura, “Teaism is essentially a worship of the
imperfect, as  it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible
in this impossible thing we know as life.”

Hopefully when we next make a cup of tea during our busy day, we can
really be there for it, inhaling its aroma, tasting its flavor
(pleasant or not!), and experiencing for perhaps just a short moment
the reality that surrounds us.