Ritual – Being in the Present Moment

Using the Buddhist rule of three, I am paying attention to the three accounts of the Japanese Tea ceremony that I have encountered in the last week or so.

  1. Cha-no-yu or challōthe Japanese Tea Ceremony introduced to Japan from China by Zen Buddhist Monks Eichu and Eisai around the 9th Century to help monks stay awake during meditation and it has been refined into a meditative art. The tea-house is constructed in a way that requires you to enter humbly on your knees (one of Usui-Sensei’s Gokai, according to Mrs Takata, was ‘Be Humble’). The ritual is designed to encourage simplicity, quiet and absence of ornament. The preparation and act of tea making is a devotion, requiring concentration and care. Attention to the ceremonial details encourages recognition of the present moment (just for today). It also encourages gratitude for the labour of many others, the tea-pickers and the people who produce and transport the tea to you. Other aspects of the tea ceremony are:
    1. Shuffling when walking on the tatami floor mats, so as to minimise causing a disturbance, and it forces you to slow down, posture must be erect to maintain balance and if dressed in a Kimono, there is restricted stride length
    2. Utensils are placed according to the ritual detail and often the Kanji – wa-kei-sei-jaku – would be hung to remind people of the four principles of cha-no-yu (harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity)
  2. With the development of the tea-house came the tea-gardens which provide a spiritual atmosphere for guests approaching the tea ceremony. Walking through the gardens suggests ‘the lonely precincts of a secluded mountain shrine’, giving a sense of Space and balance in the relationship of one object to another. Ponds and water encourage feelings of stillness and peace and a reminder of your place in Nature. In appreciating the beauty, Mindfulness is developed so you approach the tea-house in a calm and focused way in order to benefit from the sense of nurturing your Inner Peace and tranquillity
  3. Informal gatherings – chakai – is about hospitality and maybe the offering of confections or a light meal. On the other hand, chaji is a more formal gathering including a meal – kaiseki – with confections and can last up to four hours. Chadō is one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement along with kōdō (incense appreciation) and kadō (flower arrangement). Japanese tea drinking became a ‘transformative practice’ leading to the principles of wabi, representing Inner or Spiritual experiences in human lives, (characterised by simplicity, humility, imperfection and asymmetry and celebrates the beauty that time and care gives to other materials) and sabi (representing the outer or material side of life, often meaning ‘worn’, ‘weathered’ or ‘decayed’). Emphasis was thought to be the most effective means to Spiritual awakening and honouring imperfection, to be a healthy reminder to cherish the ‘Unpolished Self’ in the here and now, just as we are – the first step towards satori or enlightenment.

Later on, Takeno Jōōs’ concept of ichi-go, which became a philosophy that every meeting should be treasured as it can never be reproduced, led to architecture and gardens and art contributing to the principles of the more modern tea ceremony.

Usui-Sensei’s System of Reiki Ryōhō encourages the Reiki Practitioner to bring all the elements of his system into everyday life. I wonder what difference it would make if each of us brought a more conscious approach to making a cup of tea – using for instance Kaizen – as a way of making a difference in your life in 2020 – and taking one aspect of making a cup of tea more Mindfully – even if it is only recognising the simplicity of putting a teabag in a cup – may lead to an eventual slowing down and appreciation for the full devotion given to making a cup of tea, by the end of the year – by which time you may also have expanded this to eating more Mindfully and enjoying the benefits of a healthier Body and a more peaceful Mind/Mental/ Emotional outlook.


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