The Way of Tea

The Way of Tea

A Way of Life

One day one of Rikyu's disciples asked him what was the most important thing to remember in presiding over a tea ceremony. The Master replied with a series of pieces of advice that seemed very ordinary. Rather disappointed, the student protested that he knew all that already: "Well then! If you can host a tea ceremony without ever forgetting any of the rules I have just spelled out, it is I who will become your disciple."

The most important features of the Chado are contained in the seven rules taught by the tea ceremony schools. The Way of Tea is not an art or a hobby, it is a way of life with its own values, ethics, and morals.

One of the foundations of the Way of Tea is Wabi. This entails a state of mind based on the ultimate moment where the yin (the negative condition of things, that expresses their completion or end) blends into the yang (the positive state that expresses beginnings). Yin and yang then form a unit, expressing a particular esthetic that may be characterized as "rustic simplicity". With this concept, adepts of the Way may achieve inner peace. By serving tea, they may spread this peace.

The Seven Rules behind the Way of Life

In my hands I hold a bowl of tea; I see all of nature represented by its green color. Closing my eyes, I discover green mountains and pure water deep within my own heart. As I sit alone drinking tea in silence, I sense that they have become a part of me. What greater marvel can there be for one who, like me, follows the Way of Tea?

Here is my reply: harmony between host and guest, created by the meeting of two hearts and the sharing of a bowl of tea.

Soshitsu Sen

©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture source: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.-C.