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
1. "Make a delicious bowl of tea" means not only that the tea must be of good quality and well prepared, but above all that it must be made according to the four great principles: Wa, harmony, Kei, respect, Sei, purity, and Jaku, tranquillity.
2. "Arrange the charcoal to heat the water" speaks of the degree of accomplishment of the host, the competence and sincerity brought to the work.
3. "Arrange the flowers the way they are in the fields" means that the host must choose the flowers with care, and arrange them so as to bring out all their vitality and beauty.
4. "Anticipate everything" means that everything must be carefully planned.
5. "In the summer, suggest coolness, in winter, warmth" aims for a certain atmosphere. This atmosphere will be suggested by the choice of scroll that is hung up, by the way the porcelain is decorated, and by the selection of flowers.
6. "Be ready for rain" means never to neglect anything in the preparations, and that one must be able to adapt to all circumstances.
7. "Show the greatest possible consideration toward your guests" teaches that both host and guest must act with the greatest respect one for the other. By acting together, they become one, in perfect harmony. The host prepares and serves the tea with all his soul, and the guest must receive it the same way, with delicacy, simplicity, and respect.
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.
©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture source: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.-C.