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Minh Phan RSP Final

Chado: Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Steps toward World Peace
The number of American military casualties in Iraq recently hit the three-thousand mark. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, countless Iraqi lives were lost as violence caused by sectarian differences between Sunnis and Shiites ravaged the country. Around the world, more news of violence continues to surface. In the fall of 2006, deaths from the thirtyfour day war between Hezbollah and Israel totaled around one thousand. Everyday, children in Uganda are pitted against each other as the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) abducts and train them as child soldiers to be used in the Ugandan Civil War. At home, all is not well. In the midst of the immigration debate, ethnic tension deepened by misunderstanding fueled unnecessary police brutality at an immigration rally in Los Angeles last May. Everywhere in the world it seems, sectarian violence and crimes committed between those with different beliefs are on the rise. With such hostility in today’s time, an important question is warranted: is there a realistic method that can help to prevent, reduce, or perhaps even resolve said conflicts? It is well known that tea can serve a medicinal purpose, helping to prevent disease and to promote longevity. According to Fling, tea contains the flavonoid EGCg “a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage, which is believed to contribute to over 40 diseases” (Fling 34). Drinking a cup of tea once a day can lower cholesterol and blood pressure level, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and help prevent cancer, strokes, and other chronic or fatal disease (Fling 34). However, the act and ritual of serving tea can be important as well. Sen Soshitsu, the current fifteenth head of the Urasenke school of chado (the tea way), has promoted his motto “Peace through sharing a bowl of tea”, believing that the Japanese tea ritual not only has the power to foster peace within the individual but also between individuals as well (“Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World”). This motto, therefore, brings the topic of this paper to a question first raised during an interview with the grandmaster himself: In the post-Cold War world, we have seen the outbreak of many regional conflicts around the globe. During these turbulent periods, how can chado help to create a feeling of peacefulness and a spirit of sharing in people's hearts (“Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World”)? This article proposes that such use of chado is not only possible but also representative of its application in the past. Although opponents point out that the “tea way” can both create interpersonal tension as well as relieve it, “the sincerity and faithfulness with which one follows the principles of tea seems to make all the difference” (Plutschow). The tea ritual has its roots in China where the act of drinking tea was already popular long before the birth of Christ. During the eighth and ninth centuries, tea was brought back to Japan by traveling Buddhist monks and was generally enjoyed by the nobles of the imperial court. At this time, tea was in the form of dancha and its method of preparation consisted

simply of “boiling tea [and] adding ginger to suit one’s taste” (“History of Tea”). However, according to the San Francisco Urasenke Foundation, this type of preparation did not “agree with the Japanese taste because no further records refer to tea for about two hundred years”. Later, around 1191 A.D, Eisai, a Japanese monk who was studying in Chinese temples, brought back a new form of Buddhism, Zen, and a new form of tea, matcha, which he presented in his book Kissa Yojoki, a Japanese interpretation of Chinese tea etiquette. Thus begins the introduction of tea and Zen and their transformation within the Japanese culture. As time passed, the art of chado or chanoyu began to evolve to what it is today. In fourteenth century Japan, tea drinking was prevalent in both solemn ceremonies of Zen temples, where tea played an important role in religious rituals, as well as in taverns where gambling took place. By the fifteenth century it had developed into an intricate process. It is in the sixteenth century, however, that Sen Rikyu, the most famous of all tea masters, began to set forth the “elements, architecture, and art” that eventually developed and still remain relevant to what is called chado today. Therefore, in order to understand the basis of this article, we must take a closer look, a history in context, at the purpose of the tea ritual during Sen Rikyu’s time. According to Herbert Plutschow, an important concept that can be applied to the tea ceremony is Rene Girard’s theory that a ritual exists “as a means to create order over the lurking dangers of violence and chaos”. With this in mind, it is reasonable to say that a ritual is a reaction “to something that is dangerous and negative”, and attempt to create order by subjecting “violence within ritual control and limits”. If rituals didn’t exist to keep confusion and disorder in check, “potentially chaotic behavior might otherwise get the upper hand in society”, and thus prevents humans to live peacefully (Plutschow). This idea is relevant to the tea ceremony since it was during the Warring States, a period of fighting among daimyo for the control of Japan, when Sen Rikyu first served as tea master for the daimyo Obunaga and later the daimyo Hideyoshi who succeeded in uniting Japan. Tea during this time was used to create a sense of “consensus and peace”. Tea huts and tearooms became sacred, known as the only place where samurais would voluntarily leave their weapons at the door. The entrance to the tearoom consists simply of a low opening, symbolizing “a place of tranquility where warlords, merchants, and monks met on equal footing to relish silence, the beauties of a garden, and a simple bowl of tea”. In Plutschow’s words, “battlefields and tearooms were strict opposites, symbolizing respectively, war and peace”. The warlord Hideyoshi made good use of such opposites, electing to have a portable teahouse on the battlefield itself. The practice of chado before battles in turn served two purposes: one to unnerve the enemies and two as a tool for samurais to “center themselves and be prepared to fight and to die” in the battle that will ensue. The art of tea continued after Sen Rikyu’s death. At the end of the Warring States, when Hideyoshi finally brought Japan under one rule, the practice of chado helped usher in an era of peace (Plutschow). It was Kakuzo Okakura, in his book The Book of Tea, who first spoke of chado in context of religion, writing that the way of tea “is a religion of aesthetics” (1). Echoing Okakura’s words, grandmaster Sen Soshitsu said in 1991 in his book Tea Life, Tea Mind that it is the “secularization of Zen and is compatible with all religious faiths” (12). Although all of these

statements are correct, it is Fling who best summarizes the versatility and diversity of the influences on the way of tea with respect to religion: “Chado’s history is intimately bound with Zen Buddhism, and it has also been related to Taoist balance of yin and yang, Shinto purity, and Confucian propriety” (30). Thus, this brings to focus the four main principles of tea—wa (harmony), kei (respect), sei (purity), and jaku (tranquility)—a precedent first set by Sen Rikyu, and how they can help the practitioners of chado “realize tranquility in communion with others within the environment” (Sen Soshitsu 41). Wa represents the Taoist concept of harmony with nature and with people. In order to prevent possible conflicts, the hosts select guests with temperaments that will coincide and be harmonious with each other. Even the more simple acts associated with the tea ceremony, from choosing the utensils to presenting the food, must be done in order to foster harmony not only between the guest and the host but with nature itself. As noted by Fling, the ideal is expressed by the phrase muhinshu, “with mu referring to ‘nothingness’, hin to the ‘guest’, and shu to the ‘host’, thus indicating an empty selflessness, free from desire to impress or compete, and enabling a merging and transcending of individual egos and roles” (30). It is with wa that the first steps towards resolving interpersonal conflict must be taken. Kei relies on the Confucian doctrine of respect through sincere thoughts and gentle words. Though all are equal in the tearoom, the practice of bowing and turning of utensils help to foster respect and minimize potential for conflict. Such respect “recognizes an emptiness, impermanence, constant fluctuation, interpenetration, and oneness behind the apparent separateness and multiplicity of people and things and thus includes an openness to nature and objects as well as to persons” (Fling 30). The hospitality of the host and the concern of the guests for each other and the host stem from this idea. Purifying acts in the ceremony not only serve a practical purpose but also a spiritual one. The Shinto concept of sei represents not only the “actual and ceremonial purity of the setting and utensils”, but also, more importantly, the “purity of the heart” (Fling 31). When offering tea to each other, the host and the guests must have pure intentions, “without desire for gain or favor”. Steps included in the tea ceremony are symbolic reminders of sei. The mirror position of the guests’ and host’s water ladle “mirror the heart rather than the face, to bring awareness to preparing the tea with a pure heart” (Fling 31). Purity of the senses also comes from washing one’s hands and face while listening to the sounds of the garden at the end of the roji, a path that leads up to the tearoom. When combined together, wa, kei, and sei set forth jaku or satori, the “enlightenment” often sought out by the practitioners of Buddhism and in particular those of the Zen sect. Zen monks believe that satori comes from avoiding the use of reason and using meditation to achieve mushin or no mind. As mentioned before, the ideal of satori is reflected in the roji path, a reference to the Buddhist tale of “escaping from the burning house which is the world, and a middle gate beyond which one is supposed to leave the mundane world behind” (Plutschow). The “mini-enlightenment” that one experiences during tea is a result of harmony, respect, and

purity that have accumulated, leading to less anger, conflict, and violence. According to Fling, satori “may differ in quality or duration, be experienced more than once”, and should be treated as the beginning rather than the end product of the tea way (31). By following these principles set forth by Sen Rikyu, the individual should experience a “profound personality change with great wisdom and compassion for all” (Fling 31); and, as a result, we cannot help but bow to each other (“Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World”). Though different in detail, every chaji (tea gathering) contains three essential parts: the preparation, the ceremony, and the departure. When guests arrive at the location, they are guided towards a machiai, a waiting room where the host’s assistant will give each guest a sample cup of hot water taken from the water in the kettle which will be used to make tea. Then, the guests will walk through to the garden where they are able to get rid of the dust that had accumulated on them before being greeted by the host. By walking through the garden, the guests are in fact cleansing their senses through “the sweet sound of trickling water and birdsong, and the visual pleasure of trees, plants and blossom.” As said above, the door entering the tea house is only 36 inches high, a symbol that in the “way of the tea,” everyone is equal. The small size of the tearoom itself is a tribute to the influences of Zennism. To a person well versed in the art of tea and Zen, “a small, cramped room…can be overcome to represent infinite space and freedom” (Plutschow). In addition, the tiny tearoom also embodies the wabi esthetic which in turn advocates a sense of “frugality, simplicity, even poverty and ultimately to human equality” (Plutschow). With wabi comes humility, a “negation of the self” and an acceptance of others. Once inside the tearoom, the guests sit or rather kneel on tatami (straw mats), while the host starts a charcoal fire. In preparation for the tea ceremony, kaiseki, a light vegetarian meal consisting of a varied selection of food and sake, will be served. When the meal is finished, the guests step outside to take a quick break while the host puts the finishing touches on the preparation for the tea ceremony. Then, the guests return to the tearoom to begin the actual tea brewing and drinking. If Zen influences the architecture of the tearoom, it is Taoism that dictates the procedures used during the brewing of tea. The host prepares the tea in accordance with the rules of the Five Elements as designated by Tao: Charcoal "wood" is used to build a "fire" which is used to boil "water" in an iron kettle "metal" which, in turn, is used to make Tea in a bowl "earth." "Earth" is furthermore represented in the ashes surrounding the burning charcoal and, in some forms of Tea, in the brazier. The tea scoop and ladle also represent "wood" and, because Tea is made in harmony with all these elements, it becomes the essence of the universe. (Plutschow) Sweet cake with bean curd is often served as a snack while the guests and hosts drink their tea. As the guests leave at the end, they would convey their appreciation and thank the host for the compassion and generosity that he or she has shown.

Recently, at a tea conference sponsored by the Urasenke Foundation, Sen Soshitsu was asked if "if the little respectful acts in the tea ritual can help transcend national borders, ethnic disputes, and racial discrimination”? He replied with the belief that the spirit of hospitality can transcend all: “to get to know another person, we invite that person to share food and drink with us, something which is a universal act”. Indeed, “heartfelt hospitality” on an individual level, is the rewarding gift that we can offer our guests, and is something that is present in all cultures, not only that of Japan (“Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World”). Conflict and turmoil between and among people of different beliefs and opinions have been in existence since the beginning of human civilization. To believe that chado, by itself, would serve as a universal remedy for all these events would, in the words of Sen Soshitsu himself, “be contrary to the principles of tea itself”. However, the power of tea should not be underestimated. The time that Sen Rikyu lived in was much more turbulent then it is now but the power of tea still managed to create a form of “social interaction where people from all ranks in society…to come together in a haven for peace”. The act of sharing a bowl of tea between two people can have a profound effect on their opinions of each other. To pour one’s heart in a bowl of tea and to willingly accept someone’s hospitality create a sense of peace that will “spread like ripples on the surface of a lake” from two to four to an ever increasing number of people (“Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World”). By sincerely following chado and its four main principles—wa, kei, sei, and jaku—one will surely “manifest compassion for the Many”, and, as a result, help humanity succeed in reducing and eventually resolving potentially harmful conflicts that have claimed many lives thus far (Fling 36).

Works Cited

Fling, Sheila. "Psychological Aspects of the Way of Tea." Japan Studies Association Journal (1998): 29-36. "History of Tea." 2003. San Francisco Urasenke Foundation. 08 Jun 2007 <>. Okakura, Kakuzo. The Book of Tea. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1998. Plutschow, Herbert. "An Anthropological Perspective on the Japanese Tea Ceremony." Anthropoetics 1999 <>. Sen, Soshitsu. Tea Life, Tea Mind. New York: John Weathermill Inc., 1991. "Tea: A Tradition that Promises to Bring Both Vigor and Tranquility to the World." Noble Harbor. 19 Jun 2007 <>.