Classic Tea Ritual


Chado…. “The Way of Tea”

Is There More to Boiling Water?

Tea Master Sen Rikyu spoke of tea as simply boiling water, making tea and drinking it. Pretty simple stuff. He also went on to set the four standards for Chado, “The Way of Tea”: WA KEI SEI JAKU(harmony, respect, purity and tranquility). When qualifying the tea ceremony using those four parameters, boiling water, making tea and drinking it suddenly doesn’t seem very simple anymore. Yet the art of Tea has been ritualized in Japan and all over the world. Tea Ceremonies can range in duration from one to four hours. Protocols were developed and adapted as Chado “The Way of Tea” took on profound meaning and purpose.

Some might be hard pressed to understand The Way of Tea as anything more than drinking a hot beverage, others find The Way of Tea epitomizes the true nature of beauty, humanity, awareness of self and the people and things around them.

Traditionally, Tea Ceremonies are conducted in “houses” specifically built for the purpose. The “so-an” style house was entered by means of a very small opening.. Regardless of one’s rank, entrance could only be accomplished by crawling inside. Thus, from the onset hierarchy was abolished and the participants to the ceremony would symbolically become equals.

The structure did not make use of windows for the purpose of gazing at beautiful views. The Chado was to be the center of focus. Lighting was controlled by the use of small windows located in such a manner that the utensils for Chadobe shown in the most flattering and pleasant manner.

Tatami (straw mats approximately three feet wide, six feet long and two inches thick) would determine the actual size of the structure. Tea rooms are typically described as being anywhere from 1 to 12 mats in size. These mats were kept off the ground by a distance of about eighteen to twenty inches which served to keep the structure cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Even the layout of the Tatami follows strict protocol. The mats would never be laid out in a manner causing the four corners to meet. During the days of the samurai, this “cross” pattern created by the intersection of four mats would create weakness, a place easily permitting the insertion of a knife from beneath the floor.

In all tea rooms you will find a tree trunk post. This post does not serve as a structural element and is not located in the center of the room. The reason for this post element can be traced back to one the oldest Shinto shrines in Izumo which had sacred posts as part of their architecture.

The ceramic ware as well as all of the utensils for the ceremony need not be elaborate works of art however, they are used exclusively for Chado. Some commonly used items: Chaboko (tea chest or box), Chasen (wisk), Chawan (tea bowl), Kensui (waste water bowl), Mizusashi (water jar).

The types of tea used are entirely dependent on the host and the degree of formality of the ceremony. Teas such as: Koicha (thick and pasty), Matcha (powered green tea) and Usucha (a foamy green tea) are probably the most traditional. Sweets are commonplace during the Chado. Kaiseki (food art) techniques are employed in the preparation and presentation of the customary sweets for the ceremony.

The space within the tea house is kept very simple so as not to distract the host or the guest from the items intentionally placed within the house that serve as focus. Flower arrangements known as Chabana are artfully placed so that they are lit and viewed in the most appealing manner possible. The spirit of the art of Chabana is to create arrangements that mirror they way they would look in their natural setting while using the least possible elements to achieve the goal. Interestingly, flowers that bloom for only one day are used to heighten the importance of that particular tea ceremony. One or more well placed scrolls are also included in traditional tea house decor. These scrolls might be scenic or may simply illustrate the symbols for WA KEI SEI JAKU.

The following, written by Kimika Soko Takechi and Larry Sokyo Tiscornia most aptly describe WA KEI SEI JAKU:
“WA (harmony) is the ultimate ideal for human beings. It is the positive interaction between the host and guest in a tea gathering or among people in any situation in life. Tea is the sharing between the host and guest and is not a solitary pursuit. Harmony extends to nature as well and to tangibles such as tea utensils, everyday utensils and life itself. True harmony brings peace.”

“KEI (respect) is the ability to understand and accept others, even those who we may be in disagreement with. When we are kind to others, and can humble ourselves, we can receive respect. In tea the host thinks of the guest and the guest of the host. It is this continued sharing and consideration that makes the tea gathering both memorable and successful. Ideally, all are of the same rank in the tea room. It is important to treat everything and everybody with the same respect. Treat utensils of various pedigree the same. The price of an object should not dictate how it is treated. Extend a pure heart and true respect can be realized.”

“SEI (purity) is the ability to treat oneself and others with a pure and open heart. This is really the essence of tea training. This purity is not one of absolute cleanliness but one of pure heart. With a pure heart, harmony and respect can be realized. When the tea garden is cleaned ones heart and soul are also being purified. When one wears clean clothes this purity also exists. A pure heart is not showy but natural. Sen Rikyu’s ideal of purity was the natural look of the garden after it was cleaned and a few leaves from a tree fell onto the freshly manicured moss.”

“JAKU (tranquility) is the point in ones training and practice where a level of selflessness is reached. While on the one hand it is the ultimate goal, on the other it is the beginning once again. A true master reaches this highest level and then putting the ideals of harmony, respect and purity into practice, begins with a fresh and enlightened heart. At this point the endless possibilities of life can be realized.”

Chado”The Way of Tea”….. as it might relate to Dominance and submission

If one uses the tea ceremony as an example of submissive service, some very startling revelations begin to surface. One of the most profound aspects of the tea ceremony is that the guest is responsible for as much as the host. Everything you have read so far indicates that the design and layout of the tea house, the utensils, the flowers and scrolls, the lighting, the mind set and the tea itself are solely the domain of the one serving the tea. This surely must mean that the guest (perhaps the Dominant) need do nothing more than take a seat and have some tea. This assumption immediately nullifies WA KEI SEI JAKU which is mandatory to the entire process and experience.

In order for harmony, respect, purity and tranquility to be manifest the Dominant is obligated to enter the ceremony as the equal to the one in service.

Let’s look for a moment at the protocol for the guest to a tea ceremony.
Entering the tea room:
Sit down in front of the fusuma or sliding door.
Open the fusuma.
Place your hands on the tatami mat.
Look into the tea room.
Edge your way into the tearoom (remember the doors are intentionally made small so one must almost crawl inside)

View the utensils in the tea room: Starting with your right foot, walk into the alcove area (where the host locates the small table)
Make a formal bow.
View the scroll…View the flowers…View the vases that contain the flowers.
Make a formal bow.
Make your way toward the kama (kettle) by crossing the kayoi-datami, the ro-datami, and the dogu-tatami (meaning walk in a specific pattern across the tatami) being careful not to step on the tatami edging and making sure the right foot is always crossing the plane of the tatami edging.

Taking of the sweet:
Upon arrival at the kama (kettle) the host will ask that you partake of the sweet.
Bow and respond that you will now partake of the sweet.
Take the container for the sweets (kashiki) in both hands and raise it in honor and thanks to the host and place it back on the table.
Take a piece of kaishi (paper) and place it in front of you with the folded edge facing you.
Using your right hand, take a piece of the dry sweet which is furthest from you and place it on the kaishi.
Using your right hand again, take a piece of the dry sweet which is nearest to you and place it also on the kaishi.
Eat the sweets.

Drinking usucha (thin tea)

As the hostess puts out the tea, stand and beginning with your right foot cross the tatami again to the area of the tea table.
Sit down and take the chawan (tea bowl)
Stand up again and this time beginning with your left foot cross the tatami edging once again and return to the area of the kama (kettle)
Bow and say, “thank you for the tea” to the host.
Sit and take the chawan with your right hand and place it on your left palm, holding it steady with your right hand.
Bow your head to express thanks.
Turn the chawan twice in a clockwise direction so that the front (decorative side) is facing the host.
Drink the tea completely.
Wipe the place where you drank from on the rim of the bowl with your right thumb and index finger.
Wipe your wet fingers on the kaishi (paper)
Turn the chawan so that the decorative side once again faces you.
Place the chawan on the outside of the first tatami edge in front of you.

Viewing the chawan

Place your palms on the tatami.
Take a closer look at the chawan.
Pick it up again with both hands.
Rest your elbows on your knees so as not to elevate the chawan.
Take a closer look at the chawan.

Returning the chawan

Turn the front (decorative side) to face the host.
The host comes to remove the chawan.
Both bow to each other in WA KEI SEI JAKU…..harmony, respect, purity, tranquility

“ChadoThe Art of Tea” is probably one of the most intellectually complicated ceremonies of its kind. The simple act of boiling water, making tea and drinking it is elevated to an extremely high form of mindfulness and attentiveness. The ceremony cannot be performed or appreciated unless the host AND the guest are quintessentially aware of every subtle nuance. The obligations of the host and the guest are totally different, yet together they achieve a state of unison, purpose, understanding and gratitude.

“WA (harmony) is the ultimate ideal for human beings….tea is the sharing between host and guest and is not a solitary pursuit.” Dominance and submission can (and is considered to be) the ultimate ideal for the humans who engage each other under this dynamic. D/s is the sharing between two people and is not a solitary pursuit.
“KEI (respect) is the ability to understand and accept others…..when we can humble ourselves, we can receive respect.” Dominance and submission is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the acceptance of others. The power over another human and their acceptance of that power should be steeped in humility as no greater honor exists than to have one’s will commended to another’s authority.
“SEI (purity) is the ability to treat oneself and others with a pure and open heart….a pure heart is not showy but natural.” Dominance and submission mandates that each person in the relationship be there for no other reason than that is where they find their most natural state.
“JAKU (tranquility) is the point in ones training and practice where a level of selflessness is reached….at this point the endless possibilities of life can be realized.” Dominance and submission is the art of reaching goals selflessly, then beginning anew to realize new goals as each goal is achieved.
Model your life in Chado “The Way of Tea” by using everything around you as the host and the guest use the simplicity of boiling water, making tea and drinking it.

 Posted by at 10:25 pm