Thoughts for No One in Particular

Have some tea while you’re here

have_some_tea_while_you_are_here

 

Today’s bowl of tea is prepared a little differently than the usual – the tea powder concentration is much higher, so instead of foaming, it is “kneaded.” It is much richer in flavour and scent, but it is also much thicker and thus, slower to go down your throat, so it is not meant to be drunk in large quantities.

 

In fact, a bowl of thick tea is normally shared by three to four persons, all drinking out of the same bowl. This would require that you place full trust in the person preparing the tea, as well as your fellow guests, not to put anything poisonous in the shared bowl… looking at it the other way around, a sense of unity and solidarity grows in the tea room when all guests drink thick tea out of the same bowl.

 

This way of serving was established by the founder of this traditional art form, who lived in an era of warring states but got his guests to drop all weapons upon entering the tea room. In the time and space created by him, everybody was equally made to leave all conflicts and hard feelings outside so a moment of peace and quiet could be savoured by all.

 

When I was being taught how to prepare thick tea, my teacher told me that it is based on the spirit of “have some tea while you’re here.” It is originally a quote from a little story in old Chinese writings:

 

A pair of novice monks pay a visit to a master monk.

 

“Have you been here before?” asked the master monk to one of the novice monks, who replied with a “no.”

“Then, have some tea while you’re here,” told the master monk.

 

“How about you?” asked the master monk to the other novice monk, who replied with a “yes.”

“Then, have some tea while you’re here,” told the master monk.

 

A veteran monk listening to this conversation asked “master, why do you tell everybody the same thing?”

“You have some tea while you’re here, too,” told the master monk. [my translation]

 

Exactly what this means, and how it forms the basis of the traditional art of tea, I do not know. But here are a few of my attempts to understand it.

Maybe who we are or where we come from do not make us that different from one another?

Maybe we are all equal before a bowl of tea, and no one is more or less special than any other sitting in the same room sipping tea the same way?

And maybe this simple but profound truth can easily be found at the bottom of a simple but profound bowl of tea, if we choose to drink up and savour a moment of peace and quiet together.

 

Maybe it is difficult to swallow at first, but in time, its rich flavour and scent will get you hooked and keep you coming back for more!

 

So, “have some tea while you’re here” – feel free to bring along a friend or two to drink out of the same bowl.

 

I would also like to share this bowl of tea with the victims of an act of terror which took place in my second homeland last night. Je suis tellement triste de ce qui s’est passé… mes pensées vont aux personnes blessées et perdu, et leurs familles et leurs amis. Unissons-nous tous en solidarité devant ce bol de thé ce soir.

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