Today is the day to celebrate the life of the founder of the traditional art of tea of my culture. As with last year, I want to share with you another teaching of his that has stayed with me.
One of his most famous teachings is “one hundred verses,” in which he has put the essential points in making tea into simple, easy-to-remember verses. I have many favourites, but I particularly like this one:
“When you put items back in place, pull your hand away as though you are letting go of your dear one” [my translation]
This verse is a reminder to always treat tea set items with utmost care. And if I understand it correctly, it meaning is threefold – one, to care for items because they are usually old and/or fragile and handling them require caution: two, to show care for the guests you make tea for through showing care for items; and three, to care for the time and space shared, aiming to make every tea service the best it can be.
And by putting this teaching into practice, I have found a fourth meaning – by placing the items down gently and pulling away from them slowly, it makes your movements appear more graceful, making you look more experienced than you really are!
But the verse being so full of meanings is not the only reason I like it the most. The art of tea is often seen as being tranquil and spiritual… in other words, free of earthly desires, including yearning. And all verses other than this one make no reference to what goes on in the world outside the tea room. But because of this, some of them are difficult to understand – they sound like rules to obey without questioning.
Not this one, though! It is so worldly, it almost sounds like it should not be a rule. But, it does not require any understanding in the head – it is felt directly in the heart, and can be obeyed without questioning.
Moreover, because it is so worldly, I have found that I can put it into practice outside the tea room.
With this teaching in mind, I can concentrate on what is at hand, but at the same time, think about how it would affect the parties involved, and plan how we can all enjoy it together to its fullest… all the while looking like I know perfectly what I am doing!
And you know what else? I am finding that I get treated better whenever I put this teaching into practice, both inside the tea room and out. And because I am treated better, I am encouraged to treat more things as dear… and so the circle of care keeps growing.
Ah, maybe this is the fifth meaning of the teaching – all you need is to show a little bit of care, and it will be greatly returned.
Maybe I will find more meanings if I keep treating this teaching as dear. Oh, I do not think I could ever fully put it down and pull my hand away completely… no wonder it is my most favourite of the one hundred verses!
This bowl of tea (and matcha- and cherry-flavoured marshmallows) is for all of you who scrolled down to here, for being such dear ones to read through this post. Thank you, and enjoy!