Saturday, 18 January 2014

Mindful Tea - Part 5 - A History of Formal Eastern Mindful Tea

"The Sanskrit root of the word Buddha means “to wake up.” This is the goal of both Zen and Tea. This is emphasized in the Zencharoku, which states, “[In this way], preparing tea reflects perfectly the intent of Zen, and has become a Way of enlightening people of their fundamental selves.” - The One Taste of Truth: Zen and the Art of Drinking Tea (2013), p9.
"..bodhisattvas work hard but not so hard that they don't stop for tea."  - Red Pine, The Heart Sutra (2004), p54.

A Chinese legend states that tea was discovered by the 'Divine Farmer' ShénNóng who is said to have ruled in China more than 4000 years ago. The book The One Taste of Truth: Zen and the Art of Drinking Tea (2013) describes the story as follows, p.xix:
"According to ancient Chinese tradition, one pleasant afternoon in 2737 b.c.e., Shen Nung, the Divine Agriculturalist, sat down under a tree to rest. He had already invented agriculture and acupuncture; but his bullish nature, reflected in the two small horns that grew from his head, kept him working hard, and he was now diligently at work on a book of medical cures that would eventually include 365 substances, from plants, animals, and minerals. As he sat resting before a boiling pot of water, some dried leaves wafted up from twigs stoking the fire and landed in the pot. The water turned to a pleasant amber color, and Shen Nung, who preferred to test everything on himself, took a sip. Finding the slightly bitter drink to be both invigorating and refreshing, he meditatively finished off what he had drawn from the pot. This was the first cup of tea."
It is also alleged he went on to experiment with tea and discovered some medicinal potential to it:
"...he prescribed it as a remedy for dull eyesight, headaches, and fatigue."
Another legend suggests that the the first Patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma, arriving in China shortly before the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), brought it with him from India, or even created the plant itself from his eyelids, p.xiv:
"Tea in China preceded the T’ang dynasty, and, according to Zen tradition, was brought from India by the first Zen patriarch, Bodhidharma (470–543), or grew from his eyelids when he cut them off and threw them to the ground after falling asleep during meditation. Going even further back is the Taoist tradition that Kuan Yin, the keeper of the Han Pass, offered Lao Tzu a cup of tea before requesting that he write the Tao Te Ching in the fifth century b.c.e."
Nevertheless, tea drinking was explicitly written about when Zen (or 'Chan') Buddhism was established in China in the early Tang dynasty, apparently due to the meeting of two popular Chinese schools of practical philosophy with Indian Buddhism, pxxix:
"By the time of the T’ang dynasty (618–907), ...two sets of values — Taoist and Confucian — had evolved into a single ethic of ritualizing many aspects of Chinese daily life. ...this ritualizing activity had begun in the court and among the nobility, and had later been absorbed by other classes of society. In the Zen monasteries, now inhabited by hundreds and even thousands of monks, this ritualization developed into extensive sets of rules that would instruct the society of monks on how to perform every action, from entering the various halls of the monasteries, to eating meals, to bathing, and even to using toilet facilities. Among these activities was the drinking of tea. Whether in imitation of the secular world, or as a form of entertainment for the nobles who were their sponsors, or just to celebrate certain national or local holidays, the ritualized serving of tea eventually became one of the most important social events within the Zen monasteries. This would become one of the best examples of the mixing of Indian spirituality and Chinese everyday practicality...."
The overlap between Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism was one of recognising a natural positive condition at work within the heart of every individual. The book The Way of Tea: Reflections on a Life with Tea (2010) refers to this overlap as follows, p109-110:
"...there was one fundamental principle that the Confucians and Taoists agreed upon: that the inner-nature of all things was to be trusted. Confucius called our inner virtue “ren,” which is often translated as “humanity” or “humanness.” However, when he was asked to define this quality, like Lao Tzu, he declined, arguing that it was something that needed to be felt, rather than explained. [...] So much of tea is about sharing our ren with others. Even to the ancient Taoists, tea often represented a means of communication. Since the Tao is by definition ineffable, they had to seek other ways of sharing it from friend to friend or master to student — a tradition that would be continued in Chan [Zen] Buddhism."
The Book of Tea (2001) illustrates how the Zen monastery setting provided the necessary practices for something like tea to be explored in the depth that it has been, p30-31:
"The organisation of the Zen monastery was very significant of this point of view. To every member, except the abbot, was assigned some special work in the caretaking of the monastery, and curiously enough, to the novices was committed the lighter duties, while to the most respected and advanced monks were given the more irksome and menial tasks. Such services formed a part of the Zen discipline and every least action must be done absolutely perfectly. Thus many a weighty discussion ensued while weeding the garden, paring a turnip, or serving tea. The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life. Taoism furnished the basis for æsthetic ideals, Zennism made them practical."
The rules about food in Buddhist monasteries gave tea a special role in the monks' lives, as stated in The Way of Tea, p52-53:
"The Buddhist precept that admonishes monks not to eat any food after twelve noon, quickly made evening tea an important aspect of the day, fostering awareness during the evening and nighttime meditations, and many of the early tea scholars, poets, and “immortals” were also fond of carrying their tea sets to remote regions to enjoy moonlit sessions."
Some of these people even aspired to become tea 'sages', p55:
"These early tea scholars were in some ways like the tea sages of long ago, in that they cared for every aspect of the tea ceremony. [...] They gathered their own waters and traveled to the mountains in search of wild or cultivated tea plants, slept in Taoist or Buddhist temples or simple huts, devoting their lives to tea. They then picked, baked, ground, and boiled the tea they drank by themselves, often fresh."
One such aspirant was so successful in his pursuit of the perfect cup of tea, that he became known as the 'Tea God' - Lù Yǔ, author of the The Classic of Tea. The One Taste of Truth refers to Lù Yǔ's practice relative to the appearance of a solid Zen school in China as follows, p.xiv:
"It can be said that true Chinese Ch’an (Zen) began with the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng (638–713), just prior to the writing of the Classic on Tea (Ch’a Ching, 茶経) by the eighth-century scholar-official Lu Yu. Tea drinking soon became popular among Zen monks, in part because of tea’s stimulant properties, and in part due to the simplicity, mindfulness, and aesthetic beauty of the ceremonial gatherings that developed around it."
The earliest example of a tea-drinking scene as the background for a Ch’an dialogue goes as follows, from The Bodhidharma Anthology: The earliest records of zen, (Jeffrey L. Broughton, 1999), p113:
"One day when the Master was drinking tea, thirty secretaries and imperial functionaries of the military government happened to come by for an audience. Having taken their seats, they inquired: "The Master has a great liking for tea.” The Master said: "It is so.” He then recited from the Verses on Tea:
"Luminous plants grow in dark valleys,
Fit to be a catalyst for entering the path.
Mountain dwellers pick the leaves,
And the exquisite flavor flows into cups.
In the quietude it settles false thoughts,
And the enlightened mind illuminates the platform of understanding.
Without expenditure of human energy and strength,
Immediately the Dharma gate swings open.
[...] ...the disciples being treated to tea are part of the military establishment, a situation that parallels the later relationship between the renowned master Lin-chi I-hsiian and a powerful military figure in the Northeast. The recorded-sayings genre is beginning the process of coming out of the cloister and meeting a variety o f laypeople of the secular world.”
This deep dimension to tea meant that the practice of drinking tea was integrated into standard monastery life, to the point that teachers would refer to drinking tea when teaching students, as in the case of the Chinese Zen master Jiāshān Shànhuì 夾山善會, referred to in Red Pine's The Heart Sutra (2004), p166:
"Chia-shan (805-881), aka Shan-hui.... One of the most prominent Zen masters of the late T'ang dynasty, famous for his use of tea as a means of instruction."
The book Zen's Chinese Heritage - The masters and their teachings (2000) adds the following, p187:
"Jiashan Shanhui was the first Zen master known to closely link Zen with drinking tea. He described their intimacy as “Zen, tea, one taste.”"
In the book The Compass of Zen (2012), it seems the late Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn (1927-2004) attributed very similar stories to the Zen Buddhist master Zhàozhōu Cōngshěn (778-897) living at the same time as Jiāshān Shànhuì, p312-313:
"A monk once asked Joju, “What is Buddha?”
Joju replied, “Go drink tea!”
“But Zen Master, I have already drunk tea.”
Joju said, “If you have already drunk tea, then why do you come here with such questions?” The monk was stuck and could not answer. Perhaps he hadn’t correctly drunk his tea, yah? When you correctly drink tea you attain something,"
The Zen monks applied their mindful practice to everything they did as part of pursuing what they considered a more 'correct life', and so drinking tea was included in this approach. Drinking tea was a kind of 'time out' activity that did not spend any significant amount of resources, and which refreshed the mind as well as purified the body; a kind of simplified microcosm of that which takes place during formal seated mindfulness meditation, p385:
"What is Dharma?” “Go drink tea!” This answer is very, very deep. It contains correct situation, correct relationship, and correct function. If you correctly drink tea, you attain your correct situation with regard to tea. You attain your correct relationship to it and therefore your correct function. That is correct life."
Going to drink tea was considered a normal 'next step' necessary mindful activity like washing one's bowl after eating breakfast - living the dharma through action beyond conceptual manipulation, as outlined in this story involving a new Zen student asking his teacher about Zen, p385:
"Someone asked Zen Master Joju, “Master, I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joju said, “Have you had breakfast?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Then go wash your bowls.” Piitchhuu! The monk got enlightenment. He attained his own everyday life job, his own mind."
Other similar anecdotes exist from the same period, such as this one in Zen's Chinese Heritage, p163:
"A monk asked, “When the great matter of life and death arrives, then what?”
Dasui said, “If there’s tea, drink tea. If there’s food, eat food.”
The monk said, “Who receives this support?”
Dasui said, “Just pick up your bowl.”"
And, p214:
"Once, Qinshan, Yantou, and Xuefeng were sitting together and Dongshan brought some tea. Qinshan closed his eyes.
Dongshan said, “Where have you gone?”
Qinshan said, “I’ve entered samadhi.”
Dongshan said, “Samadhi has no gate, so how have you entered it?”"
Also, p240:
"A monk asked, “The ancients said that if you meet Bodhidharma on the road, speak to him without words. I’d like to know how one speaks this way?”
Xuefeng said, “Drink some tea.”"
And another, p264:
"A monk asked, “What is the most profound teaching you offer?”
Cuiyan called to his attendant, “Come and boil some tea!”"
Many people seem to think that it is the tea itself which is profound in these stories, but as the following recorded mysterious interaction illustrates, the tea is just part of the ancient Zen monastery practice, p379:
"One day, three monks arrived at the monastery.
Yangqi said to them, “Three people traveling together must have one wisdom.”
Yangqi then picked up a cushion and said, “Practitioner, what do you call this?”
The monk said, “A cushion.”
Yangqi said, “Really?”
The monk said, “Yes.”
Yangqi then again asked, “What do you call it?”
The monk again said, “A cushion.”
Yangqi then looked to the left and right and said, “This practitioner possesses the eye.”
Yangqi then said to the second monk, “If you want to travel a thousand miles, you must start with the first step. What is the first phrase?”
The monk said, “Arriving here at the master’s place, how dare I extend my hand?”
Yangqi then used his hand to draw a circle in the air.
The monk said, “Complete.”
Yangqi then extended both of his hands.
When the monk started to speak, Yangqi said, “Complete.”
Yangqi then asked the third monk, “From where have you recently departed?”
The monk said, “From Nanyuan.”
Yangqi said, “Today, you monks have discovered Yangqi. Please sit and have some tea.”"
The late Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971) relates a similar story in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p54-55:
"There were two good friends, Chokei and Hofuku. They were talking about the Bodhisattva's way, and Chokei said, "Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words." Hofuku said, "Even though you say so, your comment is not perfect." Chokei asked, "What is your understanding of the Tathagata's words?" Hofuku said, "We have had enough discussion, so let's have a cup of tea!" Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva's way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. So Hofuku answered, "Our discussion is over. Let's have a cup of tea!"
This practice of mindful 'Zen' tea also existed in Japan, and remains to this day, famously so, and yet the date of its first appearance in Japan is not so clear, as stated in The One Taste of Truth, pxxix-xxxiii:
"No one knows when tea actually arrived in Japan. Certainly, the people who began to migrate to the Japanese archipelago through the Korean peninsula in the third century b.c.e. had been exposed to Chinese culture, and just as certainly, Chinese culture would become more and more important to the Japanese as the centuries progressed. But it is not recorded if they knew about or drank tea during the time when the country was being established. Possibly, if they were aware of the plant or the drink that could be made from it, they simply ignored it; for one of the early Chinese chronicles concerning Japan tells us only that they were a happy people, fond of liquor. By the sixth century c.e., however, the Japanese were becoming extremely interested in Chinese culture, and how they might acquire and apply it to their own country. And along with Confucianism, Buddhism, poetry, architecture, city planning, and a host of other imports came tea. Tea was, indeed, closely associated with Chinese poetry and the atmosphere that encouraged creativity in the written arts. The drinking of tea at leisure, it was felt, put one into an ethereal world beyond everyday reality, one appropriate to the nobility and Buddhist monks and scholars"
However, mindful tea drinking of course stepped up a notch in Japan with the arrival of Lù Yǔ's The Classic of Tea, as stated in The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu (1998), p.xxvi:
"For both Chinese and Japanese the source of it all was Lu Yu, the author of The Classic of Tea, whom both esteemed as their “tea ancestor.” Several Chinese works clearly demonstrate how highly his countrymen venerated him."
The Way of Tea gives the following biography about the 'Tea God', p63-64:
"Lu Yu was the first scholar to ever write a detailed treatise on tea. His Cha Ching (茶經), The Classics of Tea, is the definitive book on the cultivation, processing, and preparation of tea in the ancient world. It also teaches us how to find the Universal Tao in the particular. Like so many sages before him, he recognized the power tea had to speak to the soul, and spent his life trying to convey its teachings in words. [...] Scholars estimate Lu Yu’s birth to around 730 ce, in Jinling County (today, Hubei Province). At that time, China was in another of its many periods of war and chaos, and for whatever reason Lu Yu was abandoned as a baby. Like the mythical “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Lu Yu was abandoned in a basket by the river. He was found and adopted by the abbot of the famous Dragon Cloud Monastery and raised as a novice. At the monastery, he was first exposed to tea, and we can only envision that it affected him in the same ways it has affected us."
The authenticity of this story is a little unclear, however, as stated in The Japanese Way of Tea, p7:
"The writers were unable to verify his antecedents."
Much more is known about what Lù Yǔ actually wrote and how it was disseminated, however, via a Tang Dynasty historical record called 'Fengshi Wenjianji (封氏闻见记)', written by a writer named Feng Yan, p10:
"According to the Fengshi Wenjianji, Lu Yu wrote a treatise on tea in which he explained its efficacy as a beverage, how to roast and prepare it, the twenty-four tools needed to cultivate it, and how to store it. It went on to say that Chang Boxiong supplemented the work and disseminated it widely, thereby establishing in basic outline the way of tea so that there was no one among the most illustrious in the land who did not partake of the beverage. In other words, this work gives credit to Lu Yu and Chang Boxiong for the widespread popularity of tea."
There is an ending to Lù Yǔ's story that suggests he transcended his intellectual life through this mindful tea practice, and became a recluse until he died. This is referred to in The Way of Tea, p67:
"It is said that in his old age, Lu Yu returned to the monastery were he grew up to share tea with the abbot that had raised him. He had come full circle, realizing that the peace and quiet of the mountain were actually more in tune with the Way of Tea — as opposed to the scholarly, intellectual method he had pursued for most of his life. His trip through the carnival of senses that is the World had brought him back to the peace that his life had begun in. Lu Yu then retired to Xiao Qi (now Wushing county, Zhejiang) to spend the rest of his days in quiet seclusion, drinking tea and meditating on his growing beard. It is assumed that he left behind a whole body of other work besides The Classics of Tea, including an often-mentioned book on the best sources of water in China, though sadly all the other ink that flowed through his brush was later lost."
Lù Yǔ's mindful tea practice was apparently carried to Japan not so long after he had established it in China, via a man called Kukai. The One Taste of Truth states the following on this,
" 729, we find that the emperor Shomu served tea to one hundred priests on the second day of a ceremonial reading of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. Tea was not now just something to drink. Tea was culture, and close to religion. The person who seems to have truly established tea in Japan, however, was Kukai, the Buddhist priest who went to study Shingon Buddhism in China in 804. Kukai was a man of remarkable, and even astonishing, abilities. Of extraordinary intellect, he was a religious theorist, writer, calligrapher, artist, poet, engineer, and, apparently, a very quick study. After only two years of religious training in the Chinese capital of Ch’ang-an, where he no doubt sipped tea both ceremonially and into the late hours of the night as he pored over his esoteric books, he was pronounced his teacher’s successor and sent back to Japan to promulgate the faith. When Kukai returned to Japan in 806, along with a great many sutras, commentaries, statues, mandalas, and other Buddhist implements, he brought tea and possibly tea seeds. This drink he recommended for its many qualities to the emperor Saga, who was apparently quite taken by the beverage. In a poem to Kukai, reflecting both the elegance of tea drinking and his sorrow at the monk’s return to his mountain temple, Saga wrote:
Long years have passed; yours in the Way, mine in worldly life.
I am fortunate to speak with you this autumn,
Drinking fragrant tea until late.
Painful though the parting may be, I bow to you as I see you off to the distant clouds."
Kukai united the rather Daoist idea that all is equally worthy of veneration in the universe (or Dao), through his particular faith in Shingon Buddhism and the idea that pursuing any fine art can help one to arrive at something deep and transcendent, p.xxxi-xxxii:
It was Kukai’s faith and his aesthetic application of that faith, however, that would have a deep and lasting effect on Japanese culture in general, and on what would develop as chanoyu, or the Tea Ceremony, some eight centuries later. It is a major tenet of Shingon Buddhism that the great cosmic Buddha, Mahavairocana, is not apart from worldly phenomena, but rather is immanent in all things and beings, transient as they may be. The Dainichi-kyo, one of the most important sutras of this sect, states that “all things, just as they are, dwell in Truth,” and a commentary on the sutra informs us that “wherever the Buddha appears cannot be elsewhere than in this place.” Thus, although we are not aware of it, Mahavairocana not only reveals himself through the sense objects, emotions, and thoughts of the phenomenal world, but actually preaches the Dharma or Truth through them. Kukai took this a step further. In understanding that art is both form and the quintessential expression of form, he explained that each creation of art is itself a Buddha manifesting the Way. In other words, art and religion are of one nature. “Suchness transcends forms,” he said, “but without depending on forms, it cannot be realized.” And: Thus the secrets of the sutras and commentaries can be depicted in art, and the essential truths of the esoteric teaching are all set forth therein. . . . Art is what reveals to us the state of perfection...."
Thus the art of drinking tea accompanied the development of other Japanese mindfully-honed fine arts such as swordplay and calligraphy, p.xxxii-xxxiii:
"It must be added that for Kukai, art is not limited to painting, but also includes sculpture, both poetry and prose, “gestures and acts,” and the very implements used in cultural and religious activities. This concept, accepted intuitively and enthusiastically by the Japanese, would have a far-reaching effect on arts as disparate as calligraphy, Noh drama, Tea Ceremony, and even swordsmanship. For if meditation and the entrance to enlightenment can be based on the use of tangible objects and formalized actions, these objects and actions themselves, however secularized, are not only expressions of the Buddha, but, within the proper frame of mind, the very embodiments of transcendent Reality. Art is thus religion, and religion, art; and the very smallest gesture of the hand in performing that art becomes a mudra unifying the individual with the universe. The Heian period culture, of which Kukai was a part, was learning the aesthetic value of drinking a bowl of tea. At the same time, it was learning that the rituals and objects involved, and even the tea itself, could be of a transcendent religious significance. In this way, the essence of Kukai’s most famous phrase, 即身成仏 Becoming a Buddha in this very existence could be attained through an activity both ordinary and artistic, both spiritually purifying and mundane."
In China, after the Tang Dynasty was replaced by the Song Dynasty (960-1279), mindful tea drinking was further formalized and developed in the Zen monasteries, p.xxix:
"...the rules for this activity, laid out in detail in the Sung dynasty (960–1279) Ch’an yuan ch’ing kuei (禅苑清規), or Purity Rules for the Zen Monastery, were extensive and precise."
The Way of Tea provides the following details on these developments, p56:
"In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 ce), tea art would truly prosper, growing with all the verve and creativity of a passion backed by the wealth of the ruling class. Very soon, a whole array of new teaware developed around the art of making powdered tea, expanding beyond the already full tea set of the Tang Dynasty, and each was sophisticated as emperors came and went; and many of these innovations, like the earlier ones, happened in the monastery."
It was during this time that the ceremonial drinking of tea was carried from China to Japan, apparently by a Japanese Buddhist priest called Eisai, who would be the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen. The One Taste of Truth speaks of him thus, p.xv:
"True ceremonial tea drinking began with Eisai (1141–1215), who came back from China with the precepts of Zen Buddhism, tea seeds and possibly bushes, and the customs and uses of tea he had learned in Chinese Zen temples. Eisai enthusiastically advocated drinking tea and wrote a short treatise, Drinking Tea and Maintaining Health (Kissa yojoki, 喫茶養生記), which popularized tea drinking all the more."
During his time in China, Eisai felt Zen Buddhism and tea drinking were the two most valuable practices he could take back to Japan, p.xxxiii:
"...he remained in China until 1191, when he returned once again to Japan, this time with two acquisitions he felt would help save the nation: Zen and tea. In China, Eisai had found that the Zen (Chinese, Ch’an) sect was the only viable form of Buddhism taken seriously there, and that, indeed, it seemed to play a strong and supportive role in Sung dynasty culture. He studied the precepts and meditational style of the sect enthusiastically, reading through the Ch’an yuan ch’ing kuei, drinking tea both at temple ceremonies and on his own, and looking into the medicinal effects of the beverage."
From Eisai, these practices spread outwards into Japanese society, p.xxxiv:
"Upon his return to Japan, Eisai eventually made his way to Kamakura and introduced both Zen and tea to the new warrior government. Back in Kyoto, he shared the tea seeds he had brought back with him with a number of priests, one of whom, Myoe, established the country’s first tea garden at the Shingon Kozanji Temple. Eisai was strongly convinced that a rigorous adherence to the precepts and meditation of Zen would strengthen Japan’s moral and spiritual condition, and that drinking tea would ameliorate the people’s health. To that effect, he wrote two treatises: the Kozen gokoku-ron, or The Promotion of Zen and the Protection of the Nation, explaining the benefits of establishing this new sect; and the Kissa yojoki, Drinking Tea and Maintaining Health. The latter short book, written entirely in classical Chinese, is for the most part a practical explanation of why tea drinking promotes health. His approach is a mixture of Confucian philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine, and Shingon symbolism, but his main emphasis is this: the heart is the primary organ of the body, and tea is the heart’s medicine. Everyone should drink tea for a more healthy life. Eisai was taken seriously, and within a matter of decades Zen would become a major religious and cultural force in Japan, while tea drinking would become ubiquitous."
This popularity began with a focus on green tea's alleged medicinal properties - something Eisai wrote extensively about, p.xxxiv-xxxv:
"...although he did not write about the tea ceremonies he would have joined in China, and likely shared with his colleagues back home, as it is Eisai who is credited as popularizing tea in Japan, it is worth including a short excerpt from [his book] the Kissa yojoki here. "Tea is the medicine for nourishing the health of the saints, and has the wondrous ability of extending the years of your life. Growing in the mountains and valleys, it contains the very spirit of the earth. People who pick [and drink] this herb will be longlived. . . Long ago, men [were as healthy as] heavenly beings, but nowadays they have gradually become sickly and weak, as though their internal organs were rotting away. This being so, acupuncture and moxa only damage them, and hot springs have no effect. . . . It is wise to maintain your life and to protect the years given to you by Heaven; and the wellspring of maintaining your life is in nourishing your health. The technique of maintaining your health is in keeping the internal organs tranquil. Now among the internal organs, the heart is king, and the wondrous technique of building a strong heart is in drinking tea. On the other hand, if the heart is weak, the other internal organs will all be infirm. Now when you drink tea, your heart will be strong, and you will have no illnesses at all. And you should know this: when the heart is infirm, your complexion will be poor, and the inevitable will be on its way. . . . Only in China do they drink a lot of tea, and therefore the people have no heart disease and are long-lived. In our country, many people are thin and sickly, and this is because they don’t drink tea. When your spirits are low, you should drink tea without fail. This will regulate your heart and rid you of myriad illnesses. When the heart is well, though the other organs be ill, you will experience little pain. Eisai is said to have cured the regent Hojo Sanetomo’s bad cold with bowls of tea. This was noted by others in the warrior government, and eventually in the population at large, and tea soon became the national drink. The various ways of drinking it would be determined in the decades and centuries ahead."
It was Esai's trips to China that inspired the would-be-founder of another famous Japanese school of Zen and big fan of tea drinking, Dogen, after an encounter between the two, to leave his homeland in search of authentic Buddhist teachings, pxxxvi-xl:
"A year before he passed away, Eisai was visited by a young monk, also looking for the correct path to Buddhism, and dissatisfied with current conditions on Mount Hiei and other monastic communities. In 1223, this monk, Dogen (1200–1253), followed Eisai’s example and sailed to China. When he returned four years later, he brought back a new sect of Zen — Soto in contrast to Eisai’s Rinzai...[...] As tea would have been a regular part of monastic life at Dogen’s temple northwest of the capital of Kamakura, it can be imagined that the formal and ritualized serving of the beverage there would have been just as regulated — if not more, due to his convert’s zeal — as in the Zen temples in China. [...] ...with time, these practices were taken up by society at large — at first among the warrior class, later among the merchants and even farmers — and while the rituals of the ceremonies might be followed closely, such solemnity would soon get quite short shrift."
Unfortunately the more serene dimensions to tea drinking in medieval Japan were intruded upon by the warrior classes interested in Zen practices, pxxxvi-xl:
"Zen Buddhism and the warrior-class government emerged nearly concomitantly in Japan, and the warriors took up Zen with some enthusiasm. Although a study of the sutras is a part of Zen, it eschews scholasticism as a way to enlightenment, relies heavily on the immediacy and uniqueness of the moment, and encourages an intuition informed by meditation. Zen also defines enlightenment as the “great matter of life and death,” and this was a vocabulary and concept with which the warrior class could clearly identify. With Zen came the drinking of tea and its dignified and appealing rituals. Warriors, however, were not monks, and within a hundred years, this parvenu class of men had added gambling, contests to determine the quality of the tea, and inordinate luxuriousness to the venues of their ceremonies, making them occasions for entertainment rather than solemn rituals. According to the records of the times, leopard skins covered the chairs and benches, rare objects from both China and Japan filled the rooms, and expensive prizes were awarded to the winners of the taste competitions. Moreover, tea cultivation had spread around the country from the late thirteenth century, making tea — and all of its social features — available to everyone from warrior to farmer. Only the wretchedly poor were referred to as mizu-nomi, or “water-drinkers.” Eventually, then, such “entertainment” was not contained within the warrior class, but spread to the Buddhist and Shinto priests, the aristocrats, and the newly emerging wealthy merchants."
At the same time, in China, the Song Dyanasty was being replaced by the Yuan Dynasty (~1271-1368) as a result of the invading Mongols, and much of the cultural heights of the Song became down-trodden and stagnant. The Japanese successfully repelled the Mongols, and so managed to preserve and develop upon much of the mindful tea culture they had carried back from Song Dynasty China, as stated by the Japanese author of The Book of Tea, p19:
"Our successful resistance of the Mongol invasion in 1281 had enabled us to carry on the Sung movement so disastrously cut off in China itself through the nomadic inroad."
This meant that the crude parties continued as well as the Zen Buddhist practices, to the point that the two groups of tea enthusiasts eventually mixed to produce what is recognized as the Japanese Zen tea ceremony still in existence today. The One Taste of Truth explains as follows, p.xxxvi-xl:
"By the fifteenth century, these events had gotten so out of hand that tea contests and parties were officially but ineffectually prohibited. It is at this point that the “Tea Ceremony” begins to emerge. Interestingly, the transformation toward the modern Tea Ceremony would come from within the warrior class itself, albeit from its highest echelons. The shoguns and the most aristocratic of the warlords were not without aesthetic ambitions, but were aware enough to understand that they would need assistants of substantial abilities in the selection, care, and display of the Chinese artworks with which they wished to impress their colleagues. Such assistants, who specialized in art and good taste, were called doboshu (同友衆), or “companions.” They may or may not have been Buddhist monks, but they did shave their heads, and took names ending in -ami, suggesting connections with Amida Buddha."
One such doboshu introduced a specific room for tea drinking, pxxxvi-xl:
"Noami (1397–1471) was a doboshu under the patronage of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, a man not only concerned with the administration of the state but also addicted to tea. It was this Noami who developed the practice of using a smaller room in the style of a Zen monastery reading room where Yoshimasa’s art treasures might be tastefully displayed as his guests drank tea according to a slightly altered monastic ritual. Originally, Chinese scroll paintings, most often of Buddhist themes, were displayed on the walls, but eventually the tokonoma, or alcove, was developed so that just one scroll might be hung, accompanied by an incense censer or a vase containing an artistic arrangement of flowers. This interesting venue, soon to be imitated by other warrior tea enthusiasts, set a new paradigm: it at once avoided the crass contest-type tea affairs that had become so common, and at the same time afforded the ostentation of expensive tea wares and other art pieces on a much more focused scale. Added to this was the hint of the austerity and cultural values of the Zen temple"
Noami's student, Murata Jukō (1423–1502), further built on his master's practices, p.xv:
"The Way of Tea (Sado, 茶道) was further developed during the early fifteenth century by a Zen adherent, Murata Juko, as an activity for aristocrats, warriors, and even the common people. It was Juko who is credited with coining the phrase “Zen and tea are of one taste” (禅茶一味)."
Noami's room became the thatched hut in which the Japanese tea ceremony is conducted today, pxxxvi-xl:
"Murata Juko (1423–1502), originally from the ancient capital of Nara, set the new standard for the Tea Ceremony by building himself a small thatched hut for his own meditative tea drinking. Troubled by his own slack attitude toward his priestly superiors and the fact that meditation simply put him to sleep, Juko had spoken to a doctor to see what could be done for him. The doctor, apparently quite familiar with Eisai’s Kissa yojoki, prescribed tea. Inspired by the Chinese poets’ accounts of mountain hermitages, and perhaps by Tao Yuan-ming’s lines:
I built a hut right in the city,
But there is no noise of horses and carts.
You ask me how this can be so,
But when the mind is far away, the land follows of itself.
Juko then cut miscanthus and constructed his own hut (his father had been both a priest and a master carpenter)."
The final touches to his tea hut were some sparse yet meaningful decor, pxxxvi-xl:
"On a suggestion from his fellow Zen student and teacher Ikkyu, he then hung a scroll of calligraphy in the alcove of this hut, so that its words might lead him to enlightenment. To be sure, he used rare and artistic Chinese tea implements and utensils, but considered that ostentation and attachment in general, and of such goods in particular, were impediments to the simplicity and mental calm that Zen study required. To Juko, the proper drinking of tea would be no different than sitting in meditation, and after some time he concluded that “Zen and Tea have the same taste” (禅茶一味). This concept informs chanoyu to this very day, and, beginning with Juko, this tea/meditation would be guided by the scroll in the alcove. If his hut was cramped, he did not mind. For, just as when the Buddha’s disciple Shariputra was confronted with the question of where all the bodhisattvas and sravakas would sit in Vimilakirti’s small room, he responded, “We came here to hear the Dharma, not because we wanted a place to sit.” Juko somehow found room in the simple and unpretentious hut for the study of Zen/Tea as well. Other men would further develop the aesthetics of this ideal, and would write more emphatically on the singularity of tea and Zen, but it was Juko who moved us into the tranquility and unobtrusiveness of the grass hut, and sat us down with the scroll, in the company of the patriarchs. In chanoyu, this is where we still are today."
The Book of Tea elaborates on the result of all this as follows, p19:
"Tea with us became more than an idealisation of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life. The beverage grew to be an excuse for the worship of purity and refinement, a sacred function at which the host and guest joined to produce for that occasion the utmost beatitude of the mundane. The tea-room was an oasis in the dreary waste of existence where weary travellers could meet to drink from the common spring of art-appreciation."
This appreciation culminated, in the 16th century, in Japanese society awarding the title of 'Tea God' to a Japanese person, just as the Chinese had done with their very own Lù Yǔ more than 700 years before, and that person was Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591). The Japanese Way of Tea states, p.vii:
"There is no more revered personage in the history of chanoyu than Sen Rikyu (1522–1591). Perfecter of wabicha (chanoyu based on the wabi aesthetic), national tea master and arbiter of taste, personal adviser to the hegemon Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), Rikyu is a towering figure not only in the cultural records of the late sixteenth century, when he lived, but also in those of chanoyu through all the centuries that have followed. In the Edo period (1600–1867), Rikyu was deified as the god of tea, and from at least Tokugawa times all tea schools have traced their lineages, either in genealogical fact or in spirit, back to him."
One cannot help but wonder how truly free from social ritual and norms the Japanese Tea God Rikyū had been, however, since his death was so in line with the extremely strict social rules of those times, p.ix:
"Hideyoshi ordered Rikyu to commit suicide by disembowelment in 1591."
Nevertheless, this art of mindfully appreciating tea in humble surroundings continues on today in Japan in the spirit of Japanese Zen, having grown from and influenced so many other mindful arts, p.xii:
"Few subjects in Japanese cultural history compare in importance with chanoyu. Taking its basic form during the medieval age, from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, chanoyu has drawn upon and, at the same time, has influenced many spheres of culture, art, and religion, including architecture, interior room decoration, ceramics, painting, calligraphy, flower arrangement, and Buddhism, especially Zen. [...]  Today chanoyu is, among other things, a repository of traditional Japanese taste and etiquette, a medium for intimate, formalized social intercourse, and a continuing source of spiritual inspiration."
Spreading beyond the confines of monasteries and aristocratic halls, Japanese mindful tea remains available to everyone. The One Taste of Truth states, p.xv:
"While tea is used to ward off sleepiness during Zen meditation, chanoyu (茶の湯), what is called in English the Tea Ceremony, incorporates the mindfulness, quiet, and simplicity required for Zen study and meditation. Perhaps most important to both is the awareness that each and every moment is unique, and is to be valued and savored. Thus, adherents of Zen and adherents of Tea traveled similar, often intersecting Ways. It is important to note that both disciplines were studied not just by specialists, but by members of the warrior class, aristocrats, townspeople, and farmers alike."
The next part of this series will look into the the details of the formal mindful tea methodology practiced in the Far East over the centuries.

No comments:

Post a Comment