１０月の終わりに、社中の一人が、親戚の事務所開きに呼ばれ茶道でお祝いをしました。１週間後、その時の参加者の一人から以下のような体験談と感想を、送っていただきました。お点前を細部にわたって観察し、茶道に対して深い興味と理解を示してくださったことを心から嬉しく思うとともに、今後も精進して行きたいという気持ちを新たにしました。以下に、その文を引用いたします。Below is an essay written by a recent guest to a tea ceremony performed by one of our students. The special ceremony was in celebration of a startup company with Japanese ties.
Can serving tea become philosophy? So might be the ancient Japanese art of the tea ceremony, known as sadō /chadō, or “Way of Tea”. This practice dating from the 9th involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, otherwise known as powdered green tea. As a Westerner, I’ve grabbed tea at Starbucks, or even in bars in the form of Hot Toddies when the evenings called for it. But I never experienced tea as a meditation, until my first Tea Ceremony.
The event called for it. Our first official office opened in Cape Girardeau Missouri, and we wanted to celebrate this event. Our space was as startupy/techy as you could imagine: computers and screens everywhere, giant post-its on the wall. The atmosphere changed immediately as we laid three Japanese tatamis side by side, to demarcate where the ceremony was going to take place. On the tatami laid a pot where the water was beginning to simmer. Our hostess was beautifully dressed in her ceremonial kimono, and greeted us with a smile. We first took a couple of minutes to rehearse the basic set of words and gestures a guest was to perform during the ceremony. But there were so many! We feared a mistake as one seemed practically unavoidable. Our hostess reading into our eyes immediately offered us tranquility. “It’s my role to lead the ceremony and to make you feel as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Simply enjoy and don’t worry about a thing!” she said. Now we were ready to begin!
The hostess was the first to ceremoniously enter the tatami. She got installed and signaled when it was our time to join. One by one, we slid on our knees using the back of our hands and with our thumbs extended frontwards, until we reached our pre-designated positions. We sat in the seiza posture, kneeling with the tops of the feet flat on the floor and sitting on the soles. It wasn’t long before my ankles and knees soared in pain. “Another 10s of this and I’m going to give up” I told myself. Noticing my discomfort, our host offered me a little pillow to place over my ankles and make the position more bearable. A painful retreat was successfully avoided, and calmness was slowly sinking in. I started to hear the sound of the boiling water humming through the pot and the silence of the room. Home-made Japanese sweets known as Daifuku were handed to each one of us, which are soft rice cakes and filled with red bean. Holding this delicacy in between my thumb and index, I felt the soft texture taking the shape of my fingers, and devoured it in 3 small bites. My taste sensors were heightened by the perfect combination of simplicity and purity. But I felt there was more to them. We knew these delicacies took hours to make, and seconds to consume. The selfless devotion to making these ceremonial treats was an act of love.
This love was palpable in our hostess as she had dedicated years of her life to train in serving other people tea. Hundreds of pre-determined movements in sequence make up this ceremony, and the level of detail in each is an art form in itself: the number of steps you must take to reach the tea pot, the tempo in stirring the tea, and even the position of your little finger don’t go unnoticed. Yet, we were mesmerized by the host whose fluid movements made this complexity seemingly simple.
The first tea was prepared, and I had the honor to be served first. I bowed as she presented the teacup to me, and said to my neighbor: “Osaki-ni”, meaning “Pardon me for going ahead”. Next was the moment I had been so waiting for. Enthralled by the formidable aromas stemming from my bowl, I began to drink the tea. One noticeable difference with Western culture is that during that time, nothing else was happening. She sat in front of me, facing the direction of the pot that laid to my right, calm and serene. Everybody was silent, as if participating in the calm that increased with each sip. As the last one came, I ended with an audible slurp, which is a sign of politeness. But the experience was far from finished, as one last important step remained.
It was time to admire my bowl. Imagine being invited to friends for dinner and contemplating their silverware! The practice felt foreign, but at the same time natural. I felt the texture of the hand-crafted bowl as I rotated it inside my palm. Curvatures were placed strategically so that one’s palm and fingers felt a comfortable position. I also noticed it’s colors and beautiful illustrations of Japanese Gods. I could have done this for hours but gave way my position so that the next guest could enjoy the tea ceremony as I did.
Finally, the last guest had been served, and our and our host closed the ceremony. I was in a pure meditative state, and I couldn’t believe that an ancient Japanese ritual of drinking tea could bring me there. All the rules surrounding the Tea Ceremony paradoxically make space inside of you. I didn’t have to make conversation, I didn’t have to wonder if the tea was too infused, or if I wanted to add sugar. I could just live this beautiful moment with my 5 senses heightened. Epictetus once said, “No man is free who is not master of himself”. And for that brief moment in time, I had tasted freedom.