Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Bow, A View, A Bowl of Tea

By Donna D’Orio

I was happy to receive my invitation to be a part of Love & Tea through the sharing of my experiences in the practice of Chado. I study the Uresenke tradition with the Waiki Association in Portland Oregon. It is my hope that my posts serve to inform and inspire making more possible an authentic and joyful relationship for the readers with the traditional Chanoyu.
The objective of the Japanese tea ceremony is to purify the soul by becoming one with nature through a ritual that employs the attributes of grace, gentleness, compassion, acceptance and respect of imperfection, regard for all things and also to pay homage to the aesthetic of austere simplicity and refined poverty.  The tea ceremony is part of the spiritual practice of Zen.

Uresenke tradition holds as its father the Zen monk Sen Rikyu (1522-1591). A monk and student of Zen Rikyu brought this influence into his discipline of tea. He emphasized direct experience and held to the principals that are the foundational principals in Chado today. The four main principals in Chado are:

Wa or Harmony
Kei or Respect
Sei or Purity
Jaku or Tranquility

This lovely poem by Fujiwara Ietaka reflects Rikyu’s philosophy nicely.

 “To those who long only for flowers in full bloom, I would show the spring of young shoots pushing through snow in a mountain village.”  by Fujiwara Ietaka.

The spring birds are darting through the woods, lighting on rain soaked branches as the season reaches it climax. The cherry blossoms signal the fullness of spring and become the theme of
April tea. The hearth-pit season comes to a close and the sunken hearth will remain covered until November. I thought this would be a symbolic month to begin the writings for this blog.

The fresh smell of aired tatami mat greets me as I bow (signifying all are equal) and enter the Chashitsu (tea room) on my knees. The Tokonoma (raised alcove) serves as the focal point and houses the hanging scroll holding a calligraphy poem or phrase written with brush strokes and chosen carefully to reflect a theme chosen by the Teishu (host) for this occasion. A  bamboo Chabana holds the delicate display of Camillia. I bow, pause and reflect on the scroll, admire the flower arrangement and then take my place as guest. Practice begins. It is the perfect compliment to sitting practice in the Zen tradition.

The Teishu enters carrying the Chawan (tea bowl) which holds the Chasen (tea whisk), the Chakin (tea cloth) and Chashaku (tea scoop). The bowl represents the moon (yin) and is placed next to the water jar which represents the sun (yang). Placed perfectly the Teishu returns to the Myzuaya (preparation room) to get the Kensui (waste water bowl), Hishaku (bamboo water ladle) and the Futaoki (rest for Kama or kettle lid). It is a lovely procession of beautiful utensils all finding their place under the most gentle direction. The outside world falls away and we are in the grace of direct experience. It is so incredibly nurturing, the most basic acts refined and implemented into a moving meditation, a physical interaction that is tangible and designed to reconnect us to the joy of being. There is no use for the internet or other forms of modern technology here, those things would not serve the fundamental purpose this direct experience fosters. I am so relieved and profoundly grateful for this time in the Chashitsu.
See you next month…A Bow.


In the hazy field of springtime,
The scent of the flower…
Is it the blossoming cherry?
                                From the Manyoshu

A bit about Donna D'Orio: a Colorado native residing in Western Oregon (the land of rain) as I study Chado, Zen and participate actively with my grandchildren as I continue to pursue my artistic path. I hold a BA in Art and Cultural Studies. I am currently building a body of work to show and make available through my upcoming blog and website currently under construction and hope to see you there in the future.

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