Jul 23, 2007

First, you must make a delicious bowl of tea

This is the first rule of Rikyu and he tells us to do what is most important. In making a delicious bowl of tea we must pay attention to technical things like the temperature and amount of the water, the amount of tea, how long to whisk the tea and how much foam. It is also important to know when to stop whisking because the tea is cooling as we are making it. We also need to pay attention to our guests – what do they like? A little cooler temperature? Whisk a little longer. Stronger flavor of tea? Put more tea powder in. More foam on top? Whisk more vigorously.

Part of tea ceremony is purification of the utensils. While the host is doing this, he is also purifying his heart and letting go of everything else so that by the time he is ready to make tea, he is present and all of his concentration and focus is making the tea. Part of his essence goes into the bowl of tea, thus giving to the guest something extra besides just tea.

There are many things going on in the tea ceremony and it is hard to keep track of everything. Flowers, scroll, utensils, walking, standing and sitting correctly. There is a correct order of doing things and correct placement and timing. But Rikyu reminds us that first, you must make a delicious bowl of tea. Even if everything is perfectly timed and aligned and utensils and flowers are beautiful, if the tea is not delicious the whole point of tea ceremony has been missed. Our attention should be put on what is most important.

Taking this further into everyday life, we can get so caught up paying attention to other things that we miss what is most important. We fill our lives with so many activities and things that we can even forget what it is that comes first. Rikyu reminds us to pay attention and put important things first.

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