Jul 24, 2007

Lay the charcoal so the water boils

These days we do not use charcoal to boil water, but one of the essential procedures in tea ceremony is laying the charcoal and building the fire. This is so important that it is done in front of the guests. It is not easy to lay the charcoal with efficiency and minimum mess in the tea room and in front of the guests.

We have been taught to lay the charcoal in a certain arrangement to be beautiful and to burn completely. But no matter how beautiful the arrangement, there is still no boiling water if it doesn’t burn. It’s better to have a not so perfect arrangement that burns hot enough to boil the water.

What I can take from this is to look at where I am striving for perfection in my life and look beyond the perfection to see what I am really trying to achieve. Is the goal laying perfect, beautiful charcoal or boiling water? Rikyu teaches us to think about doing things to accomplish something rather than making perfection the end goal.

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