Jul 21, 2007

The Seven Rules of Rikyu

In the 16th century Sen no Rikyu, tea master to Hideyoshi who unified Japan during feudal times, was the most influential tea master of his time. During this time, Zen influenced the tea aesthetic and its followers refined it into Chado – the way of tea, just as Kendo – the way of the sword, shodo – the way of the brush, kado – the way of flower arranging, and others become spiritual paths to enlightenment. Rikyu’s sayings and aesthetic sense codified tea ceremony as we know it today.

A student once asked Rikyu to summarize the most important teachings of tea, hoping for a glimpse of some secret teaching he had not yet learned. Rikyu responded, “First you must make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so the water boils; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in the summer suggest coolness, in the winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.” The student was disappointed with this response, and said he already knew all that. Rikyu told him if he could do all that well, then Rikyu would be his student. This teaching is known as Rikyu’s Seven Rules.

This story tells us that the Way of Tea is basically concerned with activities that are a part of everyday life, yet to master these requires great cultivation and diligence.

As seen within Rikyu's seven rules, the Way of Tea concerns the creation of the proper setting for that moment of enjoyment of a perfect bowl of tea. But the Way of Tea can well described as the Art of Living.

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