Dec 8, 2007

Back to one again

Keiko to wa ichi yori narai ju o shiri ju yori kaeru moto no sono ichi.

Rikyu’s wrote one hundred poems on the way of tea, and this one is translated as:
In tea practice, you learn from one to ten. When you reach ten you return to the original one.

Because chanoyu is wide – it covers many, many things, and deep – it can be a profound spiritual path, there are always things to learn. This poem reminds us too, that no matter how far we think we have progressed, we return to the original one again. That is, the lessons we thought we learned in the beginning of study we go back and re-learn again. This has been so true in my own study. After 15 years of study, I went to Japan where I started from the very beginning to learn how to walk and sit in the tea room. I learned how to bow the correct way again, and I learned again to clean. Even in the most advanced tea workshops with high ranking teachers and students, every seminar begins with warigeko – the basics.

But it was not just these physical things that I re-learned again. The lessons that I first learned in chanoyu about humility, thinking of others and doing things the right way came back to me in the first months of intensive study in Japan.

After many years of study, I thought that I pretty much knew a lot about chanoyu and I was one of the more advanced students of my sensei. But in Japan, I was little more than a tadpole just out of the egg. I quickly had to re-learn these lessons again and again.

Each time we return to the beginning, it is really not the beginning again. It is the same lessons presented so that I can take it in at a deeper level and so enrich my understanding of myself and how I interact with the world.

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