Nov 28, 2008

Okeiko, considering the past

When we greet the sensei at the beginning and end of class, we use the word okeiko, as in "Sensei, okeiko yoroshiku onegai itashimasu" and "Sensei okeiko arigato gozaimashita." When asking for a specific lesson before starting otemae or tea procedure we say, "Sensei, hirademae no okeiko yoroshiku onegai itashimasu." But what does okeiko mean?

Okeiko is often used to describe tea class, training or practice. Quite literally, the top part of the kanji kei means "to consider" and the bottom part of the kanji ko is the numeral ten on top of a mouth, the spoken wisdom of ten generations or old teachings. Taken together, keiko means to "to consider the old teachings." With the honorific "o" at the beginning we have the meaning of okeiko. The original inference of this was to read the classics and understand their true meanings. This in turn came to mean to reflect upon, study and acquire training in matters that have come down from the past.

So the next time you attend okeiko and greet the sensei or ask for a lesson, you are studying the tradition, the teachings of the past.

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