Oct 19, 2009

The microcosm of the tea room

Sensei says: How you are in the tea room is how you are in the world.

Haji o sute hito ni mono toi naraubeshi kore zojozu no motoi narikeru
A person must discard all embarrassment when training in tea, this is the foundation of mastery.
~ from Rikyu's 100 poems

Every time we step into the tea room, it is a microcosm of how we are in the world.

As I observe myself in the tea room, am I impatient, bored, eager, timid, attentive? Am I selfish, critical, generous? Do I treat others with respect? Do I show off? Try to compete? Question others? How do I treat correction and criticism? How do I handle mistakes?

"In a certain place for practice of the way of tea,
there hangs a plaque the reads:
'A Place Making a Shameful Show of Oneself.'
Once you pass through the entrance way,
you will experience no shame,
no matter how shameful a show you may make of yourself.
The practice room is where you are trained as a human,
even as you are sharply scolded
and hesitate to humiliate yourself in the process.
The principal aim of your training is to enable you,
when the time comes,
to perform tea splendidly and without shame.
This is the reason why all those who pass through the entrance way
of this place are prepared to endure severe discipline.
For it is in this way that
they gradually develop fine characters as people.
They cannot achieve this simply by reading books
and listening to others.
They must experience it with their own bodies."

~ Sen Soshitsu XV, The Spirit of Tea


  1. What an interesting perspective!

  2. Steph,
    Thank you for your comment. Chado the way of tea has an interesting way of focusing things, yes?

    Take care,