What is the Tea Ceremony?

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SEN Rikyu, the 16th-century tea master who perfected the Way of Tea, was once asked to explain what this Way entails. He replied that it was a matter of observing but seven rules: Make a satisfying bowl of tea; Lay the charcoal so that the water boils efficiently; Provide a sense of warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer; Arrange the flowers as though they were in the field; Be ready ahead of time; Be prepared in case it should rain; Act with utmost consideration toward your guests.

According to the well-known story relating the dialogue between Rikyu and the questioner mentioned above, the questioner was vexed by Rikyu's reply, saying that those were simple matters that anyone could handle. To this, Rikyu responded that he would become a disciple of the person who could carry them out without fail.

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. In this sense, the Way of Tea is well described as an Art of Living (from Urasenke Konnichian website).

"In my own hands I hold a bowl of tea; I see all of nature represented in its greencolor.Closing my eyes I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart.Sitting, silently alone, drinking tea, I feel these become part of me.Sharing this bowl of tea with others, they, too, become one with it and nature".Dr. Soshitsu Sen(from Tea Life, Tea Mind, 1979)