View Full Version : Chado and Aikido/Criticism On an Article

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Anders Bjonback
08-19-2003, 04:57 PM
I wanted to read over the article I am going to discuss in this thread over again before posting, but I lost it.
Paula acually asked me to make a thread about this, after I was discussing it. One of my major hesitations is that I don't want anyone to presume that I presume to understand the way of tea. I have only done tray tea, the abbreviated ceremony that isn't even taught in Japan, and I've only done tea ceremony for about eight or nine months. And with aikido, too--I've only done aikido for a year. So please keep this in mind, and take what I say with a grain of salt.

So what I say has some degree of credibilty, I will use the words of Grand Master Sen Soshitsu XV in support of my ideas.

And many of you out there will probably find what I have to say about some things insulting. Well, please accept my point of view, but I will not dub down my ideas in order that they are more universally accepted. I will show them as they are.

As a student of the Way of Tea and a practicioner of aikido, I've always wondered about the similarities between the two. I resonate deeply with both. As one could imagine, I was very excited to find out that an issue of Aikido Today magazine had an article on tea ceremony and aikido.
When I got the article, I was very disapointed. One article had a brief overview explaining the history of tea ceremony. The other, which proposed to show the similarities or relationship between the two paths, barely did so at all! One half talked a bit about tea ceremony, and then the writer went on to say something to the effect of... it's like when we do aikido in this way... And then it was just about aikido, and not a word about tea! The least the writer could do was continue to talk about the relationship or the similarities between the two instead of going off on a tangent about aikido for the remainder of the article. It was like writing about tea was just some side note to the main focus.

I remember it said something to the effect of, "For some, it is a contemplative practice, to sit down and have some simplicity in our hetic lives." It's more than just sitting down for something simple in a hectic life, although that it is a part of it.
"...If you prepare tea when you are agitated, your movements will be crude. Yet, oddly, even at such a time, as you whip the tea smoothly with the wisk, you will become composed. Your state of mind is readily revealed in the tea you prepare. At the same time, you can calm your feelings as you handle the whisk... The act of preparing tea is effective in enabling you to control and reflect upon yourself." (The Sprit of Tea by Sen Soshitsu XV p. 64)

The tone of the article when it spoke of tea was vaguely remincient of those insulting commecials selling "Dharma crafts" with slogans like "does plastic have Buddha nature?" I saw no reverence or respect for another path with a lineage of dedicated practicioners and timeless principles.

There are so many things that were not mentioned that I think that many aikido practioners would find interesting.

"The way of tea, chado, must be acquired by means of the movements of your own body and through one's own experiences.
It cannot be learned by obsereving and listening to others and thus by imitating them.
There is no other method than this in pursuing chado.
My predecessor as Grand Master impressed upon me
that the only way to learn tea was through the movements of my own body and by accumulating experiences and storing them within my body.
Moreover, your motivation for learning tea must gush forth from within you;
it cannot be forced by others."
---The Spirit of Tea by Sen Soshitsu XV p. 22.

And there was this one story I remember... I think it might have been in the book The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura.
There was this kamikaze (I'm a bad speller, so sue me) pilot during WWII who survived. When he went home, he saw his father, a tea master, serving tea to Americans. He was understandably upset, and demanded to know what his father was doing. His father said that tea is for everyone.

When you are the host in the tea ceremony, ther are so many things you need to be aware of, and sensitive to. The time of day, the weather, the season, whether it is such-and-such Emperror's birthday, and the guest's mood all come into consideration.
You need to be receptive to the atmosphere and the mood of the guests. Much like, in aikido, you need to learn to be receptive to uke or nage, to tell what they're going to do next.

"If it were simply a matter of temae [procedure] and preparing tea, anyone could do that. After the guests have partaken of their sweets and you judge the time to be just right, you serve tea and your guests receive it from you.
To refer to the time as 'just right' is, of course, to speak of timing.
You may make mistakes in the temae [tea procedure] and your utensils may not be of the highest quality; but if you prepare the tea whole-heartedly and offer it to your guests with sincerity of spirit, the bowls will truly be bowls of noble tea.
And, thus, the guests can receive and drink the tea in the sincerity of their own spirits."
--The Spirit of Tea p. 46

It's supposed to be from the heart. Tea is a practice of the heart, of appreciating the other person. Even if it's not all done correctly, if the tea is prepared with sincerity of the spirit, made from the heart, then it's truly a "bowl of noble tea."

And in tea, as in Budo, there is ichigo, ichie--"one time, one meeting."

On the same page as the above quote:
"Sotsu is the cry of the baby chick within its shell trying to get out, and taku is the pecking on the outside of the shell by the parent bird because it has heard the chick's cry. We are told in an old story that when the crying and pecking occur at the same time, the chick will be born. This is exactly how it is with timing between host and guests and between guests."

When you're uke, you don't act before nage, taking the fall before the technique happens, and you aren't too slow, either, resisting the technique. This takes a great receptiveness and awareness, like the parent bird pecking at the chick's egg shell as it peeps.

If I recall correctly, the analogy of the parent bird and the chick in the egg was also used by Dave Lowry in his book, "Moving Toward Stillness: Lessons in Daily Life from the Martial Ways of Japan.

Finally, I was greatly inspired by this one article I saw at Boulder Aikikai on Ikeda Sensei's insights into training. One of them was that the beauty of aikido is in simplicity, in the smallest movement. It's the same with tea. Sen no Rikyu, who made tea ceremony into as we see it today, as an asthetic practice, chose not grand, expensive chinese stuff for his tea bowls, but the korean bowls, which, by the way they were fired, preserved much of their natural look. Of course, that isn't to say that there aren't chinese tea bowls used today, or that today there aren't people with an extravagent number of tea bowls, some which can only be used every twelve years on a certain emperror's birthday.

Still, the beauty of the tea ceremony is in its simplicity, in the simple act of giving someone a cup of tea. "I like to think that the mutual understanding of how to serve and receive tea will guide people in extending the joys of today throughout their lives" (The Spirit of Tea, p 8).
But it's not just brining some simplicity in our lives to calm ourselves. "Today, we tend to drag worldly commotion into the tea room. We need to provide more places where we can leisurely take time to taste a bowl of tea prepared by our host. How wonderful it would be if we Japanese, by cherishing a bowl of tea, could convey our spirit to the people of the various countries of the world, perhaps to promote peace" (The Spirit of tea, p 10).

Thankyou for your kind patience in reading the ranting of a beginner in aikido and the way of tea. Sorry if I did not write enough about aikido, but as experienced practicioners, I think you can draw conclusions on your own.

08-20-2003, 04:41 AM
The articles that were mentioned are probably in Aikido Today Magazine July/August '03. One was an editorial, the other was the article "hot water for tea".

In the book "Ki: A Practical Guide for Westerners", William Reed discusses tea master Sen-no-Rikyu's seven principles. When his student said he already knew how to do everything mentioned, Rikyu declared that if the student could host a ceremony without losing any of these principles, he would become the student's disciple. William Reed goes on to fully describe the principles. The seven principles are:

Make the best possible bowl of tea.

Arrange the charcoal so that it just boils the water, without wasting heat.

Arrange the flowers as they are, to express their true nature.

In summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth.

Anticipate well, and be prepared.

Bring an umbrella, even when the sky is clear.

Direct your full attention to your guests.

Reflecting on this makes me think I'm a babarian. I enjoy both my tea and aikido without ceremony. To me, ceremony is the practice of making something special, that is already special. :D

Ron Tisdale
08-20-2003, 09:52 AM
Interesting posts. Thanks.


Anders Bjonback
08-20-2003, 10:03 AM

Reflecting on what I wrote... I regret being so critical about the article. I should be thankful that there is something spreading or educating people on the Way of Tea, despite how I perceived it. Oh, well. I didn't say I was a good tea student, or that I wasn't a hypocrite.

You know, once I asked my tea teachers about the tea cereomony tea, and whether it was good for multiple people to drink out of the same cup. They said that tea has intrinsic healing properties, for the host is putting their life force, i.e. ki, into the tea as he or she whisks it.

So, I guess, in a way, if I served you tea, you would be drinking the Essence of Anders! (That joke usually earns me some nasty faces from my friends as I serve tea to them.)

Something more about simplicity... in chabana, in the flower arrangement in the tea room, there is often just one flower. What is more profound and beautiful, or which do you notice more--a field full of flowers, or one flower thriving among the rubble?

In the movie Rikyu, Rikyu had all the flowers in front of his tea room cut off their bushes. He then kept one flower inside the tea room. Then his guest, as he came into the tea room, having seen no flowers outside, saw the one, beautiful flower inside, and it really caught his eye.

In the tea room, you avioid any kind of repition. If you have a yellow flower, you aviod a yellow tea bowl, or a tea bowl with yellow flower designs. I'm not sure of the actual procedure as it pertains to that, but I think that's the idea.

Also, too, Rikyu preferred tea bowls that retained their natural qualities. And a tea bowl with a drip of glaze here or a small crack there is more interesting.

Chuck Clark
08-20-2003, 10:06 AM
There are some that are part of everything without distinctions of "special" or "not special"

The ceremony of "no ceremony" becomes discipline for yourself instead of a separation from this instant. It becomes an expression of "selfceremony".

If all seven of the principles are met in anything completely... it's a wonderful accident. Realizing the accident without comment is difficult. Being one with the accident is rare.

Anders Bjonback
08-21-2003, 03:56 PM
I think the path to integrate a practice into one's life is... well, a path, not and end.

I try to bring tea into my life, but knowing so little of that, it is difficult and I'm not even sure if I'm really following the way or bringing it into my life.

I try to bring aikido into my life, but I don't think I'm ever really doing aikido--I'm not acting in harmony with ki.

I try to bring the Buddha Dharma into my life, but I still have so much to learn in that way, too.

I think that as one's understanding changes, the way the practice influences his or her life changes, too.

Whether, when I become more learned, I will disagree or agree with what you say remains yet to be seen, but what you say reminds me of how much I have yet to learn.

It does make sense, though. If I finally did everything right, "the utensils harmoniously matched, the temperature of the hot water adjusted, the proper amount of tea measured, the tea whisk measured and so forth--" would I be able to just be one with this incident, or would I grasp onto it and the state of my heart and mind change out of sync with it? Is that what you mean when you say, "Realizing the accident without comment is difficult. Being one with the accident is rare?"

08-21-2003, 04:47 PM
Anders i think someday you are going to be one hell of a great teacher. in whatever subject you choose.

Dn't forget tho that you can become just as attached to humility as any other quality...

Chuck Clark
08-21-2003, 05:08 PM

If you keep practicing and find a teacher that "has it", you'll stop worrying about whether it's "right", you'll just be "doing".

It's not matter of intellectual understanding, it's a point on the journey and all part of the process.


08-22-2003, 12:22 AM
I try to bring tea into my life...I try to bring aikido into my life...I try to bring the Buddha Dharma
I'd say stop trying and allow it to happen naturally ;)


Anders Bjonback
08-22-2003, 12:52 AM
HOLY COW! You guys are so wise!

Being attached to humiliy--that's right!

But you know, I think that I'm more unselfassured, or whatever the word is for it--and sometimes arrogance is an expression of it.

I have become attached to being humble, partially because I have seen what arrogance and intellect can do, in my high school friends. But I need to see that being hard on myself, being a perfectionist, and being unselfassured are not humility.

As for a teacher who has it--every time I go off to explore another lineage of Buddhsim, when I come back to my sangha and hear Sogyal Rinpoche give a speech on video, I am always inspired. It's like what he says is said directly to me, and it always has directly to do with my life.

But I've got to remember what he says--I don't want to be like a pot with a hole in it (one of the wrong ways to receive the teachings)--whatever teachings are put in it leak out.

After a certain point in meditation, it's like the checklist of things to accomplish are just done. You're in harmony with all things, you're truly in touch with yourself and others... When you integrate that into your life, others naturally like you, and you make dependable friends. So I don't need to try to change myself or make myself humble--what I really need to do is get in touch with what I really am.

But I think it's more than practicing and I naturally just "do" when I meet a teacher who has "it." The student's state of heart and mind is also a part of the process. Even if a teacher has "it," I can still be too caught up in my own stuff to notice and still be too concerned with what the right and wrong way of doing things are.

08-22-2003, 09:23 AM
Hi Anders,

Very interesting thread you've started; thanks. So interesting I googled chado, and came up with what might be a worthwhile site for barbarians like yours truly:


Hope the site info is an accurate enough reflection of what chado is about. Personally, I think they should bring back the liberal consumption of sake. :)

Back to swilling oolong directly from the teapot...

kung fu hamster
08-22-2003, 03:07 PM
I love chanoyu tea when it's made right. One time I was at a festival demo and the person making it didn't use hot water so it was whisked up lukewarm, didn't really taste right but the ceremony was nice. Anyone ever try Lapsang souchong? My girlfriend calls it 'Dead Mouse Tea'... Strangest tea I ever tasted.

Anders Bjonback
08-22-2003, 05:04 PM
I love tea ceremony tea, but for some reason, I just don't like other Japanese teas. I've always prefered Oolong (in excessively large quantities).

As for Bronson's suggestion, to "stop trying and allowing it to happen naturally," I think that on some level it is true, but on another level, one needs to put in some sort of effor to bring one's practice into his or her life. In meditation, in the beginning, one needs a method of support, such as the breath, but after it becomes more natural after years of practice, one can just rest in ease and spaciousness, allowing it to happen naturally. In the beginning, too, one needs to try to cultivate bodhichitta, or the wish to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings, rather than just leaving things be. Without some level of effort, life can distract one from his or her practice, and get swept off into old habbits.

I think that on some level, it may be the same with tea, aikido, and other practices, not just Buddhism.

08-22-2003, 07:33 PM

many teachers in many traditions consider life AS Practice. Unless you choose to take robes and live monastically,you're gonna have to allow yourself enugh distraction to provide for Survival at the very least.

For me monastic living has many attractions yet it looks, to me, for me, to be more like escape.My Practice is to bring as much peace to myself,and to my interactions with others, thereby bringing peace to all other beings. Its been challenging and rewarding.

Here's an interesting practice- try doing Metta towards your training partners- with each technique,wish your partner peace & well-being. I can feel this from everyone i train with even tho as far as i know none of us actively does this.

I think Presence is the key- whethter it be Buddhism, Aikido,Tea, Dance, Love.

Anders Bjonback
08-23-2003, 02:35 PM
Metta with my training partners--I'll try that. But in a way, I think that perhaps exchaning self for other or tonglen would be more like what I'm going for. In metta practice, it feels like I'm objectifying the other, in a way, while tonglen seems to break down the barrier between myself and others. Maybe I should try to use the movements as a doorway to closeness with the other person, and from that do metta practice.

I don't see monastic life as an escape. If I was to become a monk, I think I'd want to still be involved with society. It means putting limitations on myself and my behaviour, and yet also becoming free from the pressures of society to get married, etc, and have the ability to give all my time to the Dharma (although, of course, if one brings one's practice into one's life, then all of one's time is for the Dharma. But what I mean is, instead of working to support myself and a family, I would be working for the Dharma.)

From what I hear, the life of a monk is not easy. They're still very busy, especially in the west--learning the teachings, building monastaries, etc.

And I talked to an American Zen monk who went to Japan and lived in a Zen monastary for three years--he said that we have no conception of how hard a life it is, despite, or perhaps because of, its simplicity. And I've read that in the Zen tradition, after a certain point of living in the monastary, you go into society to spread the teachings and bring benifit to others.

Life is practice, but it can also be a distraction, too, if we allow ouselves to simply be overcome by our habbits and compulsions. Sogyal Rinpoche talks about when he's asked by people why they havn't changed despite meditating for years--he said that the reason is that for many of us, there's this great abyss between our spiritual and our everyday lives. There need not be a distinction between our life and our practice--the two should be one. But I don't think that life itself is the only teacher for me.

Practice means confronting the darker aspects of ourselves, whether we be monks or laypersons. It's imporant to remember that monks are people too, and don't live carefree lives (I especially need to remember that since I think I may be one some day). Personally, I can't see myself getting married, having kids, and having a desk job and saving up so I can send them off to college. I can't see myself being involved in this society in that way. At the same time, I now have practices other than ones from my lineage of Buddhism--tea ceremony and aikido--that I really resonate with, and think can help others. So, I can't really see myself just giving those practices up to become a monk, at least in this period of my life. Right now my life is open-ended.

Kensho Furuya
09-03-2003, 01:41 PM
Hello! I have studied the tea ceremony for a number of years, learning from the same teacher who taught my grandmother 37 years previously and later I studied under my Zen master's wife in the temple. I moved away from tea as I saw more politics, materialism and pride as we see many many things today. . . . But I love tea and still practice and wish some of my senior students would study tea as well. Tea teaches "caring heart," just as we try to make the best cup of tea possible for our guest, in Aikido, we do the very best for our opponent - years of study and practice so we don't dare injure or kill him. . . . . Tea teaches the inner value of things and people and how to treat them in the best way possible. As my teacher used to say, the three elements in practice ares "gaku" (learning), "jutsu" (technique or practice) and "do" (making it a Way of Life) - in this, I think Aikido and tea are very similar and compatible. Just my own thoughts here. . . . .