View Single Post
Old 08-19-2003, 04:57 PM   #1
Anders Bjonback
Dojo: Boulder Aikikai
Location: Boulder, CO
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 129
Offline
Chado and Aikido/Criticism On an Article

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.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
  Reply With Quote