When you hear the splash of the water drops that fall into the stone bowl you will feel that all the dust of your mind is washed away.
Sen no Rikyu, (1552-1591) Japanese tea master

This lovely chapter is somewhat a departure from the ‘how to’ chapters preceding it. John Daido Loori is describing Zen ceremonies, how they relate to our practice and the spare, elegant beauty of the ritual, the implements, and the surroundings.

JDL devotes quite a bit of text to The Tea Ceremony.

I add to JDL's discussion with some words from Soetsu Yanagi’s (The Unknown Craftsman, A Japanese Insight into Beauty) concerning the tea ceremony’s early practitioners...

Though everyone says he sees things, how few can see things as they are. Among these few are found the early masters of the way of tea. They had deep seeing eyes. They could comprehend intuitively. And with this penetration, they saw the truth.

Soetsu Yanagi goes on to discuss the utensils, how craftsmanship was integral to their production, from the hanging scroll to the tea garden, the movements of serving tea he calls ‘the craft movement of life.’ He sums it up explaining that The Way of Tea is the ‘aestheticism of craftsmanship’. But this beauty is not a refined, stale statement but more the concept of wabi-sabi that Kokuu has mentioned. Perfection in the mundane, beauty in the ordinary…

Few of us can attend an actual tea ceremony, although it seems that you can make a cup of tea and have your own ceremony: In the words of an esteemed Japanese tea master Sen Rikyu.
Tea is nought but this;
First you heat the water,
Then you make the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know

The same aesthetic with the oryoki ceremony. The first sesshin I attended years ago I watched with awe the formalities; the rituals involved in eating a meal. As an artist I thought of it as beautiful and even as performance art. I carefully packed my three bowls and chopsticks in the cotton cloth, carried them as though they were a precious treasure throughout the week. The sensei and the jikijisu draped in black, the rest of us in somber colors were led into the dining hall with bells and wooden clappers. We passed the kitchen, rich with the enticing fragrance of a freshly prepared meal. The chanting continued as we sat solemnly until our food was served with hand signals and deep bows. After hours of sitting all my senses were open to perceive this ritual completely. It was lovely and meaningful and perfect with the zazen and kinhin practice. It all made sense. All so simple and crisp.

A body of artwork came out of this experience and even recently I’ve returned to my 3 Red Bowl series. I will post images later.

I love JDL’s discussion of our gardens in the west, how excess means beauty, whereas his example of the single morning glory on display shows how, really, less is more. This along with his admonition to simplify our lives fits into the philosophy of the tea ceremony, oryoki etc. scraping away the excess to get to the core of life.

Are there ceremonies that combine aesthetics of made objects with spiritual practice that are especially meaningful for you as an artist? During this period of Ango have you created a personal ritual practice with your art making, or your eating or meditation? Like me, has your creativity been opened by a particular ritual?
Please share.

Here's a bargain: The Book of Tea for your kindle, .99 cents US

And now Meitous' prompt!

Hello everyone and welcome to prompt 9.

Have a cup of tea.

Our prompt this time continues to explore the simplicity and beauty of the Zen aesthetic – in her part of this post Anne uses the words 'spare elegant beauty', which I think sums up perfectly the physical manifestations of the Zen art – ikebana, chado, chabana, archery, haiku etc.

Daido Loori connects this spare beauty to rituals around our practice – from a simple Gassho to the Tea Ceremony and Oryoki. Bowing, lighting incence, unfolding the Rakusu and putting it on, sitting – these are all rituals that we are all familiar with and many of us use. So this week I'm proposing something very simple – let's try to express, in any medium, the beauty of our own personal rituals. A tea ceremony doesn't mean that we have to have a tea house in the garden ( but if you do, let's see it!) it can be as simple as putting a tea bag in a favourite mug. It can be a coffee ceremony, or something as basic as a refreshing glass of water. We don't need to have an Oryoki kit to show appreciation and gratitude for our food – looking at how you serve food might reveal that you are unconsciously creating something which is aesthetically pleasing to you – white rice in a rustic bowl, a colourful salad on a beautiful plate, a dark chocolate brownie on a perfect white background. Some twigs in a vase, a beautiful journal, an arrangement of words on a page, a collection of sounds, a piece of sewing or knitting, the physical pleasure of a tai chi movement – all of these things can have an ineffable quality that calls to something within us.

Are there elements of a personal ritual that you could photograph and share? Or express through a drawing, a print, a poem, sounds? No obligation to share of course, but I would insist that you enjoy reflecting and playing with this prompt!

Interestingly, while researching this, the most common expression of the Zen aesthetic that I found was that of the Zen garden – although I couldn't find an actual term that encompasses it in the same sense that ikebana does for flower arranging – perhaps Kotei can help us out here? I really enjoyed these links, as well as some fun information and ideas about indoor and outdoor gardens, there is also a breakdown of the terms used in Japanese zen aesthetics. Perhaps we might come back to these in a future creative project.





Meitou and Anne

we both sat today