Sunday, May 24, 2015

30th Year Reflection: Dr. Genshitsu Sen, Daisosho About Raku

A reflection on this my 30th year as a practitioner / student of Chado Urasenke.

The recent exhibition of Raku chadogu at the Los Angeles Museum of Art attracted many dignitaries, particularly Dr. Genshitsu Sen XV, retired o-Iemoto of Chado Urasenke. At his generous presentation of kencha, koicha and a lecture, he reminisced about how Raku was important in his initiation in Chado and as the wakasosho of his lineage.

At age 6 years, 6 months and 6 days it is customary for him to begin his formal training under the tutelage of his father, Tantansai, Sen XIV. At that time he was given a chawan made for him by Seinyu, Raku XIII created for that initiatory experience toward becoming the grand master of Urasenke. Subsequently, he was given chawan of Hagi and Karatsu kilns, the other great historical sources of Japanese ceramics. He learned the names of all the Raku grand masters as a young man. 

He stated that the word "Raku" implies fun, a modern / progressive design. He learned how to make chawan in the workshop of Kakunyu, Raku XIV and was taught that a chawan is a living thing, like a prayer, when one puts palms together. "There is "amazing electricity" that comes from touching a Raku bowl.

In addition to his personal impressions about the gathering, he delivered a speech emphasizing "Tradition and Transmission" of Wisdom, being the heart of his remarks. He stated that kencha is rather more the "ceremony". Our purpose is for host and guest(s) to be "one in spirit", united through the chawan itself.

This being my 30th year as a student of Chado Urasenke, and having heard his maxim, "Peace through a bowl of tea" many times, I must congratulate Dr. Sen for having the integrity to sustain his vision. Not only was he generous in making this practice accessible to so many people around the world, it is clear that he has indeed committed his life to this "simple" promise. It has proven to me to be a very reasonable path in greatly human terms.

My own sensei, Sosei Matsumoto, is a long time friend of the Sen Family and a truly devoted practitioner. I also owe here great thanks for taking me on as a student in 1985, for encouraging my attending Midorikai in Kyoto as a guest student (1987, 1989 and 1991) and for her dear friendship and support in the tea community of Los Angeles and beyond.