Monday, May 15, 2017

Ancient Spiritual Rituals: Japanese Tea Ceremony and American Ice Cream Ceremony

For Western folks whose cultures only go back a few hundred years, and whose attention spans barely reach a few minutes ago, the Japanese tea ceremony seems "ancient". In it's present forms and practice, it's barely a half millennium old.

In fact, to quote Carly Simon's "Anticipation" anthem, "These are the good old days." Many of the same secular and religious buildings in which tea was shared by Rikyu and his patron the Toyotomi Shogun Hideyoshi in the 16th century are still standing and used. My home tearoom is certainly not ancient, yet the same alchemical reactions of fire, water, air, metal and wood / earth is no less or more viable than those before.

The spirit of the moment is also ours to evoke.

So why do we have to make a fuss, to exoticize this practice? When I hear of the "secret temaes" that were only taught to initiates, I think of rituals and rites that belong to a privileged few for no other reason than to keep some people out or to make the members seem distinctive. There's nothing inherent in chanoyu that needs to be "secret". C'mon, guys!

Certainly, there is a shift in consciousness when one picks up a hishaku (water ladle) and prepares to draw boiling water from an iron kettle, but only if  consciousness was present a split second before. 

And, yes, while it is the host who is picking up the ladle, the shift can also be experienced by the guest who is in deep anticipation (if s/he knows what comes "next").

It's the simplicity of the temae that defies expectation, the extra falls off the ordinary to make the experience one that is nothing much but a deeply human experience.

I don't think that I can explain it further. It's not ancient. It's not mysterious.