Japanese Tea Ceremony and Zen Buddhism Are Inseparable

by Elena Popec 20. August 2011 19:12

“Chanoyu should be made with the heart,
Not with the hand.
Make it without making it,
In the stillness of your mind.”

- Hamamoto Soshun -

Japanese tea ceremony is a central point of the concept of attitude, which the Japanese call “cha-no-yu”. Being the basis of the whole aesthetic doctrine itself “chanoyu” roots in Zen Buddhism. Perhaps, the initial period of a tea ceremony in Japan was religious in nature.


No one knows exactly when tea attained Japan. For centuries, Buddhist monks included tea in their spiritual practice to stay awake during meditation. Tea makes the mind fresh and alert, not intoxicated. Perhaps, the monks were the first who brought it to Japan. Natural tea ceremonies are practiced in Zen Buddhist monasteries, stands apart from the art, which is now in fashion.


Zen and tea ceremonies combine the constant striving for simplification. Zen eliminates everything that is unnecessary on the way to acknowledgement of ultimate reality; tea ceremonies manifest simplicity in real life and in the tearoom. Tea ceremonies celebrate aestheticism of primitive purity, finds perfection in the imperfect, embraces the discordance in order to achieve concordance… The idea is unifying with nature. Tea ceremonies embody its ideal in a small room, which however, decorated and furnished tastefully. Zen also seeks to strip off all the husks of artificiality, which humanity used to disguise itself to seem perfect. 

Tea ceremonies symbolize the simplification in the tea room built, for example, under an old pine tree as a part of nature, rather than creation of human hands. The key principle of the ceremony is the perfect obedience of the original idea of eliminating the unnecessary.

Tea ceremonies are closely related to Zen, not only in its practical development, but mainly in the preservation of the spirit in which it is impregnated. It’s more than an elaborated ritual. There are four basic principles of the philosophy of tea: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility (wa, kei, sei, jaku).They had become the embodiment of tea ceremony as a whole procedure:  its meaning, spirit and enthusiasm, as well as its separate components, down to the smallest detail. Each of the four principles can be in the abstract and philosophical sense, as well as in the concrete and practical.

Harmony – tea ceremony is the way of leading oneself into harmony with nature;


Respect – is a polite, cordial relationship with others;


Purity – is purity of the mind, heart and intentions. This state of purity can be reached through five senses: hearing , when hearing the sound of water; sense of sight, when see the beauty of flowers; sense of touch, when touching the utensils; sense of smell when smelling the fragrance of the flowers and sense of taste when sipping tea.


Tranquility – is the apogee of all three preceding principles. Tranquility is a harmony of the moment, acceptance of the surrounding, respect for people and things with purity of intentions, peace of mind and appreciation of nature.


From the perspective of Zen Buddhism, the Japanese tea ceremony can be viewed as a way to achieve satori - enlightenment associated with awareness of the triviality and unimportance of worldly vanity.

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Japanese culture

Tea Traditions

by Steven Popec 3. January 2010 17:21

The Tea Ceremony - Enjoy the variability of the world

There are various traditions of tea ceremonies in different cultures. Every nation, every region and even families have their traditions of making this wonderful drink. The cult of tea in the East belongs to Japanese, in the West - to English. Tea rituals help a person to concentrate and reflect on spirituality, to see the unexpected in the usual, to understand the unknown in the known, set to a tide of nature and the universe, to find peace and harmony in your soul. Drinking tea requires vigilance at all stages of interaction with product, since the cultivation and collection of leaves to water and its selection, connection with the fire in the cooking process of boiling water.


In England, tea drinking is an old and much respected tradition which includes communication that often is very formal. The British, which are wonderful people, they contrive to get the pleasure of formal communication, if it happens over a cup of tea.

In Russia, people drink tea for the sake of conversation. Russian tea drinking ceremonies, tea is the drink of friendship. There is nothing more important than company enjoying this traditional drink sitting around a samovar.

The Japanese prefer to enjoy the world outside edge of everyday life. Therefore, for the tea ceremony, they create a special world: a tea garden with a special path that leads to a tea house, with a room for tea drinking ceremonies. The Japanese tea ceremony is not so much about the taste of tea, but the taste of Zen. Japanese tea rituals are extremely complicated and refined. There are special ritual acts, dishes, and even space. Japanese tea ceremonies are analogous to cultic action and have philosophical and authentic characters.

Basics Japanese Philosophy of Tea:

• worship of beauty;
• dream of good in an imperfect world full of evil;
• subordination to the laws of charity in the relations between human beings;
• tea - is pleasure without excess, is uniquely valuable without the high cost,  is nature and harmony, hospitality and peacefulness;
• tea - is healthy because it prompts to clean;
• tea - is frugality, because learning to find comfort in the simple and modest;
• tea - is moral geometry, determining the optimal form of a combination of personal interests with the interests of others.

The Chinese tea ceremony allows enjoying the taste of tea. Gong Fu Cha (called the ceremony - higher skill tea) reveals the variability of the world through the variability of the taste of tea. It helps to take the one and another variation of the reality, as a fact. When the higher level of concentration is reached, and then during the tea ceremony can be felt as the world is changing with each passing second, as the grass grows and a tree leaf develops. The ceremony tunes on a philosophical mood, calms nerves, and becomes the true relaxation from the harsh realities of everyday life. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to accept these harsh realities with an open heart and even reduce their severity. They are only parts of the overall variability of the world, and, hence, will change soon. So what's the worry?

Tea in the Gong Fu Cha has four precious things: a form of the leaf, the color of this, the scent of tea, and the taste of tea. Tea ceremony is constructed so that participants can assess all four of treasures and enjoy them.

This tea ceremony is human life in a miniature form. It is not surprising that the East is given the value of tea and rituals, associated with it. After all, tea ceremonies help not only to understand and take the variability of the world, but enjoy it just as volatile flavor tea.

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