Common steps and sub-activities

Japanese Tea Ceremony

I am aware that the Japanese tea ceremony today is a civilised ceremony that involves tea leaves from Camellia Sinensis, served by pretty waitresses occasionally dressed up to look like Geisha.

But the true Japanese tea ceremony was something completely different and involved Sex Magick, sexual stimulation and occasionally in the later stages opium.

First it may be helpful to understand the symbolism of the teapot and teacup.

In order to describe the use of ‘tea’ I will be using information from a wonderful book called The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, which does provide you with a brief history of true tea, but then delves into the realities of the tea ceremony in highly coded language.  I won’t comment too much, if you know what actually happened from knowing it is a sexual act, then the description becomes perfectly clear, I hope.

Buddhism derives from Taoism and this is what Okakura has to say about Taoism, remember that the messages have to be coded, as this was first published in 1906.


Taikan

 

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

Charles Lamb, a professed devotee, sounded the true note of Teaism when he wrote that the greatest pleasure he knew was to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident. For Teaism is the art of concealing beauty that you may discover it, of suggesting what you dare not reveal.

 

 

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

In ethics the Taoists railed at the laws and the moral codes of society, for to them right and wrong were but relative terms. Definition is always limitation - the "fixed" and  "unchangeless”  are but terms expressive of a stoppage of growth.

Said Kutsugen [Ch'i.i Yiian]: "The Sages move the world."

Our standards of morality are begotten of the past needs of society, but is society to remain always the same ? The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up the mighty delusion, encourages a species of ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, but to behave properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We never forgive others because we know that we ourselves are in the wrong.  We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to others; we take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves.

How can one be serious with the world when the world itself is so ridiculous ! The spirit of barter is everywhere.

Honour and Chastity ! Behold the complacent salesman retailing the Good and True. One can even buy a so-called Religion, which is really but common morality sanctified with flowers and music. Rob the Church of her accessories and what remains behind?

This was written in the Meiji period when the state religion was being imposed and the laws and imposed moral standards became punitive.

The ceremony itself is regarded as a key feature of the spiritual path. Through the process and the spiritual experiences that are obtained from it, one is able to help in the process of ‘purification’. In alchemical terms the ‘whitening’ process.

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

Tea with us became more than an idealisation of the form of drinking, it is a religion of the art of life.

The beverage grew to be an excuse for the worship of purity and refinement, a sacred function at which the host and guest joined to produce for that occasion the utmost beatitude of the mundane. The tea-room was an oasis in the dreary waste of existence where weary travellers could meet to drink from the common spring of ‘art’-appreciation.

The ceremony was an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the  flowers, and the paintings. Not a colour to disturb the tone of the room, not a sound to mar the rhythm of things, not a gesture to obtrude on the harmony, not a word to break the unity of the surroundings, all movements to be performed simply and naturally, - such were the aims of the tea-ceremony.

And strangely enough it was often successful.

A subtle philosophy lay behind it all.

Teaism was Taoism in disguise.

 The equipment used

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

From the Introduction by E F Bleiler 1963

little beauty is to be found in the ceremony. The utensils are often considered ugly by the Japanese themselves, and there has been considerable criticism directed at the inflated prices which enthusiasts have paid for ugly old vessels. Tea vessels and whisks and stirrers are not judged by the same standards as other Japanese art, and their value depends upon peculiar criteria.

Desirability does not arise from beauty as is the case with most Japanese artifacts, nor from iconological significance, as might be expected from a cultic apparatus. Instead, their value is primarily derived from a third criterion: antiquity and personal association. They are almost part of a cult of saints, with relics. Whenever a great tea-master's bowl comes upon the market, it has tremendous financial value.

A bowl is in this case the same as a teacup

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

In the old days the veneration in which the Japanese held the work of the great artist was intense. The tea-masters guarded their treasures with religious secrecy, and it was often necessary to open a whole series of boxes, one within another, before reaching the shrine

Itself - the silken wrapping within whose soft folds lay the holy of holies. Rarely was the object exposed to view, and then only to the initiated.

 The ‘tea-house’

The room or building in which the ‘tea’ was partaken was  unobtrusive and small.  In the description that follows we again see the use of the word Sukiya and its various meanings including that of the spirit world – abode of vacancy. 

It could only house the number of people needed for a sexually inspired spiritual experience and was sufficiently away from the house to mean that any emotion generated and hence noise would not be heard.

There are no or few windows to avoid prying eyes and to create a suitably quiet and intimate atmosphere.  The roof is straw to muffle sound , only a bare minimum of decoration is present in order to provide an environment which is sensorily deprived – a sort of  meditation room aided by the ‘tea’.

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

It is an Abode of Fancy inasmuch as it is an ephemeral structure built to house a poetic impulse. It is an Abode of Vacancy inasmuch as it is devoid of ornamentation except for what may be placed in it to satisfy some aesthetic need of the moment. It is an Abode of the Unsymmetrical inasmuch as it is consecrated to the worship of the Imperfect, purposely leaving some thing unfinished for the play of the imagination to complete.

The ideals of Teaism have since the sixteenth century influenced our architecture to such a degree that the ordinary Japanese interior of the present day, on account of the extreme simplicity and chasteness of its scheme of decoration, appears to foreigners almost barren.

The early tea-room consisted merely of a portion of the ordinary drawing-room partitioned off by screens for the purpose of the tea-gathering. The portion partitioned off was called the Kakoi (enclosure), a name still applied to those tea-rooms which are built into a house and are not independent constructions.

The Sukiya consists of the tea-room proper, designed to accommodate not more than five persons, a number suggestive of the saying "more than the Graces and less than the Muses," an anteroom (mizuya) where the tea-utensils are washed and arranged before being brought in, a portico (machiai) in which the guests wait until they receive the summons to enter the tea-room, and a garden path (the roji) which connects the machiai with the tea-room.

The tea-room is unimpressive in appearance. It is smaller than the smallest of Japanese houses, while the materials used in its construction are intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty.

 

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

The simplicity and purism of the tea-room resulted from emulation of the Zen monastery.

A Zen monastery differs from those of other Buddhist sects inasmuch as it is meant only to be a dwelling place for the monks. Its chapel is not a place of worship or pilgrimage, but a college room where the students congregate for discussion and the practice of meditation. The room is bare except for a central alcove in which, behind the altar, is a statue of Bodhidharma, the founder of the sect, or of Sakyamuni attended by Kasyapa and Ananda: the two earliest Zen patriarchs. On the altar, flowers and incense are offered up in memory of the great contributions which these sages made to Zen.

We have already said that it was the ritual instituted by the Zen monks of successively drinking tea out of a bowl before the image of Bodhidharma, which laid the foundations of the tea-ceremony.

We might add here that the altar of the Zen chapel was the prototype of the Tokonoma,-the place of honour in a Japanese room where paintings and flowers are placed for the edification of the guests.

All our great tea-masters were students of Zen and attempted to introduce the spirit of Zennism into the actualities of life. Thus the room, like the other equipments of the tea-ceremony, reflects many of the Zen doctrines.

The size of the orthodox tea-room, which is four mats and a half, or ten feet square, is determined by a passage in the Sutra of Vikramaditya.

… the roji, the garden path which leads from the machiai to the tea-room, signified the first stage of meditation, - the passage into self-illumination. The roji was intended to break connection with the outside world, and to produce a fresh sensation conducive to the full enjoyment of aestheticism in the tea-room itself.

One who has trodden this garden path cannot fail to remember how his spirit, as he walked in the twilight of evergreens over the regular irregularities of the stepping stones, beneath which lay dried pine needles, and passed beside the moss-covered granite lanterns, became uplifted above ordinary thoughts.

 

 

 


The "dewey path" to teahouse

The Ceremony

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

Then he will bend low and creep into the room through a small door not more than three feet in height. This proceeding was incumbent on all guests, -high and low alike,- and was intended to inculcate humility.

The order of  precedence having been mutually agreed upon while resting in the machiai, the guests one by one will enter noiselessly and take their seats, first making obeisance to the picture or flower arrangement on the tokonoma.

The host will not enter the room until all the guests have seated themselves and quiet reigns with nothing to break the silence save the note of the boiling water in the iron kettle.

The kettle sings well, for pieces of iron are so arranged in the bottom as to produce a peculiar melody in which one may hear the echoes of a cataract muffled by clouds, of a distant sea breaking among the rocks, a rainstorm sweeping through a bamboo forest, or of the soughing of pines on some faraway hill.

Even in the daytime the light in the room is subdued, for the low eaves of the slanting roof admit but few of the sun’s rays, Everything is sober in tint from the ceiling to the floor; the guests themselves have carefully chosen garments of unobtrusive colours. The mellowness of age is over all, everything suggestive of recent acquirement being tabooed save only the one note of contrast furnished by the bamboo dipper and the linen napkin, both immaculately white and new.

However faded the tea-room and the tea-equipage may seem, everything is absolutely clean. Not a particle of dust will be found in the darkest corner, for if any exists the host is not a tea-master.

 

Opium as lubrication

Okakura’s description was written at a time when western moral standards were being imposed on the east.  Given that the most important technique for spiritual experience was based on sexual practises, this was a disaster – honour and chastity!  

Pharmakopoeia – Dale Pendell

Narcotics are not generally thought of as sexual enhancers. in fact, the contrary is usually the case: the eidetic upstaging the carnal. But with opium, if you ever get around to it, sexual orgasm can touch astonishingly primal centers. Perhaps part of it is a side effect of the general decrease in sensitivity delaying the orgasm and demanding a prolonged and more insistent intercourse - but when the climax is at last achieved, it seems to split the spine. In an instant one knows what lizards feel when they mate, and why they clamber onto a sun-warmed rock in the morning. One feels kinship with amphibian consciousness, you know for yourself what frogs legs do when they stop jerking. One even knows, and for an instant must acknowledge, a power greater than the poppy - and this is a knowledge worth remembering. For if the poppy ever succeeds in sucking out your soul, in having you serve her instead of her, as before, leisurely caressing your hair with her soft fingers, you will need the memory of that glimpse of light.  You will need to know that somewhere raw life exists, that it lives in seemingly imperfect and ephemeral bodies, but that in mundane flesh the universe has triumphed. Without that knowledge, your chances aren't worth a long shot at the dog races.

 

The lady is being handed ‘tea’ by her young maid. 

 The waka poem reads:

 

Thoughts flare up noiselessly,

Even the glow-worm appears without a sound

Glow worms are symbolic – like butterflies

 

 Pharmakopoeia – Dale Pendell

Beautiful mistress

When I inhale your dark perfume

My deepest longings for love

Are touched and soothed.

 

So opium helps prolong the orgasm – or even eliminate it altogether and turn it into something else.  So opium and the kundalini experience appear to be quite synergistic.

Repression and teachings that repress sexuality can hinder any form of sexually based technique.  Thus at the time Okakura was writing, if sexually based spiritual practises could be obtained at all, they had to be achieved in a clandestine manner and any form of aid to help with the experience also had to be obtained and used clandestinely – particularly as it was illegal.

What about the time before the repression and the Meiji crack downs?  Inhibitions still existed for the seeker because occasionally the practise required numerous helpers and there are not that many people who have the lack of inhibitions to simply walk into a room and be sexually manipulated in order to get a kundalini experience.  You need a slow gentle lead in and a bit of help.

The Greek  Dionysian cult used alcohol to ‘loosen up’ the inhibitions before they practised any sexual kundalini based techniques.  The Eleusian cults used opium.  Opium has its advantages, as it tends not to give you a headache or stomach ache or knock you out.  The disadvantages are obvious if you use it regularly – you become addicted, but the Eleusians only used it once a year and it appears that the tea ceremony was not a regular occurrence.

‘Teaism’ as pleasurable pursuit

Teaism is Taoism and Taoism has had a special impact on the philosophy of its followers…..

The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

But the chief contribution of Taoism to Asiatic life has been in the realm of aesthetics.

Chinese historians have always spoken of Taoism as the "art of being in the world," for it deals with the present, -ourselves. It is in us that God meets with Nature, and yesterday parts from to-morrow.

The Present is the moving Infinity, the legitimate sphere of the Relative.

Relativity seeks Adjustment;

Adjustment is Art.

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. Taoism accepts the mundane as it is and, unlike the Confucians and the Buddhists, tries to find beauty in our world of woe and worry.

The Sung allegory of the Three Vinegar Tasters explains admirably the trend of the three doctrines. Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Lao Tzu once stood before a jar of vinegar, - the emblem of life, - and each dipped in his finger to taste the brew. The matter-of-fact  Confucius found it sour, the Buddha called it bitter, and Lao Tzu pronounced it sweet.

Life is sweet, gather ye rosebuds while ye may

Observations

For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.