Kakuzo, Okakura - The Book of Tea – The Tea Room
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
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.