“Tea Life, Tea Mind”: Celebrating the simple act of serving tea

Green tea began in China as a medicinal infusion and developed in Japan to become an awakening and meditation aid for Zen monks. Over time, the ceremony of its preparation has become a mode of refinement for a social elite versed in introspection and aesthetics. In the modern age, however, few Japanese have the time or opportunity to witness the elaborate protocols of the tea ceremony.

Tea Life, Tea Mind, by Soshitsu Sen XV
95 pages
WEATHER HILL

Born into a family deeply rooted in chanoyu (tea ceremony), Soshitsu Sen XV (now known as Genshitsu Sen), the 15th grandmaster of the Urasenke tea school, writes in the 1979 translation of his classic text “Tea Life, Tea Mind” that the ceremony involves a little more than the “simple act of serving tea and receiving it with gratitude.”

Bringing new life into the practice, Sen has traveled widely abroad, spreading his doctrine that “peace can be spread by offering a bowl of tea to another.” His talks, lectures and demonstrations were also aimed at promulgating his belief that an appreciation of chanoyu was a prerequisite for understanding Japanese culture in general.

In confident, amateur-friendly prose, and drawing on engaging anecdotes as much as on principle and philosophy, Sen describes his training and initiation to become leader of Urasenke, a process that involved attaining the priesthood. zen, which is a requirement for all the great masters of tea.

In Sen’s book, the cult of tea becomes less a mark of the connoisseur than a social leveling appreciated by all.

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