Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

There are various schools of tea ceremony — consider creating your own style


There are various schools of tea ceremony — consider creating your own style

Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591) is considered to be the person who brought the Way of Tea to a peak of perfection. All tea ceremony schools can be traced back to Rikyū.


Among tea ceremony schools, there are three well-known schools that were influenced by Rikyū's concepts in a profound way. These are the Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushanokōjisenke schools. Together, they are referred to as the san Senke (the three Senke schools).


But why did these three schools, with their various points of difference, come into existence? Well, in fact, it is just the natural way of things.


  Why the concept of tea ceremony is different in each school
Different people interpret things differently. So even if the starting point is the same in each case, it often happens that differences develop in orientation and in the way things are done.


For example, in Christianity, there are Catholics and Protestants. Both are branches of Christianity and they share many beliefs. However, their way of thinking differs in some respects and they are opposed to each other in some matters.


The same is true of Islam, which has two major sects: the Sunni sect and the Shiite sect. We can also see this phenomenon in Buddhism, which has many sects. People have different ways of interpreting things, so they form multiple branches according to their interpretations.


So, if we look back in history, we see that it’s natural for people to diverge because of their different interpretations. And so it is in tea ceremony. The way tea ceremony is performed is different in each school because its interpretation of the principles is different. However, one way in which tea ceremony is different from religion is that the various branches are not opposed to each other.


In fact, people belonging to one tea ceremony school often attend meetings organized by other tea ceremony schools. Even if the way of performing tea ceremony is somewhat different, this does not cause any great problems.


After all, each tea ceremony school has its origin in Rikyū's Way of Tea. In particular, the Senke schools (Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushanokōjisenke) are quite compatible with each other.


  Create your own form of tea ceremony
It is important to perform a tea ceremony according to your own way of thinking. You should incorporate your own concepts in the same way in which people in former times opened up new frontiers.


However, you should not disregard the basic principles of tea ceremony. Just as there is no problem when people of one school join those of another school for the tea ceremony, it is necessary to preserve the fundamentals in creating your own style. Therefore, it is not a good idea to base everything just on your own feelings. Willfully doing things in a completely new way is not a worthy practice.


Bearing this in mind, you can practice “your own tea ceremony.” It is important to take on new challenges once you have understood the basic principles, and not slavishly follow any particular school.


Human beings try to maintain things that already exist. It is particularly noticeable that in tea ceremony, people follow what the teacher says and do not attempt to do something new. We need to change this way of thinking and consider how to pursue tea ceremony in our own way.


If we look back in tea ceremony's history, we see that the original tea ceremony, in which expensive utensils were used, was reformed by master Rikyū and transformed into a tea ceremony of simplicity and frugality. Now there is a new form of tea ceremony in which the participants sit on chairs. So we can see that in tea ceremony, as much as in any other domain, new concepts can be introduced.


By taking on new challenges, one may make a name for oneself, but it is important to understand that the Way of Tea does not condone attention-seeking by the person who takes on such challenges.


For example, some young bureaucrats want to change the world, but they don't have power and position to do that. They realize that they can do nothing from their current position, so they stick things out and make great efforts to climb to the top of the system. But as they make their way up, oftentimes their objective changes. They become attached to power for its own sake.


This sort of thing is frowned upon in tea ceremony but, as mentioned before, one should make an effort to do things in one's own style. There is a tradition, and it is important to retain what has developed over time. But at the same time, it is essential to introduce new concepts in keeping with the changing times. Time-honored cultural forms continue to develop by balancing tradition with new ideas.

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