Thursday, September 11, 2014

Theme / Location / Essence @ 11 September 2014

Theme / Location / Essence*:
テーマ / 場所 / 本質*:

Time / Last Great Continent / Ontological Mystery
History / Śūnyatā's Iceberg / Romance & Tragedy
Nature / Genitals / Enchanted & Pure

時間 / 最終的大陸 / 実存之不可思議
歴史 / 空之頂 / 恋ト悲
自然 / 性器(サガ) / 魅ト清

Brief version:

Time / Continent / Mystery
History / Śūnyatā / Romance
Nature / Genitals / Enchanted

時 / 大陸 / 不可思議
史 / 空 / 恋
自 / 性 / 魅

* l'existence précède l'essence

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Meaning in the Actions of Samurai-class Tea Ceremony

The Ueda Sōko Tradition of Tea is a tradition developed in the samurai class of the Momoyama period. Ueda Sōko was a fierce warlord famed for charging into battle on the frontline on timeless occasions. He lived until 88 in a time where a human life was “but 50 years" as the famous poem of Oda Nobunaga states. The fact Ueda Sōko lived to such an age is testament to his skill in battle and unshakable spirit.

The martial spirit remains central to the Ueda Sōko tea preparation ceremony. The position of the body and handling of tea equipage is based on yabusame (archery on horseback) and kenjyutsu (swordsmanship). A practitioner of the Ueda Tradition wears their fukusa (purifying cloth) fixed into the right side of their obi. Originally the fukusa was to the left side of the obi. But samurai warriors practicing tea quickly changed the position of the fukusa to the right side as their sword is worn on the left of the obi. The split second it takes to remove their fukusa and attach their sword could be the second they lose their life.

In the Warring States period of Japan, samurai could not trust the people in the same tea room as them. Bowing in the Ueda School is therefore performed with the back straight and torso lowered to around 60 degrees in line with the floor. This way you maintain your vision of the whole tea room and don’t lower your guard to any would-be attacker.
The hand positions on the hishaku (bamboo ladle) are mirrored on various martial moves. The hishaku is stood up vertically in line with the left forearm before it is placed down on the lid rest. This is the same action performed with a sword before it is sheathed.  

When you walk in the tearoom to perform the tea ceremony, the hishaku (bamboo ladle) is held out in front of the body like you would hold the reins of the horse you are riding into battle. The sitting posture is slightly forward and the centre of gravity is at the lower back, just as you would ride a horse.

When drawing water with the hishaku it is mirrored on the stages of loading, drawing, and releasing an arrow from a bow while on horseback. Loading the arrow coincides with the first stage of preparing tea, the drawing action is performed as the guest start to drink the tea, and the releasing action is performed when the guests are satisfied and no more tea is to be made.

The whole Ueda School style is stripped of any unnecessary movement. As the outside world is a reflection of our inside world, stripping back the ceremony to only the essential movements represents an unshakable mind with no idle thoughts. For the samurai, practicing the tea ceremony was a microcosm of the values and ideals they constantly strove to achieve to live a successful life as a warrior.


上田宗箇流は桃山時代に生まれた武家茶道の流派の一つで す。上田宗箇は一番槍 の武人として名高い武将であり、また芸術に才ある人物でした。武人と芸術家の両面が相まり、稀にみる「宗箇の茶」の特質 が生まれました。宗箇は「人間五十年」という時代に88年の生涯を全うしましたが、これは武芸だけでなく、物事に 動じない強い精神力を持っていたためと思います。

 武将の精神性が上田宗箇流の点前の核となっています。茶室の中の姿勢 や道具の扱い方は流鏑馬や剣術から影響を受けています。本来、千利休は帛紗を帯の左側に付けていました。堺の豪商である利休は帯刀が認められていなかったためです。しかし、帯の左側に刀をさす武将たちには、帯刀する位置に帛紗を付けることに抵抗があったようです。武家茶人たちは帛紗を右側に付けるように変えました。また、茶室の中でも、敵に攻められることがあります。帛紗が帯の左側に付いていると、一度帛紗を外して、刀を帯に付けなければなりません。僅かな時間も命にかかわるため、いつでも帯刀するよう帛紗を右側に付けたという実際的な理由もあります。

 戦国時代、武将は茶室でも安心してくつろぐことはできませ んでした。同席の人に攻められる恐れがありましたので、上田流武家茶道ではお辞儀をする時に必ず回りが見えるようにお辞儀し ます。背骨を真っ直ぐにし、60度の角度でお辞儀します。目を伏せて深くお辞儀しません。
柄杓の持ち方も武家流となります。点前をはじめるとき柄杓 を持って茶室に入りますが、柄杓は乗馬の手綱の位置で持ちます。歩く姿勢も流鏑馬に習い、重心点は腰におき、上半身の角度は80度程です。

 点前で柄杓を持ちながら他の動作をするとき、柄杓の柄を腕に添って斜 めに持ちます。これは武家茶道の他の流派の点前にもあり、刀を鞘におさめることを例える動作です。上田流で左手を支点にして 右手で柄杓を反転させる動作は、刀を鞘におさめるのと同じ動作です。

柄杓で御湯と水を汲むときは、弓道の作法が取り入れられています。お 茶を点てるときの置柄杓は、弓に矢をつがえるときの気持ちで柄杓を置きます。お茶をお客様に差し上げた後の引柄杓は、弓を満 に張ったときの気持ちで引きます。そして仕舞うときの切柄杓は、矢をはっしと放つ気持ちが出なければなりません。

上田流の点前は総じて無駄の無い動作で組み合わされています。身体の 動きがその人の心の内を反映します。直線で無駄のない動作で組み合わされる点前の動動作は、雑念を取り去り、不動心を生み出し、動中の静の境地を導きます。剣術、流鏑馬の稽古などを通して常に自分を磨き高めようとした武士たちにとって、茶道と茶室 は武芸の価値と理想を体現する日常の小宇宙でした。

See a comparison of the Urasenke (Merchant class) tradition and Ueda (Samurai class) tradition in the Tea Duet:

At 3:50 is an example (By the 16th Grandmaster Ueda Sōkei) of the hishaku reflecting the action of sheathing a sword:

Monday, November 11, 2013

24 Hour Tea x Zen - reflection #1

At 6pm Tuesday 5 November, Seikan and I completed a 24 hour tea and zen sesshin (sesshin is a long duration, intensive period of zazen meditation). The 24 Hour Tea x Zen was conducted with no food or talking, just Zen monk Seikan Czek and I doing our thing: he sitting in zazen, me sitting and performing the tea ceremony. People were welcome to enter the cubed space to partake of tea and sit zazen.

My first reflection is on the common themes that welled up in my mind心 during the 24 hours.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Seven Rules of Rikyu.

The Seven Rules of Rikyu are:
Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.

I think to master these rules is to master life, a reverent life, a life where we find ourselves in constant contact with other human beings, animals, and Mother Nature.

Before the event I was concentrating on rules five and six. As it was a 24 hour event with a strict time schedule and no breaks, talking or food, it was critical to have everything prepared in advance, and to be prepared for rain and the cold night.

As people could enter the cube to freely partake of a bowl of tea and sit zazen, for the majority of the 24 hours I was concentrating on rules one and seven. These rules are concerned with cultivating the pure spirit inside you that serves a bowl tea without judgement, assumption, or reservation. Into each bowl of tea I poured my heartfelt sincerity, love, and reverence for life, believing that tea takes on the sentiment of the maker. I believed in everyone that entered the cube - believed that they would 'get' the spirit of tea and zen no matter what their knowledge, beliefs or state of consciousness (we had several guests affected by drugs and alcohol). To my delight, all people that entered the cube 'got' that tea and zen was a spiritual practice for deepening one's relationship with the self an others.

2. 'Big Time Sensuality' by Björk.

Björk is one of the central idols who influences the way I live and what I aspire to be. If more people were like Björk the world would be even more awesome than it is. A world of creative minds and sensual, soulful artists enriching their environments with art, giving, love, passion and honest smiles.

Every time I listen to Big Time Sensuality I get shivers. For me, it sings the truth of every second of life being a moment you are blessed to feel and influence your environment: 'I can sense it, something important is about to happen, it's coming up'. And then it happens! You're alive! And then the next moment: 'I can sense it, something important is about to happen, it's coming up' And then it happens! You're alive! And then the next moment: 'I can sense it, something important is about to happen, it's coming up' And then it happens! You're alive!

You get the picture - live every moment with an acute sense that right here, right now, matters. The person you are talking to is another person of irreducible value - give them all the love and respect you yourself deserve. Get joy from experiencing yourself in time.

As a bodhisattva wannabe of the backstreets devoting himself to Tea/Zen/Art, I often joke that the chorus of Big Time Sensuality is my life motto: 'hardcore and gentle, big time sensuality'.

3. 'The Triumph of a Heart' - another Björk song!

The triumph of a heart, that gives all - that gives all
The triumph of a heart, that gives all - that gives all
The triumph of a heart, that gives all - that gives all

4. The Heart Sutra. Especially my favourite parts:

There is no delusion, and no end to delusion.

There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no Way, no wisdom, and no attainment.


Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form.


5. Lying naked with the person I love.

Yep, I'm a human being with carnal passion circulating through my blood after all.

Picture from manga 'Hyouge Mono'
by Yoshihiro Yamada / Kodansha


Photos by Ryo Yamauchi:

BlockTimeZazen & TeaDateActivity
18:00:00Zazen & Tea startMon 4 Nov
18:30:00Zazen & Tea finishMon 4 Nov
18:30:00kinhin startMon 4 Nov
18:40:00kinhin finishMon 4 Nov
18:40:00Zazen & Tea startMon 4 Nov
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20:00:00Zazen & Tea startMon 4 Nov
20:30:00Zazen & Tea finishMon 4 Nov
20:30:00kinhin startMon 4 Nov
20:40:00kinhin finishMon 4 Nov
20:40:00Zazen & Tea startMon 4 NovHeart Sutra
21:10:00Zazen & Tea finishMon 4 Nov
21:10:00kinhin startMon 4 Nov
21:20:00kinhin finishMon 4 Nov
21:20:00Zazen & Tea startMon 4 Nov
21:50:00Zazen & Tea finishMon 4 Nov
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0:00:00kinhin finishTue 5 Nov
0:00:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
0:30:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
0:30:00kinhin startTue 5 Nov
0:40:00kinhin finishTue 5 Nov
0:40:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 Nov
1:10:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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3:20:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
3:50:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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4:00:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 Nov
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6:40:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
7:10:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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10:00:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
10:30:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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10:40:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 Nov
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13:20:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
13:50:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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14:00:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 Nov
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14:40:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 Nov
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16:40:00Zazen & Tea startTue 5 NovHeart Sutra
17:10:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov
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18:00:00Zazen & Tea finishTue 5 Nov