Friday, February 8, 2013

Australia Day Tea Gathering

On Australia Day this year I had a dip at a bitiv' chanoyu with stacks of Oz in it.

I'm from Toongabbie. A little town in Gippsland, Victoria with more sheep than people 1000 times over. The cricket team is even called the 'Rams'. 

In Toongabbie:
  • No band except for AC/DC and the Angels existed until I was 12 years old.
  • Summer = cricket and beer.
  • Winter = footy and beer.
  • People shoot animals and eat them. 
  • It is respected when blokes wanna quit high school 'n gedda trade.
  • Flies are called 'dunny budgies' and they rattle windows when they hit them.
  • Men are called 'blokes' and women are called 'sheilas'.
  • As Victoria Bitter cans are green you ask for a 'green one' at the bar.
  • As Melbourne Bitter cans are red you ask for a 'red one' at the bar.
  • To offer a VB to your mate you say 'Get a green one up ya'.
  • To offer a Melbourne to your mate you say 'Get a red one up ya'.

Toongabbie gave me my language. I am forever grateful as I am forever grateful for my hometown in Japan, Hiroshima giving me Hiroshima dialect.

My Dad and Mum still live in Toongabbie and I bloody love 'em.

Toongabbie is not as refined as the inside of a tearoom. But I love my hometown. And whenever I love something I try to combine it with chanoyu - the tea ceremony which is my lifelong fascination, my life's purpose even.

For the Australia Day Chakai (tea gathering) I had a dip at:
  • Using a VB can for a tea caddy so I could add depth of meaning to 'Get a green one up ya' (matcha green powdered tea is bright green)
  • Using eucalypt bark for the tea caddy lid
  • Using an esky for a mizusashi (fresh water container)
  • Putting gum leaves in the water to give the tea a slight eucalypt flavour 
  • Using a tea scoop crafted from a eucalypt branch
  • Boiling the tea in a billy
  • Using the top I cut off the VB can for a futaoki (lid rest), echoing the zen philosophy of wabi teaists Takeno Jōō and Rikyu
  • Chuckin' ice in the tea after I whisked it to have ice matcha in the Aussie heat
  • Composing Australia Day haiku to recite during the gathering
  • Wearing an AC/DC t-shirt in the name of our Father, Bon Scott
  • Wearing my hair out because it is 'so metal'.

Even though this whole shindig looks like a bogan pride march, my guests will be able to vouch for the fact it was conducted in the spirit of chanoyu. Even pursuing the very boundaries of the spirit of tea? Have a look at the end of this post if you would like to get a bit more out of the post than just the novelty.

Our Father, Bon, who art in Hell
Iced Matcha. Get a green one up ya.

Australia Day haiku
A haiku is a poem that consists of three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

To be. Get a green one up ya.

Jyōshū was a Zen master from China. There are numerous famous dialogues that involve him of which the following is but one:

One day a monk called upon Jyōshū. 
Jyōshū asked this monk: “Have you been here before?”
“Yes” the monk answered.
“I see. Well, get a green one up ya (kissako[1]).”

Another time, a different monk called upon Jyōshū to whom Jyōshū asked the same question: “Have you been here before?”
This time the monk answered “No”.
Jyōshū's reply remained the same:  “I see. Well, get a green one up ya (kissako).”

Having seen all this, the abbot then called upon Jyōshū and asked: “Irrespective of their answer yes or no, you respond to all the monks with ‘Well, get a green one up ya’. Why?”
Jyōshū did not answer this directly but instead said: “Oi, abbot!”
Without hesitation, the abbot simply replied with a “Yes?” to which Jyōshū again replied “Well, get a green one up ya (kissako).”

From old times it has been said that in this “Well, get a green one up ya (kissako)” one can find the essence of both Zen and the Way of Tea.  Jyōshū’s question “Have you been here before?” is directed at the very question of “why are we here?”  If one is conscious of this, all dualistic thinking dissolves. We do not each exist as a separate individual in contrast to others. Upon hearing an “Oi!”, one instantly responds ”Yes?”. In this instant there exists something which is prior to any thought of why we are here. “Well, get a green one up ya (kissako)” is a reply to this very something. It is an utterance that takes delight in being here with others. The fact that we can share a green one and be happy, even for a moment.

The essence of the Way of Tea lies in the utterance “Well, get a green one up ya (kissako)”. It is an utterance that delights in existence – existence that is, after all, without reason.

[1] Literally: “Drink tea and leave”. 

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