Sen no Rikyu, the man who so influenced the traditional tea ceremony, once offered seven rules for hosts of the ceremony:
- Make a delicious bowl of tea
- Arrange the charcoal so the water boils quickly
- Arrange the flowers as they grow in nature
- Keep the tearoom cool in the summer and warm in the winter
- Have everything prepared ahead of time
- Be prepared for rain
- Give your guests every consideration [source: Washington and Lee]
According to legend, Sen no Rikyu once explained these rules to one of his students, and the student, confused by the simplicity of these rules, claimed that anyone could do these things. Sen no Rikyu told the student that if any person could be found who obeyed these rules perfectly, then that person would become Sen no Rikyu's master -- and Sen no Rikyu would study under him.
If you'd like to host a tea ceremony, you should consider Sen no Rikyu's rules as well as his belief that they are deceptively simple. However, even if you fail in fulfilling all of the rules, your tea ceremony can be successful so long as you remain, at all times, conscious of these guidelines. The tea ceremony is meant to be a time-out from the world, one in which both hosts and guests can focus solely on small tasks and seek enlightenment and peace in their completion. In holding a tea ceremony, you should be mindful of all the decisions you make and actions you take. Don't pick up a ladle without being aware of what you're doing and concentrating on only that; remember that tea ceremonies are meant to have a sense of ichgio ichie, or one time, one meeting, so allow yourself to be fully present during this precious time. By finding beauty in the imperfect and in the mundane, you will come closer to fulfilling Sen no Rikyu's rules.
Many people study for decades in order to host a tea ceremony, so if you'd like to host one, you would probably find it beneficial to spend some additional time reading about the subject; you can get started with the links and articles below.
- Chinatown Connection. "Japanese Tea Ceremony." (July 18, 2011) http://www.chinatownconnection.com/japanese-tea-ceremony.htm
- Genocchio, Benjamin. "The Art of Tea." The New York Times. March 22, 2009. (July 18, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/nyregion/connecticut/0322artsct.html
- The Japanese Tea Ceremony Web site. (July 18, 2011) http://japanese-tea-ceremony.net/
- Kirkpatrick, Melanie. "A Tea Ceremony for Today." The Wall Street Journal. May 6, 2009. (July 18, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124156010772588959.html
- Lee, Anthony Man-tu. "The Japanese Tea Ceremony." The Ivy Press Limited. 1999.
- Muschamp, Herbert. "Steeped in Simplicity." The New York Times. April 14, 1996. (July 18, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/14/magazine/steeped-in-simplicity.html
- Stinchecum, Amanda Mayer. "The Where and Ware of Hagi." The New York Times. July 3, 1988. (July 18, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/03/travel/the-where-and-ware-of-hagi.html
- Urasenke Organization. "Chado -- The Japanese Way of Tea." (July 18, 2011) http://www.urasenke.or.jp/texte/index.html
- Ursasenke Foundation, Seattle. "Chado, the Way of Tea." (July 18, 2011) http://www.urasenkeseattle.org/page22
- Washington and Lee University's Japanese Tea Room Web site. (July 18, 2011) http://www.wlu.edu/x34367.xml
- Weisman, Steven R. "As High Priests of Tea Meet, a Cool Breeze Builds." The New York Times. April 9, 1990. (July 18, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/09/world/kyoto-journal-as-high-priests-of-tea-meet-a-cool-breeze-builds.html