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Buddhist Thought And The Way Of Tea

Dennis Hirota

THE TRADITIONAL JAPANESE PRACTICE known in English as the "tea ceremony" or "way of tea" was referred to in early writings simply as chanoyu, or "tea in hot water." It evolved gradually out of a variety of tea-drinking practices, in part under the influence of Buddhist modes of thought and perception, and it reached the pinnacle of its development during the sixteenth century among the warrior elite and the affluent merchants who served them. Chanoyu has continued to be transmitted down to the present by the descendants of the early masters, adapting to immense changes in social conditions while at the same time preserving much of the manner, die ideals, and even the material culture of utensils, tea rooms, and gardens from earlier periods. Although a sizeable body of documents and writings on chanoyu has been preserved and transmitted over the centuries, practitioners have always preferred concrete instruction regarding the details of performance and knowledge of the manner and utensils of past masters to theoretical speculation about the significance of their art, Nevertheless, I will take up here aspects of Buddhist tradition that the early practitioners of chanoyu adopted as resources for understanding and developing their practices and for formulating the values and ideals that they sought to manifest.

Today in Japan and elsewhere, chanoyu is most often experienced in the form of demonstrations, large-scale tea events in which tea is whisked and served to numbers of participants, and weekly group learning sessions where various segments of a tea gathering (chaji) are taught and practiced, In considering the Buddhist influences that contributed to the formation of chanoyu and the awareness of Buddhist principles embodied m tea practices, it may be helpful to keep in mind that the standard activity in chanoyu in its classical form is the tea gathering. A host and several guests come together in a small, carefully prepared tea room to share in a meticulously orchestrated sequence of events - laying of fresh charcoal in the brazier or hearth, a meal served in set stages, two services of powdered tea whisked in tea bowls (fig. 2.2). Ideally the gathering lasts about four hours. In their rusticity and austerity, the architectural features of the tea room and title small garden path of carefully laid stepping stones leading to its entrance typically suggest a rough dwelling secluded in the mountains. Within the muted light of the room, the guests enjoy together the faint trace of purifying incense, the of water boiling in the iron kettle, the hanging scroll inscribed, perhaps, by a Zen master, and of course the great variety of utensils—ceramics, lacquerware, brocades, bamboo, metalwork, ivory, and so on.

The actions performed in chanovu are those most common and basic to everyday human life: serving and partaking of a meal in the company of others. But in the intimacy of the tea room, heightened attention is paid to every facet of the gathering, from the formal greetings exchanged between host and guests to the ash of the hearth, carefully laid and smoothed for each gathering but perhaps decades old, having been dyed with tea, cleaned, sifted, and reused many times. The participants are aware of every detail and engage all their senses, apprehending every movement in the dose space of the room. Further, they share in the formal, overall rhythm of the gatherings, widely familiar in traditional Japanese arts: Jo (slow prelude), ha (development), and kyu (brisk conclusion). The custom of whisking and drinking powdered tea was introduced into Japan in the late twelfth century by Zen Buddhism.

Pure Land Buddhism: The Attained

Simplicity of the Thatched-Roof Hut

Buddhism was formally introduced into Japan in the sixth century in the form of statues and scriptures presented to the Japanese court by a Korean king. In the ensuing centuries, it became established as the official religion of Japan by the central government but was largely confined to the ruling classes. Hie state constructed temples in the various provinces and oversaw the training of monks and nuns, but the central activity of the clergy was the conducting of rituals such as chanting sutras for the protection of the country and offering prayers for the repose of members of the aristocratic clans in the next life. Contact between the clergy and the ordinary people was carefully restricted out of fear that preaching to the masses might foment social unrest. State authorization was necessary for any who would seek ordination and pursue monastic training.

Among the monks, however, there gradually emerged individuals who desired to pursue their religious disciplines apart from the ceremonial activities in the state- or clan-sponsored temples. For such monks, permission was sometimes granted for extended retreats to practice austerities in remote locations, but there were others who abandoned their positions in the monasteries and struck out on their own to perform religious practices in the mountains. Since ancient times, mountains had been viewed as sacred, the abode of deities and the spirits of the ancestors. While villages, fields, and urban life developed in the valleys and plains, the hills and mountains that rise in the background everywhere in the Japanese landscape were largely uninhabited. They were the sites of village shrines and the places where corpses were laid and the spirits gathered, As holy sites, the mountains were considered appropriate, as they continue to be today, for various kinds of religious praxis and the acquisition of spiritual power. There began to appear, therefore, men who departed from the official temple complexes in a kind of second renunciation, this time of the regulated ordained life, in order to go into the mountains. There they lived in caves or built simple huts and led austere lives devoted to solitary study and practice.

Various types of these practitioners emerged, Some alternated periods of solitary practice in mountain retreats with sojourns down among the villages, where they preached and performed rites for the villagers while traveling from place to place. Wandering monks begin to turn up widely in the popular tale literature from the latter part of the Heian period (794-1185). One early celebrated precursor is the Nara period monk Gyoki (670/688-749), who was called a bodhisattva for his activities to improve the lives of the common people, such as building roads and bridges (fig, 2,1), Another important early Heian period figure was Kyoshin (d. 866), venerated as a learned scholar-monk of the great Kofukuji Temple in Nara. Eventually, however, he grew dissatisfied with the scholasticism of conventional doctrinal study and the ritualized praxis of the established temples and came to reject the accomplishments that had led to his lofty ecclesiastic rank and reputation for sanctity, Embarking on a meandering journey throughout Japan, he finally settled near a rural village. There he abandoned his monk's habit, built a thatched-roof hut, and took a wife. He lived in poverty and engaged in common labor, working in fields and carrying baggage for travelers, and he passed thirty years in utterance of the nembutsu, the name of Amida, "the Buddha of Compassion."

Kyoshin's life of religious devotion, which later inspired such major figures in Japanese Buddhist history as Shinran (1173-1263) and Ippen (1239-1289), was legendary: "Kyoshin, who settled in Kako, built no fence to the west: toward the Buddha-field of Amida, the gate lay open. Nor, befittingly, did he enshrine an image of worship; he kept no sacred books. In appearance not a monk nor yet worldly, he faced the west always, saying the nembutsu, and was like one to whom all else was forgotten" (cited in Hirota 1989,49). We see here that die Buddhist path that Kyoshin adopted was the Pure Land tradition. This path is based on the vow of Amida Buddha, who brings all those who entrust themselves to him and say his name into the domain of his enlightenment, known as the Pure Land. There they attain Buddhahood and join in the compassionate work to liberate all beings caught in the pain of delusion. For Kyoshin, and for many who emulated him and other such nembutsu practitioners, receiving the Buddha's compassionate action was the direct way by which the bonds of craving and self-attachment in all its forms—inckiding pride in religious attainments and personal merit—could be severed. It was a Buddhist path of simplicity, free of all the trappings of ostentatious religiosity, attained through profound self-reflection.

This model of the Buddhist life as neither monastic nor worldly - neither renunciation of secular life with others nor absorbed in the pursuits of ordinary society - reverberates through Japanese culture, and in the medieval period it was often expressed in terms of the semireclusive thatched-roof hut of die Buddhist practitioner. One influential figure who sought to adopt the principles of the thatched-roof hut while continuing in his post at the imperial court was Yoshishige Yasutane (d. 1oo2), who built a small chapel with an image of Amida Buddha in the garden of his residence in Kyoto, After returning from duties at court each day, he would retire to the chapel to perform religious devotions, imagining himself dwelling in a hut deep in the mountains.

Yoshishige's garden chapel may be viewed as a prototype of the tea room of the later chanoyu masters, often a small, thatched-roof hut functioning similarly to suggest a mountain retreat secluded from ordinary secular life, even while standing on the grounds of an urban residence. Overt religious fixtures are absent from the tea room. In typical examples designed in the sixteenth century, the tea room is reached by a short path of stepping stones meant to evoke a mountain trail (fig, 2.3), and the low portal—the "crawling-in entrance" or nijirigu-chi - is a minimal opening through which one must slide on hands and knees (fig, 2.4), Such features suggest a reenactment of a leave-taking from everyday life and help create the atmosphere of chanoyu as an environment detached from extraneous worldly concerns and focused on what is most essential. Within the austere tea room, one partakes of a meal and tea with a small number of companions, all of whom demonstrate complete attention and sincerity. Later tea masters, among them Sen no Rikyu (15-1591;) quoted below, used the image of the Pure Land to suggest the ideal ambiance of the tea gathering, evoking the scrupulous care given to die cleanliness and freshness of all aspects of the grounds and chambers, and the analogous purity of spirit of each participant.

Since the fundamental intent of [the ideal of] wabi lies in manifesting the pure, undefiled Buddha-world, once host and guest have entered the garden path and thatched hut, they sweep away the dust and rubbish [of worldly concerns] and engage in an encounter with mind open and entire. ["Record of the Words of Rikyu," Namporoku, cited in Hirota 1995,236]

Chanoyu of the small room is above all a matter of performing practice and attaining realization in accord with the Buddhist path. To delight in the refined splendor of a dwelling or the taste of delicacies belongs to worldly life. There is shelter enough when the roof does not leak, food enough when it staves off hunger. This is the Buddhist teaching and the fundamental meaning of chanoyu. We draw water, gather firewood, boil the water, and make tea. We then offer it to the Buddha, serve it to others, and drink ourselves.We arrange flowers and bum incense. In all this, we model ourselves after the acts of the Buddha and the past masters. ["Record of the Words of Rikyu," poroku, cited in Hirota 1995, 217]

These allusions to Pure Land Buddhist teachings refer not merely to details of the environment of chanoyu but more importantly to fundamental attitudes that inevitably manifest themselves in the comportment of host and guest. In other words, the poverty represented by the thatched-roof hut of die nembutsu practitioner was above all a poverty in spirit, free of attachment to worldly fame and advantage (figs.2.5. 2.6). Honen (033-1212), who established the nembutsu path in Japan, stated on his deathbed: "If you would entrust yourself to the nembutsu,.. become the same as the unlettered women and men who enter the Buddhist path while remaining at home, and without assuming the manner of a sage, simply say the nembutsu with wholeness of heart" ("Hie One-Page Testament of Honen" [Ichimai kishdmon], cited in Hirota 1995, 244), It is this sincerity of life in the thatched-roof hut, stripped of all pretense to religious accomplishment, that the tea masters sought to emulate. One chanoyu document from the period of its mature development at the close of the sixteenth century, when expertise as a master required broad learnings full-time training, and artistic discernment, models itself on Honen's famous statement to express the essential spirit of Pure Land Buddhism as adopted in chanoyn:

Though you may have acquired fine utensils, both native and Chinese, if you entrust yourself to this way of tea, then you should—becoming an impoverished person ignorant of even a single written character or the same as the women and men who enter the Buddhist path while remaining at home - without assuming the manner of a "person [well versed in chanoyu]," simply heat the water with wholeness of heart. ["The One-Page Testament of Rikyu," cited in Hirota 1995,245]

Mahayana Buddhist Thought
in the Formation of Chanoyu

Chanoyu is one among a number of traditional practices or arts that developed during the medieval period and were influenced in their aesthetics and performance by Buddhist modes of thought. Other examples that precede chanoyu historically include classical poetry (waka), incense appreciation, flower arrangement, Noh theater, and linked verse (renga). The connection with linked verse is particularly illuminating when coasidering the nature of the Buddhist influence on chanoyu. Both arts evolved in part, over the course of several centuries, out of popular entertainments such as parties for linking verses beneath blossoming cherry trees and tea-tasting contests offering prizes.

Among the warrior elite,tea drinking was a feature of gatherings that sometimes included bathing or the lavish display of exotic goods and treasured artworks from the Asian continent, and formal Chinese-style ceremonial and ritualized serving of tea was also adopted from Zen monastic Hie. Eventually, however, less-public and more-restrained practices appeared. It was during the Muromachi period (1392-1568) that many of the features now considered typical of traditional Japanese architecture were incorporated into the drawing rooms and inner chambers of warrior residences, including tatami-mat flooring, square pillars with sliding papered partitions, and the alcove, split-leveled shelving, and low writing-shelf adopted from Zen temple design. Such chambers afforded atmospheres of privacy and intimacy and became sites for social interaction among small gatherings of associates, Keenly conscious of the court nobility with their centuries of refined cultural traditions and elaborate norms of comportment, the feudal lords sought their own sense of decorum and social accomplishment. Linked verse and chanoyu, with their conventionalized modes of social interaction in part served this purpose when practiced within the recently developed architectural spaces. At the same time, the alcove, split-leveled shelving, and low writing-shelf adopted from Zen temple design. Such chambers afforded atmospheres of privacy and intimacy and became sites for social interaction among small gatherings of associates, Keenly conscious of the court nobility with their centuries of refined cultural traditions and elaborate norms of comportment, the feudal lords sought their own sense of decorum and social accomplishment. Linked verse and cbanoyu, with their conventionalized modes of social interaction in part served this purpose when practiced within the recently developed architectural spaces. At the same time, as arts, they both developed far beyond the merely social.

The Buddhist influence on these arts may be considered in terms of two broad topics: (1) the notion of the discipline of learning and practicing an art as a "way" of personal spiritual development; and (2) the nature and requirements of artistic mastery, including the self-restraint necessary to foster the communal enactment of the gathering by all the participants and to achieve the elevated aesthetic ideals governing the art and its performance. The close intertwinement of these twothemes -personal training and the religiously defined aesthetic sensibility - infoemed both linked verse and chanoyu at the high point of their development and imparted to them their most distinctive qualities, Moreover, it was linked verse that in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, directly provided the nascent practice of chanoyu with both a highly developed practical model of group performance and various conceptual structures for articulating its ideals and aesthetic principles.

In a session of linked verse, a small party of participants creates a sequence of verses, usually of one hundred links of alternating 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllables. Each link, together with the one preceding and, independently, the one following, produces a semantic unit and approximates the classical Japanese poetic form: 5-5-7-7. The entire sequence is composed according to detailed rules designed to generate a dynamic balance between cohesiveness and novelty, with carefully modulated transitions in seasonal themes, most conspicuously between cherry blossoms and the autumn moon, several times in the session. The poets sought shifts in mood, setting, persona, theme, and season, while at the same time achieving an overall rhythm, a kind of lyric journey.

During the medieval period, linked verse superseded the earlier traditions of court poetry (waka) as the most vibrant and popular form of poetic composition, reaching its height with the work of the Buddhist monks Shinkei (1406-1475) and Sogi (1421-1502). The early masters who are credited with first formulating the practices of chanoyu, Murata Juko (1421-1500) and Takeno Joo (1502—1555), were both well-acquainted with linked verse and its practitioners, and they may be said to have been the genuine inheritors of crucial elements of the legacy of linked verse. Thus, in order to consider the traces of Buddhist thinking in relation to chanoyu, I will look in particular at its debt to practitioners of linked verse.

Art as a Way

The term "the way of tea" (sado or, more recently, chado) to indicate chanoyu does not come into use until the mid-seventeenth century. The notion was widespread from the medieval period on, however, that learning and performance of any of a variety of arts and disciplines embody the "way" and that mastery such an art or skill both depends on and leads to knowledge of the "way." Clear expression of the various aspects of this idea is found in widely read works of the period such as Kenko's Essays in idleness (ca, 1330), but in relation to chanoyu, perhaps the most significant figure is Shinkei, In addition to articulating a highly developed conception of the way of the arts based on his extensive learning as a Buddhist monk, Shinkei appears to have exerted direct influence on the early founders of chanoyu. We will consider first, therefore, several of the aspects of the concept of art as a way in the writings of Shinkei and then turn to their presence in chanoyu.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the notion of the way of tlie arts is the breadth of its application. Figures such as Kenko and Shinkei recognized the presence of the way in a broad spectrum of human activities. Shinkei mentions scholarship, Buddhist training, calligraphy, poetry; games such as go, Japanese chess (shogi), backgammon; wind and string instruments, dance, and singing; kickball, sumo, and martial arts. Kenko enumerates a similar range and includes in his essays anecdotes about, for example, the forester's training in tree climbing as exhibiting the principles of the way. It appears that in the eyes of these poet-monks, the acquisition and genuinely skillful performance of almost any form of human endeavor is characterized by common features termed "the way." Thus, the master of an art or discipline is one who apprehends the way. Further, this dimension of a deepening awareness of human experience acquired through training in one art gives rise to knowledge of principles of conduct applicable to all arts and to human life in general. Masters, therefore, speak of the principles of the way as common to all the arts.

Underlying this view is the experience of the mastery of a skill or activity as necessarily involving a transcendence of the ordinary self, a relinquishment of attachment to one's attainments and the distractions of concern over self-worth. Thus, the process of training requires single-minded dedication and unstinting effort extending over ones entire lifetime, and at the same time, in order to advance to authentic mastery, one must cultivate a profound reflection on the nature of one's own existence and the limitations of one's abilities. Shinkei recorded the following advice concerning the need for continuous practice underpinned by self-reflection:

Question: After a person has received training in this way [of linked verse] for a number of years, is it possible to discontinue it for even a short time without altogether losing ones bearings?

Answer: Although you may have accumulated years of diligent study, if you are negligent even briefly in your practice, you will fall back with nothing to show for your previous efforts. It is written [in the Confucian Analects]: "Reflect on yourself three times each day."

The finest shakuhachi player of recent times, Ton'a, said: "If I were to leave off practicing for three days, I would lose the ability to play." These words hold true for all the way. [ Shinkei, Sasamegoto, cited in Hirota 1995,147]

Further, for the medieval mind, a significant element of training was the guidance of t genuine mister who grasped the way, Mastery might be apparent, but the path of acquisition was not necessarily direct. Thus Shinkei admonished,"in all the ways it impossible for 0n0 to know what beyond one's own level of accomplishment" (Shinkei, Sasamegoto, cited in Hirota 1995, 147). The failure to recognize one's shortcomings or the attempt to conceal them from others is a major impediment to personal actualization of the way.

Shinkei's conception of art as a way passed directly into chanoyu. We find his advice on practice echoed in a letter by Juko:

Nothing will hinder one more in the practice of this way [of chanovu] than feelings of self-satisfaction and self-attachment. It is altogether reprehensible to envy skilled practitioners to scorn beginners. One must approach the accomplished, beseech their least word of instruction, and never fail to guide the inexperienced.... Moreover, however cultivated one's manner, a painful self-awareness of one's shortcomings is cruciaL [Juko, "Letter on Heart's Masteiy,"cited in Hirota 1995,198)

Here, in relation to chanoyu, we find the same admonitions concerning self-attachment and the med for reflection that govern the way in all the arts.

What is most pronounced in Shinkei and what highlights the particular relevance of this thought for chanoyu is his assumption that the way of the arts and the Buddhist path are essentially convergent. Thus, he not only repeatedly asserts that training in the arts and Buddhist praxis manifest the same basic principles, but he also freely adopts Buddhist concepts and analogies in discussing issues of linked verse. In this, he differs from earlier literary figures like Kamo no Chomei and Kenko for whom art is a way but may itself become the object of worldly attachment and thus an ob obstacle to final religious attainment. Although the various arts as the way are a means of refining one's existence and attaining knowledge of profound truths about the proper conduct of human life, in the end Kenko viewed them as potential entanglements that could block the Buddhist path. In Shinkei, however, we find a different message, "If you dedicate yourself totally to this art [of Jinked verse], so that you even come to embrace the conviction that it is the single matter of grave concern, you will advance. Do not imagine it is easily and ordinarily accomplished" ("Master Shinkei's Instruction," cited in Hirota 1995, 174). The phrase "single matter of grave concern" usually indicate the Buddhist goal of liberation from samsara, the eadless cycle of death and rebirth. Thus, in this passage, Shinkei suggests that total devotion to the practice of linked verse can serve the same end Buddhist praxis, and we find no hint of Kenko's concern.

In employing Mahayana Buddhist ideas of emptiness and nonduality, Shinkei was able to achieve a fuller convergence or superposition of art and Buddhist practice. This was accomplished by forging a more complex conception of the path of practice than the linear model envisaged by Kenko:

If you do not set your mind on [genuine] enlightenment, how can you gain liberation from the samsaric bondage operating within the practice of poetry? In the dharma, even the mind of great awakening to the teaching of emptiness may yet be pulled down to the condition of discriminative grasping. But in the Tendai teaching of emptiness that is itself nondual with form, the ten realms, including the six realms of unenlightened beings and the four realms of awakened sages, are all said to embody the one form of formless reality.…In the Lotus Sutra, it is taught that all things are poised upon emptiness...The beginner enters from the shallow into the deep, and once having attained the depths, emerges again into the shallow: this is the essential rule of all ways, [Shinkei, Sasamegoto, cited in Hirota 1995,160-61]

While recognizing the danger posed by attachment to ones achievements in an art ("samsaric bondage operating within the practice of poetry"), Shinkei welcomes the lingering dualism of sacred and profane that ultimately demands a rejection of art in order to achieve enlightenment. The Buddhist teachings themselves, as cast in human concepts, belong to the realm of forms and may become the objects of discriminative attachment. What is critical in the way is apprehending, through practice, the formless reality or emptiness prior to conceptual grasp that pervades the world of forma. Thus, practitioners of linked verse or other arts traverse a path of training that leads from the detailed poetic forms and conventions and gestures and bodily , movements, acquired by study and imitative drill, to a gradual maturation in which they come to enter the profound mastery that transcends all forms and all worldly attachments. The path, however, does not end In the depths of self-transcendence but leads back to the elemental forms of the art, so that the master inhabits once again the realm of convention, this time manifesting an ineffable freedom and spontaneity of spirit.

Tea masters have traditionally eschewed talk on a theoretical level, preferring to treat the myriad particulars of concrete situations: the proper rhythm and sound of water cast in the garden path when the host, using a wooden bucket and ladle, freshens it before the departure of guests, or the balance of texture, color, and glaze of the utensils. Nevertheless, Shinkei's delineation of the way as leading "from the shallow into the deep," then emerging "again into the shallow," was introduced directly into the traditions of cbanoyu at its roots and has provided an enduring paradigm by which practitioners have integrated the material and spiritual dimensions of their praxis.

The Aesthetic of the Chill and Withered

Another dimension of Shinkei's work that had a significant influence on the formation of chanoyu was the concrete delineation of aesthetic principles as rooted in Buddhist perceptions and praxis. In the medieval period, the center of cultural creativity shifted from the imperial court to the newly ascendant warrior aristocracy and the activity of Buddhist practitioners. As depicted in the literature of the Heian period, the court nobles took pleasure in lives of exquisite refinement and romantic intrigue, and they were forlorn (wabi) with the desolate (sabi) existence if ever—for political reasons—they were exiled from the capital. During the medieval period, however, the tranquil life of the secluded thatched-roof hut came to take on new aesthetic value. Playing the lute or composing alone while watching the moonrise deep in the mountains offered the possibility for the expression of an austere awareness that pierced the variegated surface of life in society to touch the reality of human existence.

Shinkei's work provides one of the most explicit articulations of the spiritualized medieval aesthetic of the inconspicuous and subdued: "Nothing is more exquisite than ice. The stubbed fields of early morning, with needles of ice formed where has glazed the cypress bark of the roof, or the dew and hoarfrost frozen upon the withered grasses and trees of the meadow一what is there to match this lowliness, this beauty? (Shinkei, Hitorigoto, cited in Hirota 1995,43). Using such terms as "chill," "slender," and "withered," Shinkei states that mastery of the way naturally manifests an aesthetic of the unobtrusive and unadorned, of spareness and solitude in contrast to an exuberant grasping after life or clamorous multiplicity. Further^ he underpins this aesthetic sensibility by referring to Buddhist thought. Here, I will cite two examples. The personal realization of the Buddhist truth of the impermanence of all things permeates the medieval mind, and in relation to the way of art, becomes an impetus to wholehearted endeavor. Shinkei states:

Masters have said that it is the same whether you seek to enter the path of dharma and realize the wellspring of mind, or whether to study this way and awaken to what is most deeply moving. There are those who take it for granted that they will be alive in the morning; absorbed with the multifarious hues of things they cling to their treasures, and content with their own brilliance they give not a moment to self-reflection There is hardly a chance that such people will attain mastery.... We come and go amid the illusions of this world, and whether prominent or humble, wise or foolish, the stream of our breath is more tenuous than a strand of hair, scarcely lasting to day's end. It is utter folly to rely on things of the self in spite of this, confident that life will last a hundred or a thousand years; or to be intent upon pleasures and flattered by fame, distracted and deluded in every direction. When the body turns to dust and ashes, what will become of this strand of breath? Nor is this only of myself; 1 wish to realize fully the way in which all things arise, and whither they vanish. [Shinkei, Sasamegoto, cited in Hirota 1995,143]

In genuine practice, the "multifarious hues of things" and the "illusions of this world"dissipate, and with one's own desires grown meager, one becomes able to apprehend and give voice to "what is most deeply moving," that is, "the way in which all things arise, and whither they vanish." Shinkei's aesthetic of the "chill and withered" manifests the experience of standing on this tenuous borderline of existence, pervaded by one's own emptiness or nonexistence. Here there arises a selfless appreciation of the existence of things and a genuine compassion for others.

Shinkei developed the apprehension of impermanence beyond the temporal dimension into an insight into the present, This may be seen in the following passages of instruction to a disciple:

The attitude of heart and mind is central. In looking upon the scattering blossoms or falling leaves, in contemplating the dew on the grasses and trees,be drawn to yugen (the profound and subtle), ["Master Shinkei's Instruction," cited in Hirota 1995,173]

Turn your attention to the faint and undistinguished (kasukanru). It is die link like white plum blossoming within the bamboo grove, like seeing the moon through rifts in clouds, that is engaging. There Is no pleasure in verses that are like branches of multi-petaled cherry or crimson plum lopped off when the blossoms have opened and are scattering, or like the full moon of autumn. ["Master Shinkei's Instruction," cited in Hirota 1995,174]

It is that which is hidden and only faintly perceptible that holds aesthetic interest, for it stands on the verge of our awareness and reminds us the dimension of the ungraspable or inconceivable that permeates all things. Where our "mind of illusions"—our everyday, discriminative grasp of the objects of the world from the stance of the self - is drawn into the faint and indistinguishable, astonishment at the beauty of the ordinary arises.

Shinkei's aesthetic entered into chanoyu. The early tea master recorded: "An old master [probably Juko] said, "After you have become a renowned master of chanoyu...you should devote yourself wholly to tea in the mode of wabi. The priest Shinkei states that linked verse should be withered and reduced by cold. Chanoyu should ultimately become like this" (Joo,"Rjccord of Yamanoue Soji,"cited in Hirota 1995,68-69). In chanoyu practice, the ways in which this aesthetic manifested itself concretely are various, but in general it may be seen in a growing inclination away from elegant Chinese ccramics - Temmoku tea bowls and celadon vessels—toward rough Korean and Japanese wares for daily use (figs- 2.7-2.11); away from elaborate displays of various kinds of utensils; toward smaller, plainer chambers; and away from large-scale entertainments in favor of small, highly focused gatherings.

Creating a Cohesive Gathering

Linked verse and chanoyu share a fundamental dimension as arts of the za: the gathering of participants in a carefully prepared space to enact as a group the temporal creation that is their art, the composition of a sequence of verse links or the conduct of a tea gathering (fig. 2.12). In both arts, painstaking attention is given by all the participants to fulfilling their particular roles in bringing about a successful gathering. This of joint artistic creation in which success in performance arises from the interaction of the group and not individual talent stands in strong contrast with modern Western conceptions of individual artistic genius. Within the traditions of linked verse, Shinkei stands upon more than a century of detailed manuals that spell out not only the rules governing the sequence of verse links but also the preparation of the setting for the session, but he adds a characteristic perspective:

In general, we do not have our own way in this world, so we cannot determine who our friends will be or what kind of people we will associate with. Nevertheless, encountering good friends is of crucial importance in every discipline. However concentrated or composed the group may be, if there are even one or two participants whose hearts are not transfixed [by awareness of the nature of human existence], that session will inevitably leave a sense of disappointment. [Shinkei, Sasamegoto, cited in Hirota 1995,140]

The attention to nurturing the fragile spirit of the gathering expressed by Shinkei is also found in early records of instruction m chanoyu: "Concerning the manner of the guest: attention should be given to building a unified gathering.... From the moment you enter the garden pathway until the time you depart, hold the host in most respectful esteem, in the spirit that that encounter will occur but once in your life. Worldly gossip has no place here" (joo,"Record of Yamanoue Soji," cited in Hirota 1995, 205). In both Shinkei and the words of Rikyu quoted here, we find recourse not only to the Buddhist apprehension of impermanence but also to the insight of inter-connectedness with others, so that one's own existence is not perceived as autonomous and individual but as necessarily communal and interdependent. The enactment of this truth is an ideal of the arts.

Zen Buddhism and Chanoyu: Spontaneous

Action and the Apprehension of Things

The contact with Buddhism among the feudal military governors and wealthy merchants who supported and developed the practices of chanoyu was most significantly with Zen priests and temples, where powdered tea was first introduced. Further, monks familiar with Chinese language and customs served to facilitate diplomatic and trade relations with the Asian continent. Thus, when the early masters of chanoyu looked to Buddhist tradition for guidance or support, they turned most readily to Zen, while also inheriting the traditions of the thatched-roof hut from Pure Land Buddhism and the aesthetic of the chill and withered from Mahayana. Direct reference to Buddhist ideas, however, is extremely rare, and the records of tea masters are filled chiefly with the concrete details of their practices, This avoidance of the abstract is itself, perhaps, one point of commonality shared with practitioners of Zen.

The influence of Zen Buddhist tradition on chanoyu is clearest in two interrelated characteristics of the way of tea: the sense that the things and events of everyday life cm become the locus for the manifestation of what is real and the notion of the "working" or spontaneous activity and acuity of the accomplished tea master, For illustration, I will turn to several anecdotes from the records of chancyu. The first relates a well-known legend regarding the origins of the practice:

It was with Zen master Ikkyu of Daitokuji Temple that drinking tea first came to be perceived as possessing the way of Zen as its essence. Juko of Shomyoji Temple in Nara, a disciple of Master Ikkyu, had an appreciation for the preparing and serving of tea and performed it daily, Ikkyu noticed this and, seeing that tea might accord with the wondrous realm of Buddhist att^dnment, recreated the spirit of Zen in the whisking of tea. Thus was established the way of tea. [The Zen Tea Record, cited in Hirota 1995, 263]

Although no clear evidence exists for a relationship between named in later records as the founder of chanoyu as an independent performance art, and Ikkyu, famed for his eccentricity as well as his calligraphy and poetry, the latter did have connections to various figures in the arts, and the idea that he provided encouragement for treating the serving of tea as a medium of Buddhist awareness is not necessarily far-fetched. The legend of Zen Buddhist inspiration at the origins of chanoyu was widely accepted among later tea practitioners, and we see in this account the notion that Buddhist attainment
inhabits and makes numinous the world of the ordinary.

According to the following passage from a seventeenthcentury record of Rikyu's chanoyu practice and instruction (fig. 2.13), the tea master J06 used the following well-known poem by Fujiwara Teika to convey the spirit of chanoyu:

As I gaze far about - there's neither blossom nor crimson leaf.

At edge: a rush hut in autumn dusk.

This poem may be understood as expressing an aesthetic close to that of Shinkei: the negativity suggestive of contemplative practice by which delusive perceptions have been eradicated, so that one has arrived at an awareness pervaded by an aesthetic appreciation of the plain and unadorned (fig. 2.14 - 2.16). The passage continues, however, noting that Rikyu, having discovered another poem [expressing chanoyu in the spirit of wabi ], often wrote it out with the one above, adopting them as articles of faith. The second poem is by Ietaka:

To one who awaits

only die cherry's blossoming

I would show;

spring in the mountain village, with new herbs amid snow.

... People in the world of society spend their time wondering when blossoms will open on this hillside or in that grove, day and night turning all their attention outside themselves and never realizing that those blossoms and leaves lie within their own hearts and minds, They delight merely in colors and forms visible to the As for all the previous year's blossoms and leaver, the snow has buried them utterly, so that the mountain village has become a place where there is nothing; in its thoroughgoing solitariness it has the same significance the rush hut.

From that realm of "not a single thing,"acts possessed of the power to move us spontaneously arise here and there quite naturally. That is, without any outside exertion of will or effort, that which is true and authentic manifests itself, just as, when spring has come, the snow that has covered all greets an awakening vigor in things, and in scattered patches where it has melted, herbs wholly fresh in their greenness gradually put forth two or three leaves. ["Record of the Words of Rikyu," Namporoku, cited in Hirota 1995,234]

In this interpretation of Rikyu's intent, we see depicted a phase of mastery that perhaps parallels Shinkei's returning movement from the deep to the shallow. Here, however, there is an emphasis on the spontaneous immediacy of the authentic, perhaps reflecting the spirit of Zen Buddhism. In terms of performance, one has become able, through practice, to act with aptness in one's situation "without any…exertion of... effort," and in terms of one's surroundings, things emerge to a fresh appreciation as they are genuinely free of any imposition of will.

In a more practical vein, one more typical of the stories circulated among practitioners, the following anecdote about Rikyu conveys the same elements of practice:

[During the tenth month] Rikyu and [his son] attended a morning gathering hosted by a certain person. In a morning storm, the leaves of an oak had fallen and scattered [onto the stepping stones], and the surface of the garden path gave precisely the feeling of a mountain forest Rikyu, looking back [on the garden], said, "All of this is engaging. But the host, being unaccomplished, will probably sweep up the leaves."

Just as he thought, after the intermission not a single leaf remained. At that time, Rikyu commented, "As a general rule concerning the cleaning of the garden path, if guests are to come in the morning, one should sweep the previous evening; if at noon, one should sweep in the morning. After that, even if fallen leaves should collect, the accomplished practitioner will allow them to lie as they are." ("Pointing to the Moon: Sotan's Anecdotes of Rikyu's Tea,"cited in Hirota 1995,250-51).