Monday, May 30, 2011

A Wonderful Article on The Buddhist Way of Tea In Korea

Please give this wonderful article by Martine Batchelor (here) a read. Bev of Listening To Leaves pointed it out in the comments here on MattCha's Blog (thanks again Bev).

It offers brilliantly translated quotes of the most prolific modern Buddhist tea masters in Korea including one's most influential that passed away last year- Beop Jeong Seunim. It covers everything from how tea first got to Korea to detailed explanations of the Korean tea ceremony. The article specifically looks in detail at the Buddhist Way of Tea in Korea.

A must read for any tea lover!

Peace

18 comments:

Philippe de Bordeaux said...

Dear Matt,

Thank you for the link to the article by Martine Batchelor.
Simple and very clear.

We can see the historic phases of tea and different principles to create harmony in ourselves and with others...

Best Regards.

. PHILIPPE .

Matt said...

Phillippe,

Yes, the article is translated and composed brilliantly.

It basically puts together 4 modern tea masters; 2 prolific Korean Zen monks called "Sunims" and 2 famous academics on the subject all the while weaving a picture of the historical development of tea in Korea up to the attitudes of the present day. Above all there is an underlying feel for the Buddhist Way of Tea. It ends quoting some of the classics of past tea masters. Brilliant article, lots of good info, great read!

As you mentioned, The Korean Way of Tea is especially aware of the importance of natural harmony.

A big thanks to Bev, again, for pointing this gem out.

Wishing you the best of harmony with your tea,

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

:) I see the Batchelors will be in BC this October. I'm half tempted to sign up for their silent retreat, if only to share tea with them :)

Gingko said...

This is a great article! When reading about Chou'ui's life in the book Korean Tea Classics, I was very curious about suppression on Buddhism in Korean history. It's very interesting how such suppression made tea even more integrated in people's spiritual life.

Also I like what the article says about uses of spent tea leaves. It's a traditional virtue that everything should be made full use and fully appreciated, quite contrary to modern consumptionism.

Julien ÉLIE said...

In Buddhism, one often speaks of the ‘essence’ and the ‘function’. The essence represents the unmoving, the fundamental. It is associated with the left. The function represents the moving and the active. It is associated with the right. [...] It is through the harmony between essence and function that the ‘right middle way’ (i.e. the absolute) emerges. Nowadays in Korea the fire used for boiling the water for tea is placed on the right of the server. However, since fire is not really active, it should correctly be placed directly before the server, in the middle. That which is unmoving, the cups for example, should be placed on the server’s left, since they belong to the essence. In moving the cup to drink, function and essence then come into harmony. Most teachers of tea ceremony in Korea today are not aware of these important points.
In addition, the guests should face the West and the host should face the East.


Very interesting. It should be taken into account in our daily cha xi.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

One hopes to start writing more about feng shi, the Korean tea set up, and the various Korean Tea ceremonies over the next year or so. It is a topic that needs discussion and has been pretty much neglected. If you observe ones tea setups in any of the old posts you see that these rules are strictly followed.

The "left" or "essence" is yin and "right" or "function" is yang. This is the movement of all nature- and such it is embodied in our tea setup.

"the guests should face the West and the host should face the East."

It is important to note that when you drink tea by yourself you should face the East.

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

Matt,
I look forward to reading more from you on the Korean way of tea. Why is it one should face the East when drinking tea alone?

Ho Go said...

Radishes asked:
'Why is it one should face the East when drinking tea alone?'

Hogo asks: 'Why should one think about such a thing?'

Matt said...

Bev and HoGo,

Oops. typo. That should be "It is important to note that when you drink tea by yourself you should face the WEST."

The whole thing is in relation to the movement of the sun, of energy, of nature. Royals always position them selves sitting North facing South- this direction is sacred. Sitting East and facing West was thought as a position of honour. This is based on the Feng Shui laid out in Ming Tang Wei (see here for translation:

http://ctext.org/liji/ming-tang-wei )

it is further rooted in the I Ching.

Peace

Ho Go said...

Matt said...
"Bev and HoGo,

Oops. typo. That should be "It is important to note that when you drink tea by yourself you should face the WEST."

The whole thing is in relation to the movement of the sun, of energy, of nature. Royals always position them selves sitting North facing South- this direction is sacred. Sitting East and facing West was thought as a position of honour. This is based on the Feng Shui laid out in Ming Tang Wei (see here for translation:

http://ctext.org/liji/ming-tang-wei )

it is further rooted in the I Ching."

Gee, Matt. If it's in writing, it must be true, huh? :) All this complexity and ritual have no place in the natural world. How could it? Man builds empires both on the earth and in his mind and is still unhappy never really understanding that he is just chasing his own tail. Being free is a much better alternative, I think. Wisdom is not found in the books by accumulating information and compiling it into some practice, some system. Wisdom is explosive shattering all conceptions and dualities. This is all sounding a bit like Sunday School to me, sir.:)

Matt said...

HoGo,

"If it's in writing, it must be true."

Let it be known- if it is found in writing it shall be an unquestioned fact! Hahahaha...

"All this complexity and ritual have no place in the natural world"

Is the natural world not composed of complex rituals? Certainly just as much as it is composed of simple unpredictable events?

"Man builds empires both on the earth and in his mind and is still unhappy never really understanding that he is just chasing his own tail."

The man who builds no empires at all may still be just as unhappy likewise the man who builds these empires many forever be happy. If true happiness is freedom than aren't both free?

"Wisdom is not found in the books by accumulating information and compiling it into some practice, some system. Wisdom is explosive shattering all conceptions and dualities."

Although wisdom is not found in books, those who are wise abide in them. To be wise you must first understand the duality otherwise what are you shattering?

Are we really doing this again... Hahahaha... Guess its been a few months :)

Peace

Gingko said...

If explained from the view of natural science, the orientation of sitting probably originated from the natural living conditions of human ancestors. In Chinese traditional view, rooms facing south are the best, facing east are the next best, facing west are not so good, and facing north are the worst. Why? If one lives in a place with distinctive seasonal patterns and without air conditioner, it will be very easy to understand :D

These orientation patterns are related to the amount of positive natural energy (solar energy as a representative) one can get. In ancient China, the sitting priority sequence is the same, facing south, east, west and the last, north. But sometimes there are pattern variations, possibly related to the location of fireplace in a room - if we stick to physical facts, but not that the non-physical facts are unimportant.
I think these patterns may change in southern hemisphere though :-p

Matt said...

Gingko,

Thanks for relating this to your experiences in China.

As you stated the original, placement has to do with the movement of the sun. From a practical point of view, placement really depends on the light and set up of the tea space itself. This is a more important consideration especially in modern homes.

Peace

Ho Go said...

Matt asked: "Is the natural world not composed of complex rituals? Certainly just as much as it is composed of simple unpredictable events?"

Rituals and laws of nature are two different things. Man mimics what is natural creating behavioral structures which don't lead to any wisdom, just repetition. It is mind-made. Wisdom is not found within this structure, but, in the absence of it. Thinking one is in harmony by creating a structure is exactly the opposite. It is all a pile of ruins, Matt. Life is always living and can never be captured. All these ideas are just ideas. They are what others have taught us. They actually obscure who and what we are.

Matt said...

HoGo,

"Wisdom is not found within this structure, but, in the absence of it. Thinking one is in harmony by creating a structure is exactly the opposite."

Man doesn't create structure instead it follows nature's structure because they cannot control nature. No matter how much someone thinks they are wise they are still not beyond natures wisdom. Because nature, like man, is always changing, man will always change.

"Thinking" one is in harmony when ignoring nature, is definitely not wise. But having a spontaneous ability to change with nature is.

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

rigid adherence to structure.. rigid adherence to no structure.. being blown by the wind, and yet the wind blows in this direction or that..

it's all making me very thirsty for some tea :) (and i'm so glad it's WEST and not EAST because it just so happens that my tea table faces me to the west :)

Ho Go said...

Matt said: "Man doesn't create structure instead it follows nature's structure because they cannot control nature. No matter how much someone thinks they are wise they are still not beyond natures wisdom. Because nature, like man, is always changing, man will always change.

"Thinking" one is in harmony when ignoring nature, is definitely not wise. But having a spontaneous ability to change with nature is."

Matt, if we are really honest with ourselves, we have no spontaneous ability to change with nature. We fight it every minute. Even when we are deeply relaxed, that mechanism that we call 'me' never lets one rest. It's always fighting for control. Ultimately, we may be nature itself, but the way we live and think are at odds with it. Life is explosive at its core. It's a complete upheaval of everything we know and believe in. Will we be there to witness it? :)

Matt said...

HoGo,

"The Buddha silently holds up a flower... Mahakasyapa silently gazes at the flower and brakes into a broad smile..."

Let's leave it at this.

:)

Peace