vegan


“It helps me to speak, although I hate speaking.  My classes help me very much too.  I have learned more theology in three months of teaching than in four years of studying.  But talking also helps my prayer–at least in the sense that it inviscerates the mysteries of faith more deeply into my soul.  It is very important to live your faith by confessing it, and one of the best ways to confess it is to preach it.”

–Thomas Merton

“Nothing of the mystery realm is revealed in its truth to the one who has not first fine-tuned their conduct. For the path to mystery wisdom is blanketed with snake spirits who watch to see who is walking up that road to acquire holiness. This is not unlike thorns that watch over the path leading to the rose. And these snake spirits will not permit passage to those who are not worthy.

Not everyone is worthy of approaching the mysteries of Torah, which requires battling with whatever wrongness lingers within us. Only then — after one has worked strenuously on one’s character — can one achieve the fullness of the wisdom and gift of true wholeness. You should not think that anyone who wishes to leap into the mystery realms can simply do so, and that you can know the wisdom of the unknown without mastering first the wisdom of the known. So many of us simply want to jump into the mystery realm without working on ourselves first, wanting to skip the basic wisdom and discipline and immediately study Kabbalah. Of such it is written: “Woe onto the one who builds his house void of balance; and his upper chambers without good judgment” (Jeremiah 22:13).

Rather, you must enter this realm of study in its proper sequence: first through the courtyard, then into the house, then to the upper chambers, and then within the chambers of chambers. But if you wish to jump ahead of the cycles and leap straight into the chamber within chambers of the upper realms without cleansing what is unwholesome within you and without removing the impediments that block your inner vision‚ know that you will taste the flaming swords of the Cherubim who are assigned to guard the path to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).  After all, who can taste the nut without first breaking off the shell?”

–From Hakdahmaht Chemdat Tzvee ahl Teekoonay Zohar: translated by Gershon Winkler

“Those who seek to enter the Orchard should know that it is a very harmful, dangerous space to visit. Therefore, first make certain that in your daily life you pursue peace and harmony in all of your relationships; that you do not create an atmosphere of terror in your home; that you do not be too demanding and exacting in your relating with members of your family, not concerning even a major issue, and certainly not a minor one; and God forbid do not flare up in rage at them. And do not ever chastise your children with anger.

Also steer clear of conceit and self-aggrandizing behavior, especially when it comes to doing the sacred work. For it is in the course of performing the sacred work that we become most prone to conceit and feelings of superiority. And when you make love to your partner first prepare your mind and heart so that you do not make love solely for your own pleasure to the neglect of the needs of your partner. And at night when you go to sleep, liberate your mind from all the tumult of your thoughts and concerns of this world, so that your soul can ascend with ease to the upper worlds and be clear enough to receive the continuous flux of divine wisdom that emanates from there. Finally, as you seek to learn how to enter the Orchard, seek also to learn how to leave the Orchard and return. For the mystery lies not only in the entering, but as much in the leaving.”

–From the 16th-century Rabbi Chayyim Vital in his introduction to Etz Chayyim, toward the end

The spirit of the human being loves purity, but his mind disturbs it. His reason loves the silence but his desires drive it away. If he were able always to neutralise his desires, his mind would naturally become pure. The six desires (those of the five senses and the imagination) would not develop and the three poisons (greed, anger and stupidity) would be taken away and disappear.

The reason why people are unable to achieve this is that their minds are not purified and their desires are not neutralised. If someone is able to neutralise his desires and looks at his reason, these desires are no longer his; if he looks down at his body, it is no longer his; if he looks further away to the outward things, they are things that do not concern him.

When he understands these three things, they will appear only a void to him. This beholding of the void will awaken the idea of nothingness. Without such nothingness, there is no void. When the idea of empty space has disappeared, also that of nothingness will disappear, and when the idea of nothingness has disappeared, then, clearly, the state of permanent silence will follow. In that state of rest and independent of place, how would desire be able to develop? And if desire no longer develops, there is true silence and rest. This true silence becomes a permanent property, and in this state, everything is comprehended as to its essence; yes, this true and permanent property becomes the ruler of human nature. In such a continuous representation and permanent silence, there is permanent purity and rest.

He who has this absolute purity, will gradually come into the true Dao. And once he has arrived there, he will be called master of Dao. Although he is called master of Dao, he does not really think that he has become master of anything. Because he is accomplishing the transformation of all things, he is called master of Dao. He who is able to understand this, is also able to pass on the holy Dao to others.

‘Book of Purity’ by Ko Juan (AD 222-272)

“But I made answer unto them; O ye Fishers, who lap up your filth, no fisher am I who fishes for fish, and I was not formed for an eater of filth (non vegan). A fisher am I of souls who bear witness to Life”

Yeshu as quoted from chapter 36 of the Ancient Aramaic Nazorean Prophets scroll

Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.

–Tao Te Chin (10)

……….

If I had no choice about the age in which I was to live, I nevertheless have a choice about the attitude I take and about the way and the extent of my participation in its living ongoing events. To choose the world is not then merely a pious admission that the world is acceptable because it comes from the hand of God. It is first of all an acceptance of a task and a vocation in the world, in history and in time. In my time, which is the present. To choose the world is to choose to do the work I am capable of doing, in collaboration with my brother and sister, to make the world better, more free, more just, more livable, more human. And it has now become transparently obvious that mere automatic “rejection of the world” and “contempt for the world” is in fact not a choice but an evasion of choice. The person, who pretends that he can turn his back on Auschwitz or Viet Nam and acts as if they were not there, is simply bluffing.

–Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action

……………………….

I need to become better at caring for living things. I’m good enough with words and concepts, objects and designs. Things become more alive when you start working with yogurt, beansprouts, yeast-bread (‘specially with the chance to feed people!). And the seedlings for herbs, vegetables and flower gardens. Nursery work wil be good. With the plants grows intuition, sensitivity and concern for other beings, patience, tolerance, devotion, responsibility –abilities to be a radiance of love.

Passionate animal nature can be transformed into a beautiful tenderness and compassion. When you have animals, yopu can’t ignore or leave them, you have to be consistent in caring for them. It’s more than just ‘doing the chores’; it’s being sensitive to their emotional needs as well.

Plants need some stability. They get too shocked and stunted if you transplant them too much.

–Miriam Baum

………..

To pray, therefore, is to infuse the blood with one Master-Desire, one Master-Thought, one Master-Will. It is so to attune the self as to become in perfect harmony with whatever you pray for.

This planet’s atmosphere, mirrored in all details within your hearts, is billowing with vagrant memories of all the things it witnessed since its birth.

No word or deed; no wish or sigh; no passing thought or transient dream; no breath of man or beast; no shadow, no illusion but ply in it their mystic courses till this very day, and shall so ply them till the end of Time. Attune your hearts to anyone of these, and it shall surely dash to play upon the strings.

You need no lip or tongue for praying. But rather do you need a silent, wakeful heart, A Master-Wish, a Master-Thought, and above all, a Master-Will that neither doubts nor hesitates. For words are of no avail except the heart be resent and awake, the tongue had better go to sleep, or hide behind sealed lips.

Nor have you any need of temples to pray in.

Whoever cannot find a temple in his heart, the same can never find his heart in any temple.

Yet this I say to you and to the ones like you, but not to every man. For most men are derelict as yet. They feel the need of praying, but know not the way. They cannot pray except with words, and they can fin no words except you put them in their mouths. And they are lost and awed when made to roam the vastness of their hearts, but soothed and comforted within the walls of temples and in the herds of creatures like themselves.

Let them erect their temples. Let them chant out their prayers.

But you and every man I charge to pray for Understanding. To hunger after anything but that is never to be filled.

Remember that the key to Life is the Creative Word. The key to the Creative Word is Love. The key to Love is Understanding. Fill up your hearts with these and spare your tongues the pain of many words, and save your minds the weight of many prayers, and free your hearts from bondage to all gods who would enslave you with a gift; who would caress you with one hand only to smite you with the other; who are content and kindly when you praise them, but wrathful and revengeful when reproached; who would not hear you save you call, and would not give you save you beg; and having given you, too oft regret the giving; whose incense is your tear; whose glory is your shame.

Aye, free your hearts of all these gods that you may find in them the only God who, having filled you with Himself, would have you ever full.

–The Book of Mirdad

—–

“In reality, none of our possessions and none of the beings we are attached to belong to us indefinitely. We are constantly at risk of losing them, and when we do lose them we must call upon all those forces within us that are able to help us endure the loss. These forces are found in light, disinterested love, humility and sacrifice. So why not seek them immediately and consciously? It’s difficult, when everything is going well, to convince humans they should concentrate on what is essential in order to prepare themselves for the ordeals to come. For they will come, that is certain; no one is spared. So do not wait for poverty, illness or misfortune to arrive before you seek spiritual direction. If you are already well armed, not only will you overcome them, you will also be strengthened by them.”

–Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

O heart!

When will you stop trying to hide
From Him in Whose realm you abide?
Where do you think to find relief
When there is no relief beside?

–Rafael Alejandro Jara.

http://www.fao.org/wfd2007/index_en.html

World Food Day 2007

The right to food is the inherent human right of every woman, man, girl and boy, wherever they live on this planet.

The choice of The Right to Food as the theme for 2007 World Food Day and TeleFood demonstrates increasing recognition by the international community of the important role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty, and hastening and deepening the sustainable development process.

Background

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 first recognized the right to food as a human right. It was then incorporated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11) adopted in 1966 and ratified by 156 states, which are today legally bound by its provisions. The expert interpretation and more refined definition of this right are contained in General Comment 12 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1999). The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security – the Right to Food Guidelines – were adopted by the FAO Council in 2004 and provide practical recommendations on concrete steps for the implementation of the right to food.

The right to food is a universal right. It means that every person – woman, man and child – must have access at all times to food, or to means for the procurement of food, that is sufficient in quality, quantity and variety to meet their needs, is free from harmful substances and is acceptable to their culture. Only when individuals do not have the capacity to meet their food needs by their own means for reasons beyond their control, such as age, handicap, economic downturn, famine, disaster, or discrimination, will they be entitled to receive food directly from the state, according to General Comment 12.

This definition is based on the assumption that hunger and malnutrition are caused not just by a lack of available food, but also by poverty, income disparities, and lack of access to health care, education, clean water, and sanitary living conditions. The principle that all human rights are interrelated and interdependent is also acknowledged. This means that the right to food cannot be implemented in isolation from other human rights, i.e. right to education, right to work, right to health, freedom of assembly and association.

The right to food is increasingly being integrated into national constitutions and legislation, and there are several cases in the courts around the world where this right, or some aspects of it, have been upheld and enforced. However, despite progress in some areas, 59 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to food remains to be realized for 854 million human beings.

…………………………………………

Traditional food therapy, that is understanding the energetics
of food, and relationship with the energetics of the “organs”,
shares many common denominators with Alchemy (and actually
ought be used as an adjunct with Alchemy).

As opposed to looking at food through the modern lense, which
examines it in terms of macromolecules (lipids, carbs, proteins,
enzymes, etc), and usually has a “one-size fits all” diet, such
as an “RDA”; traditional though concerning food tends to be
more precise, and advises diets to vary depending on a persons
age, season of the year, lifestyle, constitution, psychological
states, and more.

The most general principles in Traditional food therapy, are how
they are classified.
In the West, and in the Unani system, this is done along a four
element model.
In the Indian system, the Panchmahubatas (Five Elements), and
Doshas (Sattva, Vata, and Kapha) are usually used.
In the Chinese, a Five “Phase” system is often worked.

Modern nutritionists migh consider these models “simplifications”
at first sight; however, when everything is brought into the
total picture, the detail and precision which goes into Traditional
food therapy, is quite elegant.
Let us return to the Chinese model for example. We mentioned
the broad categories of “Five Phases”.
To this, can be added considerations regarding:
1. Eight exogenous pathogens
2. Seven endogenous pathogens
3. Meridian theory (which channel does the food enter, and which
“organ” is affected, and how).
4. “Four Level” theory (is the food contributing to the Wei, Qi,
Blood, or Organ depth).
5. This can even be extended as far as to involve classifications
using the I Ching hexagrams to determine function…and this is
sometimes done; but in common practice though, people seldom
go this far, as the first four conditions listed provide more than
enough factors to manipulate.

The traditional Western, and Ayurvedic/Rasashastra methodologies are
equally involved as well.

……………………

You—

The power of creation

Giver of life—

Guide us on our way.

Where there is pain—

Bring comfort. You!

Where there is hunger—

Bring food. You!

Where there is quarrel—

Bring love. You!

You—

All of us together!

–Bruno Manser (defender of the Penan people, Switzerland)

…………….

SacredSpace: Creating Sacred Space In Your Home

By EponaPerry

 

Creating Sacred Space In Your Home

Many modern Celtic pagans today are faced with a difficult question: how can I bring my religion into my home? Whether we live in a dormitory, an apartment, a duplex or a mansion, most of us like to have our homes reflect our personalities and the things we are interested in, and that includes our spiritual practices, but many of us don’t have back yards in which to practice and set up more permanent shrines, or 24/7 access to our favorite places in nature. For some, just setting up an altar somewhere in the home is either undesirable, unachievable or just not enough.

So what can we do? This article focuses on how we can make our homes not just places we sleep in, but places where our Celtic spirituality can blossom and flourish as well. The best part is you don’t have to spend a fortune doing it!

There are many ways your home can become a part of your spiritual being and reflection. The first step is changing the way you think about your home. What do I mean by this? Well, there are certain fundamental things that most if not all homes share, whether they’re high-rise penthouses, country estates, suburban dwellings, or apartments and condominiums. And there are certain things which all branches of the Celtic religions share that can be incorporated into our view of our homes and how we present them.

The Sacred Apartment?

In the old days, most rituals were probably conducted outside, most often in a grove or natural clearing or some other sacred place that was recognized for its special magical properties and other spiritual phenomena. Sacred places were found, not created. In this vein, do we not choose the homes we live in because of some properties usually only recognizable by us?

For example, one of the last times I went looking at apartments to move to, I looked at many that would have suited my needs and were in good condition. Which one did I end up choosing? The one that an older woman had lived in for 20 years and had obviously poured a lot of love into, the one that just *felt* right. Besides, it was very close to a park, which meant I had a lot less excuses to spend more time outdoors. 🙂

Of course, sometimes we have no choice in where we live, and then we must do our best to “make do” with what we get. Focus on the positive attributes instead of the negative attributes of the place, and take care of it. Technically, our homes are en extension of Earth: they are built out of wood and stone and clay. Even the iron and steel and concrete of large buildings were harvested from the Earth originally. When making our homes beautiful and comfortable for those living in it and visiting it, we honor the Earth by making good use out of what we have taken from it.

The Center

Ritual is a large part of Celtic spirituality, and although it may not seem so, it is actually quite easy to bring elements of ritual into your home. One of the first things done when preparing a ritual is defining the center of the space. The center is the central axis, the “world tree” that enables us to pass from one realm to the next. Most homes and apartments are built and designed with a center too. There may be a central air-vent, a central hallway, a fireplace and/or chimney, a staircase, or a supporting wall somewhere near the middle of your home. This is your “bile,” the “tree” which holds your home together and around which your household rotates.

Mark the spot by decorating it with Celtic symbols (a good idea would be a representation of a knotwork tree-of-life picture) or placing special objects around the area. Each time you or others in your house pass by the spot, it will help remind you and them of the natural movement in and between the realms, and of that invisible connection we all have with each other, nature, and the spiritual realms.

The Eternal Flame

Another important aspect of Celtic spirituality and ritual is fire. In most of the ancient Celtic nations, it was noted by historians and others that it was the tradition of the village, if not every house in the village, to have a sacred fire that was kept burning at all times except when ritually extinguished and re-lit. These fires often had appointed guardians whose duty it was to keep the fire, or at least hot coals from the fire, burning at all times and through all types of weather. The punishment for letting the fire die out was severe, sometimes even death. We don’t have such strict rules today, and in modern times it is not very easy to keep a fire burning in your homes for any length of time, let alone most of the year! Or is it?

If you have a hot water heater in your home, or a gas stove, then you already have an “eternal flame.” Just as the flame of spirituality and inspiration warms our hearts and minds, so does the stove and water heater warm our bodies with nourishment and heat. The next time you take a shower or prepare a meal, think about that little flame that provided the means for what you are enjoying.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, take the time to use it regularly. In ancient times the hearth-place was the center of the home, where food was cooked and where warmth and light were provided. It was often a place people gathered around to tell stories or sing and dance. We can’t do all these things around modern fireplaces, but we can place things around our fireplaces to symbolize these traditions. Put a small cauldron or cornucopia on your mantel as a reminder of the food once prepared on the hearth, books or figurines as symbols of the stories once told around the fire, or bells and other musical symbols that remind you of the songs once sung and tunes danced to. Place a broom next to the fireplace as a reminder of the central place the hearth once was of the home.

If you don’t have a fireplace or any appliances with pilot lights, there are other ways you can honor fire in your home. Keep a brazier (a small vessel made to be able to hold burning objects) in the kitchen or living area of the house and light coals and/or incense in it regularly. Or place a night light near your altar area to symbolize the eternal flame. If none of these ideas will work for your living situation, try using symbols that represent fire to you, placed strategically around your altar or the entire home. Remember to honor the fire of inspiration also by placing fire symbols in areas that you work often, such as on your desk, around your computer, or above the kitchen table. And don’t forget to protect your home from fire by hanging or drawing the Brigid’s cross or other fire/sun symbols on the mantel of your fireplace and on the door frames of your home.

The Waters of the Well

Another important aspect of Celtic ritual and spirituality is the well and the sacred waters of springs and other natural water phenomena. In most buildings today, we have water flowing everywhere around us: in the heating systems, in the kitchen, in our bathrooms. Granted, it’s hard to think of sacred waters when you are flushing the toilet, but indoor plumbing does bring water into our home and causes it to “flow” throughout it. Water, water everywhere!

To emphasize water in your home, place special objects around the house, especially near sinks and the bathtub. Make a little arrangement of shells and driftwood in the bathroom. Another good idea would be keeping a simple glass fish bowl filled with sand, gravel, shells and other goodies; pour water into it daily or regularly as part of your schedule or just when you need to feel a little more connected with water. Some people even make or buy fountains or sculptures made to have water poured on them or cycled around them. The noise of the flowing water can be very soothing and helpful during meditation. Keeping fish tanks is another lovely way to bring water into your home and honor it; you also honor the living creatures within it. All life on our planet needs water to survive.

The ancient Celts made offerings to water by throwing valuable objects into it. Dredges made of lakes, wells, rivers and other bodies of water within lands once occupied by Celts have turned up enormous archaeological finds (including the famous Gundestrup Cauldron). These finds have consisted mainly of coins, pins, carved figures of wood and stone, and many other small metal objects made of silver, gold, bronze, copper, and other valuable metals. To this day there exists in many areas of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland the tradition of throwing a pin into a well or spring for luck (of course in most areas this was outlawed by the Church).

Where do you think our tradition of throwing coins into wells or fountains and “making a wish” comes from? Originally the “wish” would have been directed at the Gods or Spirits of the place. These objects were thrown into the water as an appropriate offering to a god/goddess/spirit in return for continued good health, good crops, and general prosperity. We can continue this today by placing coins, nuts, or other bits of valuable metal near our altar or water shrines as an offering until we can find an appropriate natural water source in which to deposit it. I would advise against flushing these offerings down the sink or toilet unless the need is very urgent! As you deposit the offering, remember our connection with water and meditate. Water teaches us to be calm, to “go with the flow” of nature, to be tranquil and deep, or lightly flowing along life’s banks.

Altars and Shrines

What about having altars and shrines in the home? Though the ancient Celts most likely held all their rituals and magical workings outside within a special natural place, they did build temples and shrines nearby these places for people to leave offerings to the god/goddess/spirit of the place, their own gods and goddesses, special spirits, or their ancestors. In this we can see the melding of the three kindreds (again, that magical number three): spirits of nature, gods/goddesses of the people, and the ancestors.

Each one of us has different needs and different ideas as to how we wish to incorporate the ritual and spiritual aspects of our religion into our homes, so each home and the use of altars and/or shrines will be different accordingly. You can have an altar that includes small shrine areas, you can have an altar *and* have small shrines about the house, or you may not have any altar but have shrine areas in your home. Most people who set up permanent or semi-permanent altars in their home do so because it serves as a general-purpose work area for meditation, personal magic workings, honoring and working with their personal gods, and honoring their ancestors.

Many modern pagans can only set up semi-permanent altars, using a small cabinet or table where the tools and other altar items are put away some or most of the time. If you do this, you may wish to have small shrines set up around the house in conjunction to this, such as the water shrine in the bathroom, the fire shrine in the kitchen, the ancestor shrine in the living room, the shrine to nature spirits out in the yard, and the personal deity shrine in the bedroom. The important thing is to tailor the use of altars and shrines to your needs and the needs of others in your household.

Honoring the Ancestors

Ancestor worship is not common in most households these days, and yet what better place for honoring our ancestors but our own homes? Family values are seen as something of a lost commodity here in the United States, but I believe by once again focusing upon this important aspect of Celtic Paganism we bring a stronger sense of family, unity, and continuity into our lives and our community.

How can we honor ancestors in our homes? Many of us already have an ancestor shrine we may not have thought of: photo collections. My grandparents for instance had an entire bookcase devoted to holding their old photo books, and arranged around the books were mementos, other photos, and favorite items. You don’t have to do anything so elaborate, but a simple collection of photos and other items simply and yet powerfully demonstrates your honor for your family, your ancestors.

Having a small shrine area for your ancestors is a great way to add to your holidays also. Place a pretty bowl or plate and a censer near the ancestor shrine area so that during the holiday you can take time out to honor them by lighting the incense and placing a food offering in the dish. Take the time to remember those who have passed on and share stories about them. Remind your children or other family members about special anniversaries or birthdays. In my family we honor some ancestors by preparing dishes that they had made at past holiday gatherings before they passed on. I never knew my great-grandmother Erlandson, but we eat her cookies every Christmas. In this way, each time we eat that dish, the ancestor is remembered and honored. Ancestor reverence does not have to be a complicated thing; keep it simple yet respectful and you may be surprised at the energies you receive from this practice.

Outside and In

The outside of your home can be just as easy to transform into part of your personal spiritual realm as the inside. Paint your mailbox with spirals or knotwork. Hang bells or wind chimes; people in parts of Britain did this to beep away bad spirits and to warn when the fairies were around, and in parts of Tibet bells and chimes are still considered a powerful tool for keeping away bad spirits. Of course if you want to attract fairies, create little pools in your garden, or find a nice flat stone and some pretty but durable dishes to leave food offerings in (and keep iron objects away!). Creating an offertory in your yard will allow you to include leaving offerings to nature spirits and fairies into your regular practices, and it also makes a handy depository for those ritual leftovers!

Some people get as elaborate as making actual stone circles in their yards, but you can do more simple things such as placing three piles of three stones along the perimeter of your house to help align your household with the Three Realms, the Three Kindreds, and all of those other fun triads. 🙂 Position a gargoyle so that it is standing guard over your walkway. Make a cauldron into a planter. Hang colorful scarves or ribbons on a tree that has special significance to you. Plant herbs that you know have spiritual/healing/protective associations with them close to the house or in window boxes.

If you live in an apartment or a dormitory, there are things you can do as well. Hang three bells, three ribbons, or other symbols from the doorknob of your entranceway door. There is surely a tree or a bush nearby that you can place a stone under or leave offerings at. Hang a bird feeder on the tree or outside your window to honor the sprits of nature. On the four Fire Festivals, hang ribbons on the tree or bush, or maybe on a grapevine or willow-branch wreath that you hang on your door. Lay a doormat outside your door to welcome visitors and good spirits — I saw a lovely example of this where the person had taken a plain white doormat and painted the border with knotwork and the center with the Gaelic word “Filte” (welcome).

Keep it Simple

The obtaining of religious tools and decoration of the home in a pagan theme has almost become a competition among some pagan groups: who has the most stuff, or spends the most money. While it is tempting to spend most of your paycheck on all the fancy stuff, remember that it is the simple things that often are the most effective. When you buy something in a store, you are bringing home the energy of the person who made it. While there is surely a place for store-bought items in your home, why not chiefly stick to things you find in nature: that feather you found on your walk the other day, that pretty rock you nearly tripped over? Or take a glass and turn it into a special candle votive by painting it with enamel or gluing other objects and symbols on it you have found or made.

This is not only less expensive, but also probably more effective in lending your home a spiritual ambience without it becoming overpowering or commercialized. And the best part: it is yours and yours alone, unique. Expressing your individuality is important because it helps you understand and develop your own special connection with the universe.

There are many other simple ways to express our spirituality in our homes. Having house plants and pets brings nature into our homes and teaches us and those living with us responsibility and respect for living things. It also strengthens our connection with the natural world. I can remember walking into many homes filled with house plants and feeling immediately more at ease because of the natural feel the plants lent to the home. Making decorations of things found in nature such as dried flower arrangements, baskets, and wall hangings are other wonderful ways of bringing nature home.

It may seem that there are just too many little things to do to make our homes more spiritual, yet all of these “little things” add up. When we walk down the stairs in the morning and see the World Tree, we remember the special dream we might have had last night and our connection with the Otherworld is reinforced. When we go to wash our face we are reminded of the soothing properties of the waters that will help us remain calm and patient throughout our hectic day. As we heat up the hot water on the stove in the morning we are reminded of the eternal flame that burns within us all, and the power we can gain by harnessing a potentially wild force. Thus our homes become nemetons, sacred groves, places of refuge that allow our spirituality to flourish and grow.

Don’t try to “make over” your home all in one weekend; this is meant to be a process of building up and changing over time. Just as you change, so will your home and your personal expression within it. Start with the things you already have and rearrange them to better fit your needs. Finish making that wall hanging you started ages ago. Put those shells that have been lying in your drawer for eons in your bathroom or on your altar. Clear out that central hallway and paint some knotwork on the walls. Hang those deer horns from Great Uncle Henry in the house in a place of honor. If you make it your goal to make at least one change or addition to your home in this manner every week or even once a month, you will be surprised at how much actually changes over the space of just one year.

I’m reminded of a phrase I heard a while ago: “Home isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind.” That is essentially the goal of this article, to help you redefine your home in a spiritual manner. The physical addition and placement of objects such as has been described here are really only tools to help you do this. With your things set up around you to help you focus on the spiritual aspects of your life, reverence and magic will become a part of your daily life.

Thus we don’t have to seek out ritual, holiday festivals and other pagan activities as our only sources for our spiritual “fix” and then go away feeling bereft and empty because it’s over; instead we will come from an already spiritually rich environment to join with and become further enriched by our community in celebration of life.

May your Home be always happy, may your hearth be always warm, and may hungry visitors seldom find you!

– An Irish Saying

Walk in Wisdom,

Epona na Donnaigh

Bibliography:

�� Nora Chadwick, The Celts

�� Kevin Danaher, The Year in Ireland

�� Miranda Green, The World of the Druids

�� Erynn Laurie, Circle of Stones: Meditations and Journeys for the Modern Celt

�� T.G.E. Powell, The Druids

�� Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain

Please visit Epona Perrys webiste at www.celtic-cauldron.com.

 

Jainism: Pure And Simple Life

 

Jainism prayers include the eightfold offering of rice, water dry fruit, sandal powder ( dhoop ) etc. The offering is also, thus, giving up of food that symbolises the liberated state. Most Jains will also put a coin on the rice, representing the renunciation of money in pursuit of spiritual well being. They touch the feet of the image for blessing.

NamoArihantanam Namo Siddhanam Namo Ayariyanam
Divine colour white Divine colour orange red Divine colour bright yellow
Namo Uvajjhayanam Namo Loe Savva -Sahunam  
Divine colour fresh green Divine colour black blue  

The Jain swastika represents the four possible states into which one can be reborn human, celestial being, infernal being, and plant or animal. People use a rosary to count 108 repetitions of the Navkar Mantra or any other favourite prayer. This part of the ritual completes the movement from dravya to bhava . Jains do not worship only in their local temples. They go on pilgrimages to important shrines commemorating special events in the lives of the Jinas. As part of the worship service an individual waves incense or a lamp in front of the plaque of a pilgrimage shrine, while singing a hymn extolling the virtues and sanctity of that site. Mystical diagrams known as Yantras are also used in the worship for propitiatory, protective and fertility rites. The various rituals do not involve destroying karma only instead they also improve one’s situation by substituting good karma for bad. Ritualistic worship or chanting and reading of spiritual texts are the initial steps but finally the road to moksha is through spirit of spiritual energy. Learning to eliminate anger, avarice, attachment, ego.

The most difficult to give up is maya (attachment). Jainism tells you that by good deeds you may accumulate punya but to break the cycle of life and death you must cultivate detachment.

Jains regularly practise perpetual meditative equanimity: Deva-darshan or worship ( pooja ) if possible, recitation of a devotional hymn to veneration of the twenty-four Jinas and saints, twice-daily rite of atonement for improper actions; the ritualised statement of intention to perform certain karma–destroying austerities Jaisa khave anna, waisa hove mann ( what you eat influences your mind).

Food Habits

It is the Jain practice to have their meals before sunset and after sunrise. They recognise the rhythm in life– day and night, the cycles of seasons, similarly our body too has a rhythm according to the Circadian principles. Jains are firm vegetarians. Besides other restrictions when it comes to eating meat, they view it as the crudest form of violence. Vegetables and fruits that grow underground (roots of plants) are prohibited in Jain religion because when we pull the plant from the root, we destroy the entire plant, and with it all the other micro-organisms around the root. The question arises, don’t plants have life? Jainism has an answer to this query. We recognise the five physical senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing as the principle attributes of living beings. All life forms in this universe are then classified in terms of the senses found in various creatures. The lowest life forms are those with only one sense, such as plants. But since humans must eat to survive, they are allowed to eat commonly with only life with only one sense, that is basically plant, water etc.

Food should be ecological, evolutionary and ethical. They are supposed to drink boiled water only. As per Jain religion sour and spicy food is rajasik. Only satwik food keeps the mind clean, makes you samatabhavi, gives you equanimity. Alcohol, vinegar, molasses and wine and even honey is forbidden. Honey, because you have to burn the beehives to get it. Mushrooms and fungus are not eaten by Jain families because they are parasites and grow under unhygienic conditions. So are vegetables, like jackfruit, that bleed on cutting and when cooked looks like meat. Leafy vegetables, like cabbage must be cleaned before consumption because of insects and worms in between the leaves.

Even though the basic principles of Jainism are framed from the religious and spiritual point of view, you can find scientific reasons for them.

Jainisin always suggests to the people that their supreme aim should be to promote mental peace and harmony, mental training leading to discipline, devotion and duty. Therefore, present humanity needs steadfast dedication to Jain teachings for World Peace.

Indeed, it is greatness of the West to have placed the individual at all the center of all things. But the culmination, the fullest blossoming of individuality is in transcending its limits and reaching the point where individuality dissolves to embrace universality, Anekantvad. The question is yet to be decided whether peace will survive or war; whether patience will survive or non-forbearance; whether muscle will survive or brain; whether worldliness will survive or spirituality. The world is being subjected to the forces of change in a manner, which is so subtle yet so sweeping that before you know it,everything about life has changed or if it has not, it needs to undergo dynamic changes. The crisis has arrived because the human mind has become developed enough to touch the brink of divine consciousness. We are just gaining access into the mysteries of divinity and there is no knowing how quickly we will advance in all spheres within the next decade.

 

Here are some more great articles under the topic Mudras:

Behold! A camellia
flower
Split water when it fell!

The ancient pond!
a frog plunged
The sound of water!

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Tea in Japan

Cha-no-yu essentially means “water for tea.” In English, it means tea ceremony. This tea ceremony is based on the etiquette of serving tea, the landscape of the tea garden , tea utensils, paintings and flower arrangements. It was originally brought from China by Japanese monks. It is an aesthetic pastime in which powdered green tea is served in a refined atmosphere.

The tea ceremony was borrowed from the Zen religion because the first tea masters were priests. They taught their followers that enlightenment can only be reached through Zen meditation. The tea ceremony became a means of disciplining the mind. Tea was used to sharpen the concentration of the monks. By the 11th century, the aristocracy was enjoying tea and developed the ceremony surrounding its use.

Early in the 14th century, Ashi-kaga Yoshimatsu, a military ruler, built the famous ginkakuji or Golden pavilion, in Kyoto. This became the cultural center of Japan. Here he built a small building for his private worship. This is where tea was made. Murato Shuko (1422-1502) is credited for the basic concepts of tea.

This specialized form of art calls for a good knowledge of architecture, landscape gardens, and tea utensils. Etiquette, spirituality, and knowledge are all necessary for understanding the tea ceremony.

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The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

(link to PDF version) 

I. The Cup of Humanity

Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism–Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.

The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism in the ordinary acceptance of the term, for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is hygiene, for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics, for it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe. It represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its votaries aristocrats in taste.

The long isolation of Japan from the rest of the world, so conducive to introspection, has been highly favourable to the development of Teaism. Our home and habits, costume and cuisine, porcelain, lacquer, painting–our very literature–all have been subject to its influence. No student of Japanese culture could ever ignore its presence. It has permeated the elegance of noble boudoirs, and entered the abode of the humble. Our peasants have learned to arrange flowers, our meanest labourer to offer his salutation to the rocks and waters. In our common parlance we speak of the man “with no tea” in him, when he is insusceptible to the serio-comic interests of the personal drama. Again we stigmatise the untamed aesthete who, regardless of the mundane tragedy, runs riot in the springtide of emancipated emotions, as one “with too much tea” in him.

The outsider may indeed wonder at this seeming much ado about nothing. What a tempest in a tea-cup! he will say. But when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup. Mankind has done worse. In the worship of Bacchus, we have sacrificed too freely; and we have even transfigured the gory image of Mars. Why not consecrate ourselves to the queen of the Camelias, and revel in the warm stream of sympathy that flows from her altar? In the liquid amber within the ivory-porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of Confucius, the piquancy of Laotse, and the ethereal aroma of Sakyamuni himself.

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others. The average Westerner, in his sleek complacency, will see in the tea ceremony but another instance of the thousand and one oddities which constitute the quaintness and childishness of the East to him. He was wont to regard Japan as barbarous while she indulged in the gentle arts of peace: he calls her civilised since she began to commit wholesale slaughter on Manchurian battlefields. Much comment has been given lately to the Code of the Samurai, –the Art of Death which makes our soldiers exult in self- sacrifice; but scarcely any attention has been drawn to Teaism, which represents so much of our Art of Life. Fain would we remain barbarians, if our claim to civilisation were to be based on the gruesome glory of war. Fain would we await the time when due respect shall be paid to our art and ideals.

When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East? We Asiatics are often appalled by the curious web of facts and fancies which has been woven concerning us. We are pictured as living on the perfume of the lotus, if not on mice and cockroaches. It is either impotent fanaticism or else abject voluptuousness. Indian spirituality has been derided as ignorance, Chinese sobriety as stupidity, Japanese patriotism as the result of fatalism. It has been said that we are less sensible to pain and wounds on account of the callousness of our nervous organisation!

Why not amuse yourselves at our expense? Asia returns the compliment. There would be further food for merriment if you were to know all that we have imagined and written about you. All the glamour of the perspective is there, all the unconscious homage of wonder, all the silent resentment of the new and undefined. You have been loaded with virtues too refined to be envied, and accused of crimes too picturesque to be condemned. Our writers in the past–the wise men who knew–informed us that you had bushy tails somewhere hidden in your garments, and often dined off a fricassee of newborn babes! Nay, we had something worse against you: we used to think you the most impracticable people on the earth, for you were said to preach what you never practiced.

Such misconceptions are fast vanishing amongst us. Commerce has forced the European tongues on many an Eastern port. Asiatic youths are flocking to Western colleges for the equipment of modern education. Our insight does not penetrate your culture deeply, but at least we are willing to learn. Some of my compatriots have adopted too much of your customs and too much of your etiquette, in the delusion that the acquisition of stiff collars and tall silk hats comprised the attainment of your civilisation. Pathetic and deplorable as such affectations are, they evince our willingness to approach the West on our knees. Unfortunately the Western attitude is unfavourable to the understanding of the East. The Christian missionary goes to impart, but not to receive. Your information is based on the meagre translations of our immense literature, if not on the unreliable anecdotes of passing travellers. It is rarely that the chivalrous pen of a Lafcadio Hearn or that of the author of “The Web of Indian Life” enlivens the Oriental darkness with the torch of our own sentiments.

Perhaps I betray my own ignorance of the Tea Cult by being so outspoken. Its very spirit of politeness exacts that you say what you are expected to say, and no more. But I am not to be a polite Teaist. So much harm has been done already by the mutual misunderstanding of the New World and the Old, that one need not apologise for contributing his tithe to the furtherance of a better understanding. The beginning of the twentieth century would have been spared the spectacle of sanguinary warfare if Russia had condescended to know Japan better. What dire consequences to humanity lie in the contemptuous ignoring of Eastern problems! European imperialism, which does not disdain to raise the absurd cry of the Yellow Peril, fails to realise that Asia may also awaken to the cruel sense of the White Disaster. You may laugh at us for having “too much tea,” but may we not suspect that you of the West have “no tea” in your constitution?

Let us stop the continents from hurling epigrams at each other, and be sadder if not wiser by the mutual gain of half a hemisphere. We have developed along different lines, but there is no reason why one should not supplement the other. You have gained expansion at the cost of restlessness; we have created a harmony which is weak against aggression. Will you believe it?–the East is better off in some respects than the West!

Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the tea-cup. It is the only Asiatic ceremonial which commands universal esteem. The white man has scoffed at our religion and our morals, but has accepted the brown beverage without hesitation. The afternoon tea is now an important function in Western society. In the delicate clatter of trays and saucers, in the soft rustle of feminine hospitality, in the common catechism about cream and sugar, we know that the Worship of Tea is established beyond question. The philosophic resignation of the guest to the fate awaiting him in the dubious decoction proclaims that in this single instance the Oriental spirit reigns supreme.

The earliest record of tea in European writing is said to be found in the statement of an Arabian traveller, that after the year 879 the main sources of revenue in Canton were the duties on salt and tea. Marco Polo records the deposition of a Chinese minister of finance in 1285 for his arbitrary augmentation of the tea-taxes. It was at the period of the great discoveries that the European people began to know more about the extreme Orient. At the end of the sixteenth century the Hollanders brought the news that a pleasant drink was made in the East from the leaves of a bush. The travellers Giovanni Batista Ramusio (1559), L. Almeida (1576), Maffeno (1588), Tareira (1610), also mentioned tea. In the last-named year ships of the Dutch East India Company brought the first tea into Europe. It was known in France in 1636, and reached Russia in 1638. England welcomed it in 1650 and spoke of it as “That excellent and by all physicians approved China drink, called by the Chineans Tcha, and by other nations Tay, alias Tee.”

Like all good things of the world, the propaganda of Tea met with opposition. Heretics like Henry Saville (1678) denounced drinking it as a filthy custom. Jonas Hanway (Essay on Tea, 1756) said that men seemed to lose their stature and comeliness, women their beauty through the use of tea. Its cost at the start (about fifteen or sixteen shillings a pound) forbade popular consumption, and made it “regalia for high treatments and entertainments, presents being made thereof to princes and grandees.” Yet in spite of such drawbacks tea-drinking spread with marvellous rapidity. The coffee-houses of London in the early half of the eighteenth century became, in fact, tea-houses, the resort of wits like Addison and Steele, who beguiled themselves over their “dish of tea.” The beverage soon became a necessity of life–a taxable matter. We are reminded in this connection what an important part it plays in modern history. Colonial America resigned herself to oppression until human endurance gave way before the heavy duties laid on Tea. American independence dates from the throwing of tea-chests into Boston harbour.

There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible and capable of idealisation. Western humourists were not slow to mingle the fragrance of their thought with its aroma. It has not the arrogance of wine, the self- consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa. Already in 1711, says the Spectator: “I would therefore in a particular manner recommend these my speculations to all well-regulated families that set apart an hour every morning for tea, bread and butter; and would earnestly advise them for their good to order this paper to be punctually served up and to be looked upon as a part of the tea-equipage.” Samuel Johnson draws his own portrait as “a hardened and shameless tea drinker, who for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of the fascinating plant; who with tea amused the evening, with tea solaced the midnight, and with tea welcomed the morning.”

Charles Lamb, a professed devotee, sounded the true note of Teaism when he wrote that the greatest pleasure he knew was to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident. For Teaism is the art of concealing beauty that you may discover it, of suggesting what you dare not reveal. It is the noble secret of laughing at yourself, calmly yet thoroughly, and is thus humour itself,–the smile of philosophy. All genuine humourists may in this sense be called tea-philosophers,–Thackeray, for instance, and of course, Shakespeare. The poets of the Decadence (when was not the world in decadence?), in their protests against materialism, have, to a certain extent, also opened the way to Teaism. Perhaps nowadays it is our demure contemplation of the Imperfect that the West and the East can meet in mutual consolation.

The Taoists relate that at the great beginning of the No-Beginning, Spirit and Matter met in mortal combat. At last the Yellow Emperor, the Sun of Heaven, triumphed over Shuhyung, the demon of darkness and earth. The Titan, in his death agony, struck his head against the solar vault and shivered the blue dome of jade into fragments. The stars lost their nests, the moon wandered aimlessly among the wild chasms of the night. In despair the Yellow Emperor sought far and wide for the repairer of the Heavens. He had not to search in vain. Out of the Eastern sea rose a queen, the divine Niuka, horn-crowned and dragon-tailed, resplendent in her armor of fire. She welded the five-coloured rainbow in her magic cauldron and rebuilt the Chinese sky. But it is told that Niuka forgot to fill two tiny crevices in the blue firmament. Thus began the dualism of love–two souls rolling through space and never at rest until they join together to complete the universe. Everyone has to build anew his sky of hope and peace.

The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power. The world is groping in the shadow of egotism and vulgarity. Knowledge is bought through a bad conscience, benevolence practiced for the sake of utility. The East and the West, like two dragons tossed in a sea of ferment, in vain strive to regain the jewel of life. We need a Niuka again to repair the grand devastation; we await the great Avatar. Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.

II. The Schools of Tea.

Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities. We have good and bad tea, as we have good and bad paintings–generally the latter. There is no single recipe for making the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a Sesson. Each preparation of the leaves has its individuality, its special affinity with water and heat, its own method of telling a story. The truly beautiful must always be in it. How much do we not suffer through the constant failure of society to recognise this simple and fundamental law of art and life; Lichilai, a Sung poet, has sadly remarked that there were three most deplorable things in the world: the spoiling of fine youths through false education, the degradation of fine art through vulgar admiration, and the utter waste of fine tea through incompetent manipulation.

Like Art, Tea has its periods and its schools. Its evolution may be roughly divided into three main stages: the Boiled Tea, the Whipped Tea, and the Steeped Tea. We moderns belong to the last school. These several methods of appreciating the beverage are indicative of the spirit of the age in which they prevailed. For life is an expression, our unconscious actions the constant betrayal of our innermost thought. Confucius said that “man hideth not.” Perhaps we reveal ourselves too much in small things because we have so little of the great to conceal. The tiny incidents of daily routine are as much a commentary of racial ideals as the highest flight of philosophy or poetry. Even as the difference in favorite vintage marks the separate idiosyncrasies of different periods and nationalities of Europe, so the Tea-ideals characterise the various moods of Oriental culture. The Cake-tea which was boiled, the Powdered-tea which was whipped, the Leaf-tea which was steeped, mark the distinct emotional impulses of the Tang, the Sung, and the Ming dynasties of China. If we were inclined to borrow the much-abused terminology of art-classification, we might designate them respectively, the Classic, the Romantic, and the Naturalistic schools of Tea.

The tea-plant, a native of southern China, was known from very early times to Chinese botany and medicine. It is alluded to in the classics under the various names of Tou, Tseh, Chung, Kha, and Ming, and was highly prized for possessing the virtues of relieving fatigue, delighting the soul, strengthening the will, and repairing the eyesight. It was not only administered as an internal dose, but often applied externally in form of paste to alleviate rheumatic pains. The Taoists claimed it as an important ingredient of the elixir of immortality. The Buddhists used it extensively to prevent drowsiness during their long hours of meditation.

By the fourth and fifth centuries Tea became a favourite beverage among the inhabitants of the Yangtse-Kiang valley. It was about this time that modern ideograph Cha was coined, evidently a corruption of the classic Tou. The poets of the southern dynasties have left some fragments of their fervent adoration of the “froth of the liquid jade.” Then emperors used to bestow some rare preparation of the leaves on their high ministers as a reward for eminent services. Yet the method of drinking tea at this stage was primitive in the extreme. The leaves were steamed, crushed in a mortar, made into a cake, and boiled together with rice, ginger, salt, orange peel, spices, milk, and sometimes with onions! The custom obtains at the present day among the Thibetans and various Mongolian tribes, who make a curious syrup of these ingredients. The use of lemon slices by the Russians, who learned to take tea from the Chinese caravansaries, points to the survival of the ancient method.

It needed the genius of the Tang dynasty to emancipate Tea from its crude state and lead to its final idealization. With Luwuh in the middle of the eighth century we have our first apostle of tea. He was born in an age when Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism were seeking mutual synthesis. The pantheistic symbolism of the time was urging one to mirror the Universal in the Particular. Luwuh, a poet, saw in the Tea-service the same harmony and order which reigned through all things. In his celebrated work, the “Chaking” (The Holy Scripture of Tea) he formulated the Code of Tea. He has since been worshipped as the tutelary god of the Chinese tea merchants.

The “Chaking” consists of three volumes and ten chapters. In the first chapter Luwuh treats of the nature of the tea-plant, in the second of the implements for gathering the leaves, in the third of the selection of the leaves. According to him the best quality of the leaves must have “creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like fine earth newly swept by rain.”

The fourth chapter is devoted to the enumeration and description of the twenty-four members of the tea-equipage, beginning with the tripod brazier and ending with the bamboo cabinet for containing all these utensils. Here we notice Luwuh’s predilection for Taoist symbolism. Also it is interesting to observe in this connection the influence of tea on Chinese ceramics. The Celestial porcelain, as is well known, had its origin in an attempt to reproduce the exquisite shade of jade, resulting, in the Tang dynasty, in the blue glaze of the south, and the white glaze of the north. Luwuh considered the blue as the ideal colour for the tea-cup, as it lent additional greenness to the beverage, whereas the white made it look pinkish and distasteful. It was because he used cake-tea. Later on, when the tea masters of Sung took to the powdered tea, they preferred heavy bowls of blue-black and dark brown. The Mings, with their steeped tea, rejoiced in light ware of white porcelain.

In the fifth chapter Luwuh describes the method of making tea. He eliminates all ingredients except salt. He dwells also on the much-discussed question of the choice of water and the degree of boiling it. According to him, the mountain spring is the best, the river water and the spring water come next in the order of excellence. There are three stages of boiling: the first boil is when the little bubbles like the eye of fishes swim on the surface; the second boil is when the bubbles are like crystal beads rolling in a fountain; the third boil is when the billows surge wildly in the kettle. The Cake-tea is roasted before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby’s arm and is shredded into powder between pieces of fine paper. Salt is put in the first boil, the tea in the second. At the third boil, a dipperful of cold water is poured into the kettle to settle the tea and revive the “youth of the water.” Then the beverage was poured into cups and drunk. O nectar! The filmy leaflet hung like scaly clouds in a serene sky or floated like waterlilies on emerald streams. It was of such a beverage that Lotung, a Tang poet, wrote: “The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration,–all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals. The seventh cup–ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.”

The remaining chapters of the “Chaking” treat of the vulgarity of the ordinary methods of tea-drinking, a historical summary of illustrious tea-drinkers, the famous tea plantations of China, the possible variations of the tea-service and illustrations of the tea-utensils. The last is unfortunately lost.

The appearance of the “Chaking” must have created considerable sensation at the time. Luwuh was befriended by the Emperor Taisung (763-779), and his fame attracted many followers. Some exquisites were said to have been able to detect the tea made by Luwuh from that of his disciples. One mandarin has his name immortalised by his failure to appreciate the tea of this great master.

In the Sung dynasty the whipped tea came into fashion and created the second school of Tea. The leaves were ground to fine powder in a small stone mill, and the preparation was whipped in hot water by a delicate whisk made of split bamboo. The new process led to some change in the tea-equippage of Luwuh, as well as in the choice of leaves. Salt was discarded forever. The enthusiasm of the Sung people for tea knew no bounds. Epicures vied with each other in discovering new varieties, and regular tournaments were held to decide their superiority. The Emperor Kiasung (1101-1124), who was too great an artist to be a well-behaved monarch, lavished his treasures on the attainment of rare species. He himself wrote a dissertation on the twenty kinds of tea, among which he prizes the “white tea” as of the rarest and finest quality.

The tea-ideal of the Sungs differed from the Tangs even as their notion of life differed. They sought to actualize what their predecessors tried to symbolise. To the Neo-Confucian mind the cosmic law was not reflected in the phenomenal world, but the phenomenal world was the cosmic law itself. Aeons were but moments–Nirvana always within grasp. The Taoist conception that immortality lay in the eternal change permeated all their modes of thought. It was the process, not the deed, which was interesting. It was the completing, not the completion, which was really vital. Man came thus at once face to face with nature. A new meaning grew into the art of life. The tea began to be not a poetical pastime, but one of the methods of self-realisation. Wangyucheng eulogised tea as “flooding his soul like a direct appeal, that its delicate bitterness reminded him of the aftertaste of a good counsel.” Sotumpa wrote of the strength of the immaculate purity in tea which defied corruption as a truly virtuous man. Among the Buddhists, the southern Zen sect, which incorporated so much of Taoist doctrines, formulated an elaborate ritual of tea. The monks gathered before the image of Bodhi Dharma and drank tea out of a single bowl with the profound formality of a holy sacrament. It was this Zen ritual which finally developed into the Tea-ceremony of Japan in the fifteenth century.

Unfortunately the sudden outburst of the Mongol tribes in the thirteenth century which resulted in the devastation and conquest of China under the barbaric rule of the Yuen Emperors, destroyed all the fruits of Sung culture. The native dynasty of the Mings which attempted re-nationalisation in the middle of the fifteenth century was harassed by internal troubles, and China again fell under the alien rule of the Manchus in the seventeenth century. Manners and customs changed to leave no vestige of the former times. The powdered tea is entirely forgotten. We find a Ming commentator at loss to recall the shape of the tea whisk mentioned in one of the Sung classics. Tea is now taken by steeping the leaves in hot water in a bowl or cup. The reason why the Western world is innocent of the older method of drinking tea is explained by the fact that Europe knew it only at the close of the Ming dynasty.

To the latter-day Chinese tea is a delicious beverage, but not an ideal. The long woes of his country have robbed him of the zest for the meaning of life. He has become modern, that is to say, old and disenchanted. He has lost that sublime faith in illusions which constitutes the eternal youth and vigour of the poets and ancients. He is an eclectic and politely accepts the traditions of the universe. He toys with Nature, but does not condescend to conquer or worship her. His Leaf-tea is often wonderful with its flower-like aroma, but the romance of the Tang and Sung ceremonials are not to be found in his cup.

Japan, which followed closely on the footsteps of Chinese civilisation, has known the tea in all its three stages. As early as the year 729 we read of the Emperor Shomu giving tea to one hundred monks at his palace in Nara. The leaves were probably imported by our ambassadors to the Tang Court and prepared in the way then in fashion. In 801 the monk Saicho brought back some seeds and planted them in Yeisan. Many tea-gardens are heard of in succeeding centuries, as well as the delight of the aristocracy and priesthood in the beverage. The Sung tea reached us in 1191 with the return of Yeisai-zenji, who went there to study the southern Zen school. The new seeds which he carried home were successfully planted in three places, one of which, the Uji district near Kioto, bears still the name of producing the best tea in the world. The southern Zen spread with marvellous rapidity, and with it the tea-ritual and the tea-ideal of the Sung. By the fifteenth century, under the patronage of the Shogun, Ashikaga-Voshinasa, the tea ceremony is fully constituted and made into an independent and secular performance. Since then Teaism is fully established in Japan. The use of the steeped tea of the later China is comparatively recent among us, being only known since the middle of the seventeenth century. It has replaced the powdered tea in ordinary consumption, though the latter still continues to hold its place as the tea of teas.

It is in the Japanese tea ceremony that we see the culmination of tea-ideals. Our successful resistance of the Mongol invasion in 1281 had enabled us to carry on the Sung movement so disastrously cut off in China itself through the nomadic inroad. Tea with us became more than an idealisation of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life. The beverage grew to be an excuse for the worship of purity and refinement, a sacred function at which the host and guest joined to produce for that occasion the utmost beatitude of the mundane. The tea-room was an oasis in the dreary waste of existence where weary travellers could meet to drink from the common spring of art- appreciation. The ceremony was an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the flowers, and the paintings. Not a colour to disturb the tone of the room, not a sound to mar the rhythm of things, not a gesture to obtrude on the harmony, not a word to break the unity of the surroundings, all movements to be performed simply and naturally–such were the aims of the tea- ceremony. And strangely enough it was often successful. A subtle philosophy lay behind it all. Teaism was Taoism in disguise.

III. Taoism and Zennism

The connection of Zennism with tea is proverbial. We have already remarked that the tea-ceremony was a development of the Zen ritual. The name of Laotse, the founder of Taoism, is also intimately associated with the history of tea. It is written in the Chinese school manual concerning the origin of habits and customs that the ceremony of offering tea to a guest began with Kwanyin, a well-known disciple of Laotse, who first at the gate of the Han Pass presented to the “Old Philosopher” a cup of the golden elixir. We shall not stop to discuss the authenticity of such tales, which are valuable, however, as confirming the early use of the beverage by the Taoists. Our interest in Taoism and Zennism here lies mainly in those ideas regarding life and art which are so embodied in what we call Teaism.

It is to be regretted that as yet there appears to be no adequate presentation of the Taoists and Zen doctrines in any foreign language, though we have had several laudable attempts.

Translation is always a treason, and as a Ming author observes, can at its best be only the reverse side of a brocade,–all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour or design. But, after all, what great doctrine is there which is easy to expound? The ancient sages never put their teachings in systematic form. They spoke in paradoxes, for they were afraid of uttering half-truths. They began by talking like fools and ended by making their hearers wise. Laotse himself, with his quaint humour, says, “If people of inferior intelligence hear of the Tao, they laugh immensely. It would not be the Tao unless they laughed at it.”

The Tao literally means a Path. It has been severally translated as the Way, the Absolute, the Law, Nature, Supreme Reason, the Mode. These renderings are not incorrect, for the use of the term by the Taoists differs according to the subject-matter of the inquiry. Laotse himself spoke of it thus: “There is a thing which is all-containing, which was born before the existence of Heaven and Earth. How silent! How solitary! It stands alone and changes not. It revolves without danger to itself and is the mother of the universe. I do not know its name and so call it the Path. With reluctance I call it the Infinite. Infinity is the Fleeting, the Fleeting is the Vanishing, the Vanishing is the Reverting.” The Tao is in the Passage rather than the Path. It is the spirit of Cosmic Change,–the eternal growth which returns upon itself to produce new forms. It recoils upon itself like the dragon, the beloved symbol of the Taoists. It folds and unfolds as do the clouds. The Tao might be spoken of as the Great Transition. Subjectively it is the Mood of the Universe. Its Absolute is the Relative.

It should be remembered in the first place that Taoism, like its legitimate successor Zennism, represents the individualistic trend of the Southern Chinese mind in contra-distinction to the communism of Northern China which expressed itself in Confucianism. The Middle Kingdom is as vast as Europe and has a differentiation of idiosyncrasies marked by the two great river systems which traverse it. The Yangste-Kiang and Hoang- Ho are respectively the Mediterranean and the Baltic. Even to-day, in spite of centuries of unification, the Southern Celestial differs in his thoughts and beliefs from his Northern brother as a member of the Latin race differs from the Teuton. In ancient days, when communication was even more difficult than at present, and especially during the feudal period, this difference in thought was most pronounced. The art and poetry of the one breathes an atmosphere entirely distinct from that of the other. In Laotse and his followers and in Kutsugen, the forerunner of the Yangtse-Kiang nature-poets, we find an idealism quite inconsistent with the prosaic ethical notions of their contemporary northern writers. Laotse lived five centuries before the Christian Era.

The germ of Taoist speculation may be found long before the advent of Laotse, surnamed the Long-Eared. The archaic records of China, especially the Book of Changes, foreshadow his thought. But the great respect paid to the laws and customs of that classic period of Chinese civilisation which culminated with the establishment of the Chow dynasty in the sixteenth century B.C., kept the development of individualism in check for a long while, so that it was not until after the disintegration of the Chow dynasty and the establishment of innumerable independent kingdoms that it was able to blossom forth in the luxuriance of free-thought. Laotse and Soshi (Chuangtse) were both Southerners and the greatest exponents of the New School. On the other hand, Confucius with his numerous disciples aimed at retaining ancestral conventions. Taoism cannot be understood without some knowledge of Confucianism and vice versa.

We have said that the Taoist Absolute was the Relative. In ethics the Taoist railed at the laws and the moral codes of society, for to them right and wrong were but relative terms. Definition is always limitation–the “fixed” and “unchangeless” are but terms expressive of a stoppage of growth. Said Kuzugen,–“The Sages move the world.” Our standards of morality are begotten of the past needs of society, but is society to remain always the same? The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up the mighty delusion, encourages a species of ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, but to behave properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to others; we take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves. How can one be serious with the world when the world itself is so ridiculous! The spirit of barter is everywhere. Honour and Chastity! Behold the complacent salesman retailing the Good and True. One can even buy a so-called Religion, which is really but common morality sanctified with flowers and music. Rob the Church of her accessories and what remains behind? Yet the trusts thrive marvelously, for the prices are absurdly cheap, –a prayer for a ticket to heaven, a diploma for an honourable citizenship. Hide yourself under a bushel quickly, for if your real usefulness were known to the world you would soon be knocked down to the highest bidder by the public auctioneer. Why do men and women like to advertise themselves so much? Is it not but an instinct derived from the days of slavery?

The virility of the idea lies not less in its power of breaking through contemporary thought than in its capacity for dominating subsequent movements. Taoism was an active power during the Shin dynasty, that epoch of Chinese unification from which we derive the name China. It would be interesting had we time to note its influence on contemporary thinkers, the mathemeticians, writers on law and war, the mystics and alchemists and the later nature-poets of the Yangste-Kiang. We should not even ignore those speculators on Reality who doubted whether a white horse was real because he was white, or because he was solid, nor the Conversationalists of the Six dynasties who, like the Zen philosophers, revelled in discussions concerning the Pure and the Abstract. Above all we should pay homage to Taoism for what it has done toward the formation of the Celestial character, giving to it a certain capacity for reserve and refinement as “warm as jade.” Chinese history is full of instances in which the votaries of Taoism, princes and hermits alike, followed with varied and interesting results the teachings of their creed. The tale will not be without its quota of instruction and amusement. It will be rich in anecdotes, allegories, and aphorisms. We would fain be on speaking terms with the delightful emperor who never died because he had never lived. We may ride the wind with Liehtse and find it absolutely quiet because we ourselves are the wind, or dwell in mid-air with the Aged one of the Hoang-Ho, who lived betwixt Heaven and Earth because he was subject to neither the one nor the other. Even in that grotesque apology for Taoism which we find in China at the present day, we can revel in a wealth of imagery impossible to find in any other cult.

But the chief contribution of Taoism to Asiatic life has been in the realm of aesthetics. Chinese historians have always spoken of Taoism as the “art of being in the world,” for it deals with the present–ourselves. It is in us that God meets with Nature, and yesterday parts from to-morrow. The Present is the moving Infinity, the legitimate sphere of the Relative. Relativity seeks Adjustment; Adjustment is Art. The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. Taoism accepts the mundane as it is and, unlike the Confucians or the Buddhists, tries to find beauty in our world of woe and worry. The Sung allegory of the Three Vinegar Tasters explains admirably the trend of the three doctrines. Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Laotse once stood before a jar of vinegar–the emblem of life–and each dipped in his finger to taste the brew. The matter-of-fact Confucius found it sour, the Buddha called it bitter, and Laotse pronounced it sweet.

The Taoists claimed that the comedy of life could be made more interesting if everyone would preserve the unities. To keep the proportion of things and give place to others without losing one’s own position was the secret of success in the mundane drama. We must know the whole play in order to properly act our parts; the conception of totality must never be lost in that of the individual. This Laotse illustrates by his favourite metaphor of the Vacuum. He claimed that only in vacuum lay the truly essential. The reality of a room, for instance, was to be found in the vacant space enclosed by the roof and the walls, not in the roof and walls themselves. The usefulness of a water pitcher dwelt in the emptiness where water might be put, not in the form of the pitcher or the material of which it was made. Vacuum is all potent because all containing. In vacuum alone motion becomes possible. One who could make of himself a vacuum into which others might freely enter would become master of all situations. The whole can always dominate the part.

These Taoists’ ideas have greatly influenced all our theories of action, even to those of fencing and wrestling. Jiu-jitsu, the Japanese art of self-defence, owes its name to a passage in the Tao-teking. In jiu-jitsu one seeks to draw out and exhaust the enemy’s strength by non-resistance, vacuum, while conserving one’s own strength for victory in the final struggle. In art the importance of the same principle is illustrated by the value of suggestion. In leaving something unsaid the beholder is given a chance to complete the idea and thus a great masterpiece irresistably rivets your attention until you seem to become actually a part of it. A vacuum is there for you to enter and fill up the full measure of your aesthetic emotion.

He whohad made himself master of the art of living was the Real man of the Taoist. At birth he enters the realm of dreams only to awaken to reality at death. He tempers his own brightness in order to merge himself into the obscurity of others. He is “reluctant, as one who crosses a stream in winter; hesitating as one who fears the neighbourhood; respectful, like a guest; trembling, like ice that is about to melt; unassuming, like a piece of wood not yet carved; vacant, like a valley; formless, like troubled waters.” To him the three jewls of life were Pity, Economy, and Modesty.

If now we turn our attention to Zennism we shall find that it emphasises the teachings of Taoism. Zen is a name derived from the Sanscrit word Dhyana, which signifies meditation. It claims that through consecrated meditation may be attained supreme self-realisation. Meditation is one of the six ways through which Buddhahood may be reached, and the Zen sectarians affirm that Sakyamuni laid special stress on this method in his later teachings, handing down the rules to his chief disciple Kashiapa. According to their tradition Kashiapa, the first Zen patriarch, imparted the secret to Ananda, who in turn passed it on to successive patriarchs until it reached Bodhi-Dharma, the twenty-eighth. Bodhi-Dharma came to Northern China in the early half of the sixth century and was the first patriarch of Chinese Zen. There is much uncertainty about the history of these patriarchs and their doctrines. In its philosophical aspect early Zennism seems to have affinity on one hand to the Indian Negativism of Nagarjuna and on the other to the Gnan philosophy formulated by Sancharacharya. The first teaching of Zen as we know it at the present day must be attributed to the sixth Chinese patriarch Yeno(637-713), founder of Southern Zen, so-called from the fact of its predominance in Southern China. He is closely followed by the great Baso(died 788) who made of Zen a living influence in Celestial life. Hiakujo(719-814) the pupil of Baso, first instituted the Zen monastery and established a ritual and regulations for its government. In the discussions of the Zen school after the time of Baso we find the play of the Yangtse-Kiang mind causing an accession of native modes of thought in contrast to the former Indian idealism. Whatever sectarian pride may assert to the contrary one cannot help being impressed by the similarity of Southern Zen to the teachings of Laotse and the Taoist Conversationalists. In the Tao-teking we already find allusions to the importance of self-concentration and the need of properly regulating the breath–essential points in the practice of Zen meditation. Some of the best commentaries on the Book of Laotse have been written by Zen scholars.

Zennism, like Taoism, is the worship of Relativity. One master defines Zen as the art of feeling the polar star in the southern sky. Truth can be reached only through the comprehension of opposites. Again, Zennism, like Taoism, is a strong advocate of individualism. Nothing is real except that which concerns the working of our own minds. Yeno, the sixth patriarch, once saw two monks watching the flag of a pagoda fluttering in the wind. One said “It is the wind that moves,” the other said “It is the flag that moves”; but Yeno explained to them that the real movement was neither of the wind nor the flag, but of something within their own minds. Hiakujo was walking in the forest with a disciple when a hare scurried off at their approach. “Why does the hare fly from you?” asked Hiakujo. “Because he is afraid of me,” was the answer. “No,” said the master, “it is because you have murderous instinct.” The dialogue recalls that of Soshi (Chauntse), the Taoist. One day Soshi was walking on the bank of a river with a friend. “How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!” exclaimed Soshi. His friend spake to him thus: “You are not a fish; how do you know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?” “You are not myself,” returned Soshi; “how do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?”

Zen was often opposed to the precepts of orthodox Buddhism even as Taoism was opposed to Confucianism. To the transcendental insight of the Zen, words were but an incumberance to thought; the whole sway of Buddhist scriptures only commentaries on personal speculation. The followers of Zen aimed at direct communion with the inner nature of things, regarding their outward accessories only as impediments to a clear perception of Truth. It was this love of the Abstract that led the Zen to prefer black and white sketches to the elaborately coloured paintings of the classic Buddhist School. Some of the Zen even became iconoclastic as a result of their endeavor to recognise the Buddha in themselves rather than through images and symbolism. We find Tankawosho breaking up a wooden statue of Buddha on a wintry day to make a fire. “What sacrilege!” said the horror-stricken bystander. “I wish to get the Shali out of the ashes,” camply rejoined the Zen. “But you certainly will not get Shali from this image!” was the angry retort, to which Tanka replied, “If I do not, this is certainly not a Buddha and I am committing no sacrilege.” Then he turned to warm himself over the kindling fire.

A special contribution of Zen to Easthern thought was its recognition of the mundane as of equal importance with the spiritual. It held that in the great relation of things there was no distinction of small and great, an atom posessing equal possibilites with the universe. The seeker for perfection must discover in his own life the reflection of the inner light. The organisation of the Zen monastery was very significant of this point of view. To every member, except the abbot, was assigned some special work in the caretaking of the monastery, and curiously enough, to the novices was committed the lighter duties, while to the most respected and advanced monks were given the more irksome and menial tasks. Such services formed a part of the Zen discipline and every least action must be done absolutely perfectly. Thus many a weighty discussion ensued while weeding the garden, paring a turnip, or serving tea. The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life. Taoism furnished the basis for aesthetic ideals, Zennism made them practical.

IV. The Tea-Room

To European architects brought up on the traditions of stone and brick construction, our Japanese method of building with wood and bamboo seems scarcely worthy to be ranked as architecture. It is but quite recently that a competent student of Western architecture has recognised and paid tribute to the remarkable perfection of our great temples. Such being the case as regards our classic architecture, we could hardly expect the outsider to appreciate the subtle beauty of the tea-room, its principles of construction and decoration being entirely different from those of the West.

The tea-room (the Sukiya) does not pretend to be other than a mere cottage–a straw hut, as we call it. The original ideographs for Sukiya mean the Abode of Fancy. Latterly the various tea-masters substituted various Chinese characters according to their conception of the tea-room, and the term Sukiya may signify the Abode of Vacancy or the Abode of the Unsymmetrical. It is an Abode of Fancy inasmuch as it is an ephemeral structure built to house a poetic impulse. It is an Abode of Vacancy inasmuch as it is devoid of ornamentation except for what may be placed in it to satisfy some aesthetic need of the moment. It is an Abode of the Unsymmetrical inasmuch as it is consecrated to the worship of the Imperfect, purposely leaving some thing unfinished for the play of the imagination to complete. The ideals of Teaism have since the sixteenth century influenced our architecture to such degree that the ordinary Japanese interior of the present day, on account of the extreme simplicity and chasteness of its scheme of decoration, appears to foreigners almost barren.

The first independent tea-room was the creation of Senno-Soyeki, commonly known by his later name of Rikiu, the greatest of all tea-masters, who, in the sixteenth century, under the patronage of Taiko-Hideyoshi, instituted and brought to a high state of perfection the formalities of the Tea-ceremony. The proportions of the tea-room had been previously determined by Jowo–a famous tea-master of the fifteenth century. The early tea-room consisted merely of a portion of the ordinary drawing-room partitioned off by screens for the purpose of the tea-gathering. The portion partitioned off was called the Kakoi (enclosure), a name still applied to those tea-rooms which are built into a house and are not independent constructions. The Sukiya consists of the tea-room proper, designed to accomodate not more than five persons, a number suggestive of the saying “more than the Graces and less than the Muses,” an anteroom (midsuya) where the tea utensils are washed and arranged before being brought in, a portico (machiai) in which the guests wait until they receive the summons to enter the tea-room, and a garden path (the roji) which connects the machiai with the tea-room. The tea-room is unimpressive in appearance. It is smaller than the smallest of Japanese houses, while the materials used in its construction are intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty. Yet we must remember that all this is the result of profound artistic forethought, and that the details have been worked out with care perhaps even greater than that expended on the building of the richest palaces and temples. A good tea-room is more costly than an ordinary mansion, for the selection of its materials, as well as its workmanship, requires immense care and precision. Indeed, the carpenters employed by the tea-masters form a distinct and highly honoured class among artisans, their work being no less delicate than that of the makers of lacquer cabinets.

The tea-room is not only different from any production of Western architecture, but also contrasts strongly with the classical architecture of Japan itself. Our ancient noble edifices, whether secular or ecclesiastical, were not to be despised even as regards their mere size. The few that have been spared in the disastrous conflagrations of centuries are still capable of aweing us by the grandeur and richness of their decoration. Huge pillars of wood from two to three feet in diameter and from thirty to forty feet high, supported, by a complicated network of brackets, the enormous beams which groaned under the weight of the tile-covered roofs. The material and mode of construction, though weak against fire, proved itself strong against earthquakes, and was well suited to the climatic conditions of the country. In the Golden Hall of Horiuji and the Pagoda of Yakushiji, we have noteworthy examples of the durability of our wooden architecture. These buildings have practically stood intact for nearly twelve centuries. The interior of the old temples and palaces was profusely decorated. In the Hoodo temple at Uji, dating from the tenth century, we can still see the elaborate canopy and gilded baldachinos, many-coloured and inlaid with mirrors and mother-of-pearl, as well as remains of the paintings and sculpture which formerly covered the walls. Later, at Nikko and in the Nijo castle in Kyoto, we see structural beauty sacrificed to a wealth of ornamentation which in colour and exquisite detail equals the utmost gorgeousness of Arabian or Moorish effort.

The simplicity and purism of the tea-room resulted from emulation of the Zen monastery. A Zen monastery differs from those of other Buddhist sects inasmuch as it is meant only to be a dwelling place for the monks. Its chapel is not a place of worship or pilgrimage, but a college room where the students congregate for discussion and the practice of meditation. The room is bare except for a central alcove in which, behind the altar, is a statue of Bodhi Dharma, the founder of the sect, or of Sakyamuni attended by Kaphiapa and Ananda, the two earliest Zen patriarchs. On the altar, flowers and incense are offered up in the memory of the great contributions which these sages made to Zen. We have already said that it was the ritual instituted by the Zen monks of successively drinking tea out of a bowl before the image of Bodhi Dharma, which laid the foundations of the tea-ceremony. We might add here that the altar of the Zen chapel was the prototype of the Tokonoma,–the place of honour in a Japanese room where paintings and flowers are placed for the edification of the guests.

All our great tea-masters were students of Zen and attempted to introduce the spirit of Zennism into the actualities of life. Thus the room, like the other equipments of the tea-ceremony, reflects many of the Zen doctrines. The size of the orthodox tea-room, which is four mats and a half, or ten feet square, is determined by a passage in the Sutra of Vikramadytia. In that interesting work, Vikramadytia welcomes the Saint Manjushiri and eighty-four thousand disciples of Buddha in a room of this size,–an allegory based on the theory of the non-existence of space to the truly enlightened. Again the roji, the garden path which leads from the machiai to the tea-room, signified the first stage of meditation,–the passage into self-illumination. The roji was intended to break connection with the outside world, and produce a fresh sensation conducive to the full enjoyment of aestheticism in the tea-room itself. One who has trodden this garden path cannot fail to remember how his spirit, as he walked in the twilight of evergreens over the regular irregularities of the stepping stones, beneath which lay dried pine needles, and passed beside the moss-covered granite lanterns, became uplifted above ordinary thoughts. One may be in the midst of a city, and yet feel as if he were in the forest far away from the dust and din of civilisation. Great was the ingenuity displayed by the tea-masters in producing these effects of serenity and purity. The nature of the sensations to be aroused in passing through the roji differed with different tea-masters. Some, like Rikiu, aimed at utter loneliness, and claimed the secret of making a roji was contained in the ancient ditty: “I look beyond;/Flowers are not,/Nor tinted leaves./On the sea beach/ A solitary cottage stands/In the waning light/Of an autumn eve.”

Others, like Kobori-Enshiu, sought for a different effect. Enshiu said the idea of the garden path was to be found in the following verses: “A cluster of summer trees,/A bit of the sea,/A pale evening moon.” It is not difficult to gather his meaning. He wished to create the attitude of a newly awakened soul still lingering amid shadowy dreams of the past, yet bathing in the sweet unconsciousness of a mellow spiritual light, and yearning for the freedom that lay in the expanse beyond.

Thus prepared the guest will silently approach the sanctuary, and, if a samurai, will leave his sword on the rack beneath the eaves, the tea-room being preeminently the house of peace. Then he will bend low and creep into the room through a small door not more than three feet in height. This proceeding was incumbent on all guests,–high and low alike,–and was intended to inculcate humility. The order of precedence having been mutually agreed upon while resting in the machiai, the guests one by one will enter noiselessly and take their seats, first making obeisance to the picture or flower arrangement on the tokonoma. The host will not enter the room until all the guests have seated themselves and quiet reigns with nothing to break the silence save the note of the boiling water in the iron kettle. The kettle sings well, for pieces of iron are so arranged in the bottom as to produce a peculiar melody in which one may hear the echoes of a cataract muffled by clouds, of a distant sea breaking among the rocks, a rainstorm sweeping through a bamboo forest, or of the soughing of pines on some faraway hill.

Even in the daytime the light in the room is subdued, for the low eaves of the slanting roof admit but few of the sun’s rays. Everything is sober in tint from the ceiling to the floor; the guests themselves have carefully chosen garments of unobtrusive colors. The mellowness of age is over all, everything suggestive of recent acquirement being tabooed save only the one note of contrast furnished by the bamboo dipper and the linen napkin, both immaculately white and new. However faded the tea-room and the tea-equipage may seem, everything is absolutely clean. Not a particle of dust will be found in the darkest corner, for if any exists the host is not a tea-master. One of the first requisites of a tea-master is the knowledge of how to sweep, clean, and wash, for there is an art in cleaning and dusting. A piece of antique metal work must not be attacked with the unscrupulous zeal of the Dutch housewife. Dripping water from a flower vase need not be wiped away, for it may be suggestive of dew and coolness.

In this connection there is a story of Rikiu which well illustrates the ideas of cleanliness entertained by the tea-masters. Rikiu was watching his son Shoan as he swept and watered the garden path. “Not clean enough,” said Rikiu, when Shoan had finished his task, and bade him try again. After a weary hour the son turned to Rikiu: “Father, there is nothing more to be done. The steps have been washed for the third time, the stone lanterns and the trees are well sprinkled with water, moss and lichens are shining with a fresh verdure; not a twig, not a leaf have I left on the ground.” “Young fool,” chided the tea-master, “that is not the way a garden path should be swept.” Saying this, Rikiu stepped into the garden, shook a tree and scattered over the garden gold and crimson leaves, scraps of the brocade of autumn! What Rikiu demanded was not cleanliness alone, but the beautiful and the natural also.

The name, Abode of Fancy, implies a structure created to meet some individual artistic requirement. The tea-room is made for the tea master, not the tea-master for the tea-room. It is not intended for posterity and is therefore ephemeral. The idea that everyone should have a house of his own is based on an ancient custom of the Japanese race, Shinto superstition ordaining that every dwelling should be evacuated on the death of its chief occupant. Perhaps there may have been some unrealized sanitary reason for this practice. Another early custom was that a newly built house should be provided for each couple that married. It is on account of such customs that we find the Imperial capitals so frequently removed from one site to another in ancient days. The rebuilding, every twenty years, of Ise Temple, the supreme shrine of the Sun-Goddess, is an example of one of these ancient rites which still obtain at the present day. The observance of these customs was only possible with some form of construction as that furnished by our system of wooden architecture, easily pulled down, easily built up. A more lasting style, employing brick and stone, would have rendered migrations impracticable, as indeed they became when the more stable and massive wooden construction of China was adopted by us after the Nara period.

With the predominance of Zen individualism in the fifteenth century, however, the old idea became imbued with a deeper significance as conceived in connection with the tea-room. Zennism, with the Buddhist theory of evanescence and its demands for the mastery of spirit over matter, recognized the house only as a temporary refuge for the body. The body itself was but as a hut in the wilderness, a flimsy shelter made by tying together the grasses that grew around,–when these ceased to be bound together they again became resolved into the original waste. In the tea-room fugitiveness is suggested in the thatched roof, frailty in the slender pillars, lightness in the bamboo support, apparent carelessness in the use of commonplace materials. The eternal is to be found only in the spirit which, embodied in these simple surroundings, beautifies them with the subtle light of its refinement.

That the tea-room should be built to suit some individual taste is an enforcement of the principle of vitality in art. Art, to be fully appreciated, must be true to contemporaneous life. It is not that we should ignore the claims of posterity, but that we should seek to enjoy the present more. It is not that we should disregard the creations of the past, but that we should try to assimilate them into our consciousness. Slavish conformity to traditions and formulas fetters the expression of individuality in architecture. We can but weep over the senseless imitations of European buildings which one beholds in modern Japan. We marvel why, among the most progressive Western nations, architecture should be so devoid of originality, so replete with repetitions of obsolete styles. Perhaps we are passing through an age of democritisation in art, while awaiting the rise of some princely master who shall establish a new dynasty. Would that we loved the ancients more and copied them less! It has been said that the Greeks were great because they never drew from the antique.

The term, Abode of Vacancy, besides conveying the Taoist theory of the all-containing, involves the conception of a continued need of change in decorative motives. The tea-room is absolutely empty, except for what may be placed there temporarily to satisfy some aesthetic mood. Some special art object is brought in for the occasion, and everything else is selected and arranged to enhance the beauty of the principal theme. One cannot listen to different pieces of music at the same time, a real comprehension of the beautiful being possible only through concentration upon some central motive. Thus it will be seen that the system of decoration in our tea-rooms is opposed to that which obtains in the West, where the interior of a house is often converted into a museum. To a Japanese, accustomed to simplicity of ornamentation and frequent change of decorative method, a Western interior permanently filled with a vast array of pictures, statuary, and bric-a-brac gives the impression of mere vulgar display of riches. It calls for a mighty wealth of appreciation to enjoy the constant sight of even a masterpiece, and limitless indeed must be the capacity for artistic feeling in those who can exist day after day in the midst of such confusion of color and form as is to be often seen in the homes of Europe and America.

The “Abode of the Unsymmetrical” suggests another phase of our decorative scheme. The absence of symmetry in Japanese art objects has been often commented on by Western critics. This, also, is a result of a working out through Zennism of Taoist ideals. Confucianism, with its deep-seated idea of dualism, and Northern Buddhism with its worship of a trinity, were in no way opposed to the expression of symmetry. As a matter of fact, if we study the ancient bronzes of China or the religious arts of the Tang dynasty and the Nara period, we shall recognize a constant striving after symmetry. The decoration of our classical interiors was decidedly regular in its arrangement. The Taoist and Zen conception of perfection, however, was different. The dynamic nature of their philosophy laid more stress upon the process through which perfection was sought than upon perfection itself. True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth. In the tea-room it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself. Since Zennism has become the prevailing mode of thought, the art of the extreme Orient has purposefully avoided the symmetrical as expressing not only completion, but repetition. Uniformity of design was considered fatal to the freshness of imagination. Thus, landscapes, birds, and flowers became the favorite subjects for depiction rather than the human figure, the latter being present in the person of the beholder himself. We are often too much in evidence as it is, and in spite of our vanity even self-regard is apt to become monotonous.

In the tea-room the fear of repetition is a constant presence. The various objects for the decoration of a room should be so selected that no colour or design shall be repeated. If you have a living flower, a painting of flowers is not allowable. If you are using a round kettle, the water pitcher should be angular. A cup with a black glaze should not be associated with a tea-caddy of black laquer. In placing a vase of an incense burner on the tokonoma, care should be taken not to put it in the exact centre, lest it divide the space into equal halves. The pillar of the tokonoma should be of a different kind of wood from the other pillars, in order to break any suggestion of monotony in the room.

Here again the Japanese method of interior decoration differs from that of the Occident, where we see objects arrayed symmetrically on mantelpieces and elsewhere. In Western houses we are often confronted with what appears to us useless reiteration. We find it trying to talk to a man while his full-length portrait stares at us from behind his back. We wonder which is real, he of the picture or he who talks, and feel a curious conviction that one of them must be fraud. Many a time have we sat at a festive board contemplating, with a secret shock to our digestion, the representation of abundance on the dining-room walls. Why these pictured victims of chase and sport, the elaborate carvings of fishes and fruit? Why the display of family plates, reminding us of those who have dined and are dead?

The simplicity of the tea-room and its freedom from vulgarity make it truly a sanctuary from the vexations of the outer world. There and there alone one can consecrate himself to undisturbed adoration of the beautiful. In the sixteenth century the tea-room afforded a welcome respite from labour to the fierce warriors and statesmen engaged in the unification and reconstruction of Japan. In the seventeenth century, after the strict formalism of the Tokugawa rule had been developed, it offered the only opportunity possible for the free communion of artistic spirits. Before a great work of art there was no distinction between daimyo, samurai, and commoner. Nowadays industrialism is making true refinement more and more difficult all the world over. Do we not need the tea-room more than ever?

V. Art Appreciation

Have you heard the Taoist tale of the Taming of the Harp?

Once in the hoary ages in the Ravine of Lungmen stood a Kiri tree, a veritable king of the forest. It reared its head to talk to the stars; its roots struck deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath. And it came to pass that a mighty wizard made of this tree a wondrous harp, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed but by the greatest of musicians. For long the instrument was treasured by the Emperor of China, but all in vain were the efforts of those who in turn tried to draw melody from its strings. In response to their utmost strivings there came from the harp but harsh notes of disdain, ill-according with the songs they fain would sing. The harp refused to recognise a master.

At last came Peiwoh, the prince of harpists. With tender hand he caressed the harp as one might seek to soothe an unruly horse, and softly touched the chords. He sang of nature and the seasons, of high mountains and flowing waters, and all the memories of the tree awoke! Once more the sweet breath of spring played amidst its branches. The young cataracts, as they danced down the ravine, laughed to the budding flowers. Anon were heard the dreamy voices of summer with its myriad insects, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. Hark! a tiger roars,–the valley answers again. It is autumn; in the desert night, sharp like a sword gleams the moon upon the frosted grass. Now winter reigns, and through the snow-filled air swirl flocks of swans and rattling hailstones beat upon the boughs with fierce delight.

Then Peiwoh changed the key and sang of love. The forest swayed like an ardent swain deep lost in thought. On high, like a haughty maiden, swept a cloud bright and fair; but passing, trailed long shadows on the ground, black like despair. Again the mode was changed; Peiwoh sang of war, of clashing steel and trampling steeds. And in the harp arose the tempest of Lungmen, the dragon rode the lightning, the thundering avalanche crashed through the hills. In ecstasy the Celestial monarch asked Peiwoh wherein lay the secret of his victory. “Sire,” he replied, “others have failed because they sang but of themselves. I left the harp to choose its theme, and knew not truly whether the harp had been Peiwoh or Peiwoh were the harp.”

This story well illustrates the mystery of art appreciation. The masterpiece is a symphony played upon our finest feelings. True art is Peiwoh, and we the harp of Lungmen. At the magic touch of the beautiful the secret chords of our being are awakened, we vibrate and thrill in response to its call. Mind speaks to mind. We listen to the unspoken, we gaze upon the unseen. The master calls forth notes we know not of. Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance. Hopes stifled by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognise, stand forth in new glory. Our mind is the canvas on which the artists lay their colour; their pigments are our emotions; their chiaroscuro the light of joy, the shadow of sadness. The masterpiece is of ourselves, as we are of the masterpiece.

The sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must be based on mutual concession. The spectator must cultivate the proper attitude for receiving the message, as the artist must know how to impart it. The tea-master, Kobori-Enshiu, himself a daimyo, has left to us these memorable words: “Approach a great painting as thou wouldst approach a great prince.” In order to understand a masterpiece, you must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least utterance. An eminent Sung critic once made a charming confession. Said he: “In my young days I praised the master whose pictures I liked, but as my judgement matured I praised myself for liking what the masters had chosen to have me like.” It is to be deplored that so few of us really take pains to study the moods of the masters. In our stubborn ignorance we refuse to render them this simple courtesy, and thus often miss the rich repast of beauty spread before our very eyes. A master has always something to offer, while we go hungry solely because of our own lack of appreciation.

To the sympathetic a masterpiece becomes a living reality towards which we feel drawn in bonds of comradeship. The masters are immortal, for their loves and fears live in us over and over again. It is rather the soul than the hand, the man than the technique, which appeals to us,–the more human the call the deeper is our response. It is because of this secret understanding between the master and ourselves that in poetry or romance we suffer and rejoice with the hero and heroine. Chikamatsu, our Japanese Shakespeare, has laid down as one of the first principles of dramatic composition the importance of taking the audience into the confidence of the author. Several of his pupils submitted plays for his approval, but only one of the pieces appealed to him. It was a play somewhat resembling the Comedy of Errors, in which twin brethren suffer through mistaken identity. “This,” said Chikamatsu, “has the proper spirit of the drama, for it takes the audience into consideration. The public is permitted to know more than the actors. It knows where the mistake lies, and pities the poor figures on the board who innocently rush to their fate.”

The great masters both of the East and the West never forgot the value of suggestion as a means for taking the spectator into their confidence. Who can contemplate a masterpiece without being awed by the immense vista of thought presented to our consideration? How familiar and sympathetic are they all; how cold in contrast the modern commonplaces! In the former we feel the warm outpouring of a man’s heart; in the latter only a formal salute. Engrossed in his technique, the modern rarely rises above himself. Like the musicians who vainly invoked the Lungmen harp, he sings only of himself. His works may be nearer science, but are further from humanity. We have an old saying in Japan that a woman cannot love a man who is truly vain, for their is no crevice in his heart for love to enter and fill up. In art vanity is equally fatal to sympathetic feeling, whether on the part of the artist or the public.

Nothing is more hallowing than the union of kindred spirits in art. At the moment of meeting, the art lover transcends himself. At once he is and is not. He catches a glimpse of Infinity, but words cannot voice his delight, for the eye has no tongue. Freed from the fetters of matter, his spirit moves in the rhythm of things. It is thus that art becomes akin to religion and ennobles mankind. It is this which makes a masterpiece something sacred. In the old days the veneration in which the Japanese held the work of the great artist was intense. The tea-masters guarded their treasures with religious secrecy, and it was often necessary to open a whole series of boxes, one within another, before reaching the shrine itself–the silken wrapping within whose soft folds lay the holy of holies. Rarely was the object exposed to view, and then only to the initiated.

At the time when Teaism was in the ascendency the Taiko’s generals would be better satisfied with the present of a rare work of art than a large grant of territory as a reward of victory. Many of our favourite dramas are based on the loss and recovery of a noted masterpiece. For instance, in one play the palace of Lord Hosokawa, in which was preserved the celebrated painting of Dharuma by Sesson, suddenly takes fire through the negligence of the samurai in charge. Resolved at all hazards to rescue the precious painting, he rushes into the burning building and seizes the kakemono, only to find all means of exit cut off by the flames. Thinking only of the picture, he slashes open his body with his sword, wraps his torn sleeve about the Sesson and plunges it into the gaping wound. The fire is at last extinguished. Among the smoking embers is found a half- consumed corps, within which reposes the treasure uninjured by the fire. Horrible as such tales are, they illustrate the great value that we set upon a masterpiece, as well as the devotion of a trusted samurai.

We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe,–our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions. The tea- masters collected only objects which fell strictly within the measure of their individual appreciation.

One is reminded in this connection of a story concerning Kobori-Enshiu. Enshiu was complimented by his disciples on the admirable taste he had displayed in the choice of his collection. Said they, “Each piece is such that no one could help admiring. It shows that you had better taste than had Rikiu, for his collection could only be appreciated by one beholder in a thousand.” Sorrowfully Enshiu replied: “This only proves how commonplace I am. The great Rikiu dared to love only those objects which personally appealed to him, whereas I unconsciously cater to the taste of the majority. Verily, Rikiu was one in a thousand among tea-masters.”

It is much to be regretted that so much of the apparent enthusiasm for art at the present day has no foundation in real feeling. In this democratic age of ours men clamour for what is popularly considered the best, regardless of their feelings. They want the costly, not the refined; the fashionable, not the beautiful. To the masses, contemplation of illustrated periodicals, the worthy product of their own industrialism, would give more digestible food for artistic enjoyment than the early Italians or the Ashikaga masters, whom they pretend to admire. The name of the artist is more important to them than the quality of the work. As a Chinese critic complained many centuries ago, “People criticise a picture by their ear.” It is this lack of genuine appreciation that is responsible for the pseudo-classic horrors that to-day greet us wherever we turn.

Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The veneration born of antiquity is one of the best traits in the human character, and fain would we have it cultivated to a greater extent. The old masters are rightly to be honoured for opening the path to future enlightenment. The mere fact that they have passed unscathed through centuries of criticism and come down to us still covered with glory commands our respect. But we should be foolish indeed if we valued their achievement simply on the score of age. Yet we allow our historical sympathy to override our aesthetic discrimination. We offer flowers of approbation when the artist is safely laid in his grave. The nineteenth century, pregnant with the theory of evolution, has moreover created in us the habit of losing sight of the individual in the species. A collector is anxious to acquire specimens to illustrate a period or a school, and forgets that a single masterpiece can teach us more than any number of the mediocre products of a given period or school. We classify too much and enjoy too little. The sacrifice of the aesthetic to the so-called scientific method of exhibition has been the bane of many museums.

The claims of contemporary art cannot be ignored in any vital scheme of life. The art of to-day is that which really belongs to us: it is our own reflection. In condemning it we but condemn ourselves. We say that the present age possesses no art:–who is responsible for this? It is indeed a shame that despite all our rhapsodies about the ancients we pay so little attention to our own possibilities. Struggling artists, weary souls lingering in the shadow of cold disdain! In our self- centered century, what inspiration do we offer them? The past may well look with pity at the poverty of our civilisation; the future will laugh at the barrenness of our art. We are destroying the beautiful in life. Would that some great wizard might from the stem of society shape a mighty harp whose strings would resound to the touch of genius.

VI. Flowers

In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they were talking to their mates about the flowers? Surely with mankind the appreciation of flowers must have been coeval with the poetry of love. Where better than in a flower, sweet in its unconsciousness, fragrant because of its silence, can we image the unfolding of a virgin soul? The primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude necessities of nature. He entered the realm of art when he perceived the subtle use of the useless.

In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends. We eat, drink, sing, dance, and flirt with them. We wed and christen with flowers. We dare not die without them. We have worshipped with the lily, we have meditated with the lotus, we have charged in battle array with the rose and the chrysanthemum. We have even attempted to speak in the language of flowers. How could we live without them? It frightens on to conceive of a world bereft of their presence. What solace do they not bring to the bedside of the sick, what a light of bliss to the darkness of weary spirits? Their serene tenderness restores to us our waning confidence in the universe even as the intent gaze of a beautiful child recalls our lost hopes. When we are laid low in the dust it is they who linger in sorrow over our graves.

Sad as it is, we cannot conceal the fact that in spite of our companionship with flowers we have not risen very far above the brute. Scratch the sheepskin and the wolf within us will soon show his teeth. It has been said that a man at ten is an animal, at twenty a lunatic, at thirty a failure, at forty a fraud, and at fifty a criminal. Perhaps he becomes a criminal because he has never ceased to be an animal. Nothing is real to us but hunger, nothing sacred except our own desires. Shrine after shrine has crumbled before our eyes; but one altar is forever preserved, that whereon we burn incense to the supreme idol,–ourselves. Our god is great, and money is his Prophet! We devastate nature in order to make sacrifice to him. We boast that we have conquered Matter and forget that it is Matter that has enslaved us. What atrocities do we not perpetrate in the name of culture and refinement!

Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood. Tell me, will this be kindness? It may be your fate to be imprisoned in the hair of one whom you know to be heartless or to be thrust into the buttonhole of one who would not dare to look you in the face were you a man. It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life.

Flowers, if you were in the land of the Mikado, you might some time meet a dread personage armed with scissors and a tiny saw. He would call himself a Master of Flowers. He would claim the rights of a doctor and you would instinctively hate him, for you know a doctor always seeks to prolong the troubles of his victims. He would cut, bend, and twist you into those impossible positions which he thinks it proper that you should assume. He would contort your muscles and dislocate your bones like any osteopath. He would burn you with red-hot coals to stop your bleeding, and thrust wires into you to assist your circulation. He would diet you with salt, vinegar, alum, and sometimes, vitriol. Boiling water would be poured on your feet when you seemed ready to faint. It would be his boast that he could keep life within you for two or more weeks longer than would have been possible without his treatment. Would you not have preferred to have been killed at once when you were first captured? What were the crimes you must have committed during your past incarnation to warrant such punishment in this?

The wanton waste of flowers among Western communities is even more appalling than the way they are treated by Eastern Flower Masters. The number of flowers cut daily to adorn the ballrooms and banquet-tables of Europe and America, to be thrown away on the morrow, must be something enormous; if strung together they might garland a continent. Beside this utter carelessness of life, the guilt of the Flower-Master becomes insignificant. He, at least, respects the economy of nature, selects his victims with careful foresight, and after death does honour to their remains. In the West the display of flowers seems to be a part of the pageantry of wealth,–the fancy of a moment. Whither do they all go, these flowers, when the revelry is over? Nothing is more pitiful than to see a faded flower remorselessly flung upon a dung heap.

Why were the flowers born so beautiful and yet so hapless? Insects can sting, and even the meekest of beasts will fight when brought to bay. The birds whose plumage is sought to deck some bonnet can fly from its pursuer, the furred animal whose coat you covet for your own may hide at your approach. Alas! The only flower known to have wings is the butterfly; all others stand helpless before the destroyer. If they shriek in their death agony their cry never reaches our hardened ears. We are ever brutal to those who love and serve us in silence, but the time may come when, for our cruelty, we shall be deserted by these best friends of ours. Have you not noticed that the wild flowers are becoming scarcer every year? It may be that their wise men have told them to depart till man becomes more human. Perhaps they have migrated to heaven.

Much may be said in favor of him who cultivates plants. The man of the pot is far more humane than he of the scissors. We watch with delight his concern about water and sunshine, his feuds with parasites, his horror of frosts, his anxiety when the buds come slowly, his rapture when the leaves attain their lustre. In the East the art of floriculture is a very ancient one, and the loves of a poet and his favorite plant have often been recorded in story and song. With the development of ceramics during the Tang and Sung dynasties we hear of wonderful receptacles made to hold plants, not pots, but jewelled palaces. A special attendant was detailed to wait upon each flower and to wash its leaves with soft brushes made of rabbit hair. It has been written [“Pingtse”, by Yuenchunlang] that the peony should be bathed by a handsome maiden in full costume, that a winter-plum should be watered by a pale, slender monk. In Japan, one of the most popular of the No-dances, the Hachinoki, composed during the Ashikaga period, is based upon the story of an impoverished knight, who, on a freezing night, in lack of fuel for a fire, cuts his cherished plants in order to entertain a wandering friar. The friar is in reality no other than Hojo-Tokiyori, the Haroun-Al-Raschid of our tales, and the sacrifice is not without its reward. This opera never fails to draw tears from a Tokio audience even to-day.

Great precautions were taken for the preservation of delicate blossoms. Emperor Huensung, of the Tang Dynasty, hung tiny golden bells on the branches in his garden to keep off the birds. He it was who went off in the springtime with his court musicians to gladden the flowers with soft music. A quaint tablet, which tradition ascribes to Yoshitsune, the hero of our Arthurian legends, is still extant in one of the Japanese monasteries [Sumadera, near Kobe]. It is a notice put up for the protection of a certain wonderful plum-tree, and appeals to us with the grim humour of a warlike age. After referring to the beauty of the blossoms, the inscription says: “Whoever cuts a single branch of this tree shall forfeit a finger therefor.” Would that such laws could be enforced nowadays against those who wantonly destroy flowers and mutilate objects of art!

Yet even in the case of pot flowers we are inclined to suspect the selfishness of man. Why take the plants from their homes and ask them to bloom mid strange surroundings? Is it not like asking the birds to sing and mate cooped up in cages? Who knows but that the orchids feel stifled by the artificial heat in your conservatories and hopelessly long for a glimpse of their own Southern skies?

The ideal lover of flowers is he who visits them in their native haunts, like Taoyuenming [all celebrated Chinese poets and philosophers], who sat before a broken bamboo fence in converse with the wild chrysanthemum, or Linwosing, losing himself amid mysterious fragrance as he wandered in the twilight among the plum-blossoms of the Western Lake. ‘Tis said that Chowmushih slept in a boat so that his dreams might mingle with those of the lotus. It was the same spirit which moved the Empress Komio, one of our most renowned Nara sovereigns, as she sang: “If I pluck thee, my hand will defile thee, O flower! Standing in the meadows as thou art, I offer thee to the Buddhas of the past, of the present, of the future.”

However, let us not be too sentimental. Let us be less luxurious but more magnificent. Said Laotse: “Heaven and earth are pitiless.” Said Kobodaishi: “Flow, flow, flow, flow, the current of life is ever onward. Die, die, die, die, death comes to all.” Destruction faces us wherever we turn. Destruction below and above, destruction behind and before. Change is the only Eternal,–why not as welcome Death as Life? They are but counterparts one of the other,–The Night and Day of Brahma. Through the disintegration of the old, re-creation becomes possible. We have worshipped Death, the relentless goddess of mercy, under many different names. It was the shadow of the All-devouring that the Gheburs greeted in the fire. It is the icy purism of the sword-soul before which Shinto-Japan prostrates herself even to-day. The mystic fire consumes our weakness, the sacred sword cleaves the bondage of desire. From our ashes springs the phoenix of celestial hope, out of the freedom comes a higher realisation of manhood.

Why not destroy flowers if thereby we can evolve new forms ennobling the world idea? We only ask them to join in our sacrifice to the beautiful. We shall atone for the deed by consecrating ourselves to Purity and Simplicity. Thus reasoned the tea-masters when they established the Cult of Flowers.

Anyone acquainted with the ways of our tea- and flower-masters must have noticed the religious veneration with which they regard flowers. They do not cull at random, but carefully select each branch or spray with an eye to the artistic composition they have in mind. They would be ashamed should they chance to cut more than were absolutely necessary. It may be remarked in this connection that they always associate the leaves, if there be any, with the flower, for the object is to present the whole beauty of plant life. In this respect, as in many others, their method differs from that pursued in Western countries. Here we are apt to see only the flower stems, heads as it were, without body, stuck promiscuously into a vase.

When a tea-master has arranged a flower to his satisfaction he will place it on the tokonoma, the place of honour in a Japanese room. Nothing else will be placed near it which might interfere with its effect, not even a painting, unless there be some special aesthetic reason for the combination. It rests there like an enthroned prince, and the guests or disciples on entering the room will salute it with a profound bow before making their addresses to the host. Drawings from masterpieces are made and published for the edification of amateurs. The amount of literature on the subject is quite voluminous. When the flower fades, the master tenderly consigns it to the river or carefully buries it in the ground. Monuments are sometimes erected to their memory.

The birth of the Art of Flower Arrangement seems to be simultaneous with that of Teaism in the fifteenth century. Our legends ascribe the first flower arrangement to those early Buddhist saints who gathered the flowers strewn by the storm and, in their infinite solicitude for all living things, placed them in vessels of water. It is said that Soami, the great painter and connoisseur of the court of Ashikaga- Yoshimasa, was one of the earliest adepts at it. Juko, the tea-master, was one of his pupils, as was also Senno, the founder of the house of Ikenobo, a family as illustrious in the annals of flowers as was that of the Kanos in painting. With the perfecting of the tea-ritual under Rikiu, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, flower arrangement also attains its full growth. Rikiu and his successors, the celebrated Ota- wuraka, Furuka-Oribe, Koyetsu, Kobori-Enshiu, Katagiri- Sekishiu, vied with each other in forming new combinations. We must remember, however, that the flower-worship of the tea-masters formed only a part of their aesthetic ritual, and was not a distinct religion by itself. A flower arrangement, like the other works of art in the tea-room, was subordinated to the total scheme of decoration. Thus Sekishiu ordained that white plum blossoms should not be made use of when snow lay in the garden. “Noisy” flowers were relentlessly banished from the tea-room. A flower arrangement by a tea-master loses its significance if removed from the place for which it was originally intended, for its lines and proportions have been specially worked out with a view to its surroundings.

The adoration of the flower for its own sake begins with the rise of “Flower-Masters,” toward the middle of the seventeenth century. It now becomes independent of the tea-room and knows no law save that the vase imposes on it. New conceptions and methods of execution now become possible, and many were the principles and schools resulting therefrom. A writer in the middle of the last century said he could count over one hundred different schools of flower arrangement. Broadly speaking, these divide themselves into two main branches, the Formalistic and the Naturalesque. The Formalistic schools, led by the Ikenobos, aimed at a classic idealism corresponding to that of the Kano-academicians. We possess records of arrangements by the early masters of the school which almost reproduce the flower paintings of Sansetsu and Tsunenobu. The Naturalesque school, on the other hand, accepted nature as its model, only imposing such modifications of form as conduced to the expression of artistic unity. Thus we recognise in its works the same impulses which formed the Ukiyoe and Shijo schools of painting.

It would be interesting, had we time, to enter more fully than it is now possible into the laws of composition and detail formulated by the various flower-masters of this period, showing, as they would, the fundamental theories which governed Tokugawa decoration. We find them referring to the Leading Principle (Heaven), the Subordinate Principle (Earth), the Reconciling Principle (Man), and any flower arrangement which did not embody these principles was considered barren and dead. They also dwelt much on the importance of treating a flower in its three different aspects, the Formal, the Semi-Formal, and the Informal. The first might be said to represent flowers in the stately costume of the ballroom, the second in the easy elegance of afternoon dress, the third in the charming deshabille of the boudoir.

Our personal sympathies are with the flower-arrangements of the tea-master rather than with those of the flower-master. The former is art in its proper setting and appeals to us on account of its true intimacy with life. We should like to call this school the Natural in contradistinction to the Naturalesque and Formalistic schools. The tea-master deems his duty ended with the selection of the flowers, and leaves them to tell their own story. Entering a tea-room in late winter, you may see a slender spray of wild cherries in combination with a budding camellia; it is an echo of departing winter coupled with the prophecy of spring. Again, if you go into a noon-tea on some irritatingly hot summer day, you may discover in the darkened coolness of the tokonoma a single lily in a hanging vase; dripping with dew, it seems to smile at the foolishness of life.

A solo of flowers is interesting, but in a concerto with painting and sculpture the combination becomes entrancing. Sekishiu once placed some water-plants in a flat receptacle to suggest the vegetation of lakes and marshes, and on the wall above he hung a painting by Soami of wild ducks flying in the air. Shoha, another tea-master, combined a poem on the Beauty of Solitude by the Sea with a bronze incense burner in the form of a fisherman’s hut and some wild flowers of the beach. One of the guests has recorded that he felt in the whole composition the breath of waning autumn.

Flower stories are endless. We shall recount but one more. In the sixteenth century the morning-glory was as yet a rare plant with us. Rikiu had an entire garden planted with it, which he cultivated with assiduous care. The fame of his convulvuli reached the ear of the Taiko, and he expressed a desire to see them, in consequence of which Rikiu invited him to a morning tea at his house. On the appointed day Taiko walked through the garden, but nowhere could he see any vestige of the convulvus. The ground had been leveled and strewn with fine pebbles and sand. With sullen anger the despot entered the tea-room, but a sight waited him there which completely restored his humour. On the tokonoma, in a rare bronze of Sung workmanship, lay a single morning-glory–the queen of the whole garden!

In such instances we see the full significance of the Flower Sacrifice. Perhaps the flowers appreciate the full significance of it. They are not cowards, like men. Some flowers glory in death–certainly the Japanese cherry blossoms do, as they freely surrender themselves to the winds. Anyone who has stood before the fragrant avalanche at Yoshino or Arashiyama must have realized this. For a moment they hover like bejewelled clouds and dance above the crystal streams; then, as they sail away on the laughing waters, they seem to say: “Farewell, O Spring! We are on to eternity.”

VII. Tea-Masters

In religion the Future is behind us. In art the present is the eternal. The tea-masters held that real appreciation of art is only possible to those who make of it a living influence. Thus they sought to regulate their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained in the tea-room. In all circumstances serenity of mind should be maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the harmony of the surroundings. The cut and color of the dress, the poise of the body, and the manner of walking could all be made expressions of artistic personality. These were matters not to be lightly ignored, for until one has made himself beautiful he has no right to approach beauty. Thus the tea-master strove to be something more than the artist,–art itself. It was the Zen of aestheticism. Perfection is everywhere if we only choose to recognise it. Rikiu loved to quote an old poem which says: “To those who long only for flowers, fain would I show the full-blown spring which abides in the toiling buds of snow-covered hills.”

Manifold indeed have been the contributions of the tea-masters to art. They completely revolutionised the classical architecture and interior decorations, and established the new style which we have described in the chapter of the tea-room, a style to whose influence even the palaces and monasteries built after the sixteenth century have all been subject. The many-sided Kobori-Enshiu has left notable examples of his genius in the Imperial villa of Katsura, the castles of Najoya and Nijo, and the monastery of Kohoan. All the celebrated gardens of Japan were laid out by the tea-masters. Our pottery would probably never have attained its high quality of excellence if the tea-masters had not lent it to their inspiration, the manufacture of the utensils used in the tea-ceremony calling forth the utmost expenditure of ingenuity on the parts of our ceramists. The Seven Kilns of Enshiu are well known to all students of Japanese pottery. many of our textile fabrics bear the names of tea-masters who conceived their color or design. It is impossible, indeed, to find any department of art in which the tea-masters have not left marks of their genius. In painting and lacquer it seems almost superfluous to mention the immense services they have rendered. One of the greatest schools of painting owes its origin to the tea-master Honnami-Koyetsu, famed also as a lacquer artist and potter. Beside his works, the splendid creation of his grandson, Koho, and of his grand-nephews, Korin and Kenzan, almost fall into the shade. The whole Korin school, as it is generally designated, is an expression of Teaism. In the broad lines of this school we seem to find the vitality of nature herself.

Great as has been the influence of the tea-masters in the field of art, it is as nothing compared to that which they have exerted on the conduct of life. Not only in the usages of polite society, but also in the arrangement of all our domestic details, do we feel the presence of the tea-masters. Many of our delicate dishes, as well as our way of serving food, are their inventions. They have taught us to dress only in garments of sober colors. They have instructed us in the proper spirit in which to approach flowers. They have given emphasis to our natural love of simplicity, and shown us the beauty of humility. In fact, through their teachings tea has entered the life of the people.

Those of us who know not the secret of properly regulating our own existence on this tumultuous sea of foolish troubles which we call life are constantly in a state of misery while vainly trying to appear happy and contented. We stagger in the attempt to keep our moral equilibrium, and see forerunners of the tempest in every cloud that floats on the horizon. Yet there is joy and beauty in the roll of billows as they sweep outward toward eternity. Why not enter into their spirit, or, like Liehtse, ride upon the hurricane itself?

He only who has lived with the beautiful can die beautifully. The last moments of the great tea-masters were as full of exquisite refinement as had been their lives. Seeking always to be in harmony with the great rhythm of the universe, they were ever prepared to enter the unknown. The “Last Tea of Rikiu” will stand forth forever as the acme of tragic grandeur.

Long had been the friendship between Rikiu and the Taiko- Hideyoshi, and high the estimation in which the great warrior held the tea-master. But the friendship of a despot is ever a dangerous honour. It was an age rife with treachery, and men trusted not even their nearest kin. Rikiu was no servile courtier, and had often dared to differ in argument with his fierce patron. Taking advantage of the coldness which had for some time existed between the Taiko and Rikiu, the enemies of the latter accused him of being implicated in a conspiracy to poison the despot. It was whispered to Hideyoshi that the fatal potion was to be administered to him with a cup of the green beverage prepared by the tea-master. With Hideyoshi suspicion was sufficient ground for instant execution, and there was no appeal from the will of the angry ruler. One privilege alone was granted to the condemned– the honor of dying by his own hand.

On the day destined for his self-immolation, Rikiu invited his chief disciples to a last tea-ceremony. Mournfully at the appointed time the guests met at the portico. As they look into the garden path the trees seem to shudder, and in the rustling of their leaves are heard the whispers of homeless ghosts. Like solemn sentinels before the gates of Hades stand the grey stone lanterns. A wave of rare incense is wafted from the tea-room; it is the summons which bids the guests to enter. One by one they advance and take their places. In the tokonoma hangs a kakemon,–a wonderful writing by an ancient monk dealing with the evanescence of all earthly things. The singing kettle, as it boils over the brazier, sounds like some cicada pouring forth his woes to departing summer. Soon the host enters the room. Each in turn is served with tea, and each in turn silently drains his cup, the host last of all. according to established etiquette, the chief guest now asks permission to examine the tea-equipage. Rikiu places the various articles before them, with the kakemono. After all have expressed admiration of their beauty, Rikiu presents one of them to each of the assembled company as a souvenir. The bowl alone he keeps. “Never again shall this cup, polluted by the lips of misfortune, be used by man.” He speaks, and breaks the vessel into fragments.

The ceremony is over; the guests with difficulty restraining their tears, take their last farewell and leave the room. One only, the nearest and dearest, is requested to remain and witness the end. Rikiu then removes his tea-gown and carefully folds it upon the mat, thereby disclosing the immaculate white death robe which it had hitherto concealed. Tenderly he gazes on the shining blade of the fatal dagger, and in exquisite verse thus addresses it:

“Welcome to thee,/ O sword of eternity!/ Through Buddha/ And through Daruma alike/ Thou hast cleft thy way.”

With a smile upon his face Rikiu passed forth into the unknown.

This Etext was prepared by: Matthew and Gabrielle Harbowy harbowy@ix.netcom.com

From WIKI:

When tea is made with water drawn from the depths of mind
Whose bottom is beyond measure,
We really have what is called cha-no-yu.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Two main schools, the Omotesenke (表千家) and Urasenke (裏千家), have evolved, each with its own prescribed rituals. A third school, Mushanokōjisenke, is largely unknown outside Japan. These three main schools are collectively known as the Sansenke. There are various lesser-known schools as well. Currently, the Urasenke School is the most active and has the largest following, particularly outside Japan. Within each school there are sub-schools and branches, and in each school there are seasonal and temporal variations in the method of preparing and enjoying the tea, and in the types and forms of utensils and tea used.

 

A host rests a bamboo ladle on an iron pot (inside the hearth).

 

A host rests a bamboo ladle on an iron pot (inside the hearth).

All the schools, and most of the variations, however, have facets in common: at its most basic, the tea ceremony involves the preparation and serving of tea to a guest or guests. The following description applies to both Omotesenke and Urasenke, though there may be slight differences depending on the school and type of ceremony.

The host, male or female, wears a kimono, while guests may wear kimono or subdued formal wear. Tea ceremonies may take place outside (in which case some kind of seating will usually be provided for guests, whether benches or chairs, or even woven straw tatami mats) or inside, either in a tea room or a tea house, but tea ceremonies can be performed nearly anywhere. Generally speaking, the longer and more formal the ceremony, and the more important the guests, the more likely the ceremony will be performed indoors, on tatami.

Both tea houses and tea rooms are usually small, a typical floor size being 4 1/2 tatami, the traditional Japanese floor covering. The smallest tea room can be as little as one-and-a-half mats, and the size of the largest is determined only by the limits of its owner’s resources. Building materials and decorations are deliberately simple and rustic.

If the tea is to be served in a separate tea house rather than a tea room, the guests will wait in a garden shelter until summoned by the host. They ritually purify themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths with water from a small stone basin, and proceed through a simple garden along a roji, or “dewy path,” to the tea house. Guests remove their shoes and enter the tea house through a small door, and proceed to the tokonoma scroll alcove, where they admire the scroll and other decorations placed therein and are then seated seiza-style on the tatami in order of prestige.

Guests may be served a light, simple meal called a “kaiseki” or “chakaiseki,” followed by sake, Japanese rice wine. They will then return to the waiting shelter until summoned again by the host.

If no meal is served, the host will proceed directly to the serving of a small sweet or sweets. Sweets are eaten from special paper called kaishi, which each guest carries, often in a decorative wallet tucked into the breast of the kimono.

Each utensil – including the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop – is then ritually cleaned in the presence of the guests in a precise order and using prescribed motions. The utensils are placed in an exact arrangement according to the ritual being performed. When the ritual cleaning and preparation of the utensils is complete, the host will place a measured amount of green tea powder in the bowl and add the appropriate amount of hot water, then whisk the tea using set movements.

Conversation is kept to a minimum throughout. Guests relax and enjoy the atmosphere created by the sounds of the water and fire, the smell of the incense and tea, and the beauty and simplicity of the tea house and its seasonally appropriate decorations.

The bowl is then served to the guest of honour, either by the host or an assistant. Bows are exchanged between the host and guest of honour. The guest then bows to the second guest, and raises the bowl in a gesture of respect to the host. The guest rotates the bowl to avoid drinking from its front, takes a sip, murmurs the prescribed phrase, and then takes two or three more sips before wiping the rim, rotating the bowl to its original position, and passing it to the next guest with a bow. The procedure is repeated until all guests have taken tea from the same bowl, and the bowl is returned to the host. In some ceremonies, each guest will drink from an individual bowl, but the order of serving and drinking is the same.

If thick tea (koicha) has been served, the host will then prepare thin tea, or usucha, which is served in the same manner. In some ceremonies, however, only one or the other type is served.

After all the guests have taken tea, the host cleans the utensils in preparation for putting them away. The guest of honour will request that the host allow the guests to examine some of the utensils, and each guest in turn examines and admires each item, including the water scoop, the tea caddy, the tea scoop, the tea whisk, and, most importantly, the tea bowl. The items are treated with extreme care and reverence as they may be priceless, irreplaceable, handmade antiques, and guests often use a special brocaded cloth to handle them.

The host then collects the utensils, and the guests leave the tea house. The host bows from the door, and the ceremony is over. A tea ceremony can last between one hour and four to five hours, depending on the type of ceremony performed, the number of guests, and the types of meal and tea served.

 

 

Further:

Zen and Tea

The Japanese tea ceremony;: An interpretation for Occidentals

The Tea Ceremony

Loaf-baking, kitchen-dwelling, breast-feeding God,

hungry and thirsty.

We return to your lap and your table again.

Fill us with the bread that satisfies,

milk that drenches our parched throats.

Feed us ‘till we want no more.

 

Let your Spirit hang an apron around our necks.

Fashioned by our Lord and friend, Jesus.

 

Instruct us,

here in the halls of your kitchen kingdom,

with the recipes: mercy and forgiveness,

compassion and redemption.

Leaven our lives

‘til they rise in praise:

Offered, blessed and broken

for the healing of the nations.

 

–Rev. Ken Sehested, North Carolina

May all be blessed, peaceful and happy,

 

May all be free of pain, resentment and fear.

 

May we have infinite gratitude, patience and compassion for all above, equal, and below us.

 

May we be the doctor, medicine and nurse, for all the confused, sick and sad. May all the virtue acquired by us, flow freely to all need.

 

 May everyone find the Path to Peace,

 

 May everyone become pure and perfect,

 

 May everyone find the Treasury of Life!

 

May Kushta bless you and keep you . . . Amin

 [All place palms together and Bow to all others]

 

Good is the Good to the good, and They set their nature upon those who love their name.

 

We will seek and find, and will pray and be heard.

 

We have sought and found, we prayed and were heard in thy presence,

my Lord Yeshu and Maryam d-Hiya, Lords of Healings.

 

Amen

 

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(27) Jesus said,

“If you do not fast from the world,

you will not find the Kingdom of God, and

if you do not keep the Sabbath for the whole week,

you will not see the Father.”

(Greek version)

 

(110) Jesus said,

Whoever finds the world and becomes rich,

let him renounce the world.”

 

(111) Jesus said, …

“Whoever finds himself is superior to the world.”

 

Mark 2:27

“The Sabbath was made for Man,

not man for the Sabbath”

(capitalization for emphasis, mine)

 

Matthew 5:17,18

Do not suppose that I have come

to abolish the law and the prophets;

I did not come to abolish, but complete.

Truly I tell you: so long as heaven and earth endure,

not a letter, not a dot, will disappear from the law

until all that must happen has happened.

 

In Gnostic thought, “the world” is to be considered inferior to both the realm of the soul and the realm of the Spirit. Although Thomas does not appear to be radically ascetic, the disciples are to be on their guard against becoming too deeply infatuated with material possessions.

 

The Sabbath is one day of physical rest per week,

but the Gnostic’s goal is to achieve a mental state

of repose “24 / 7”.  Although Matthew 5:17,18 is traditionally interpreted as referring to a future apocalyptic messiah, what if “so long as heaven and earth endure,” means as long as heaven and earth are separate, as long as they are two?  Once the two are made into One, “on earth as it is in heaven”, then you become free of the law!

 

The above summary of Thomas 27 states:

In Gnostic thought, “the world” is to be considered inferior to both the realm of the soul and the realm of the Spirit

As the text states Thomas is not overtly ascetic. Many “modern Gnostics” seem to be happy to take the idea of asceticism to heart.  They embrace the “world is a prison” idea too literally.

I think this is wrong.  I believe the key is to not value anything over anything.  The world to a Gnostic is false and illusion.  But it is still OF the father.  It is still sacred.  Yin and Yang, opposites must be embraced and unified and transcended.  Not one over the other. 

 

“In the beginning, Ein Sof emanated ten sefirot , which are of its essence, united with it. It and they are entirely one. There is no change or division in the emanator that would justify saying it is divided into parts in these various sefirot. Division and change do not apply to it, only to the external sefirah.

To help you conceive this, imagine water flowing through vessels of different colours: white, red, green and so forth. As the water spreads through those vessels, it appears to change into the colours of the vessels, although the water is devoid of all colour. The change in colour does not affect the water itself, just our perception of the water. So it is with the sefirot. They are vessels, known, for example, as Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet, each coloured according to its function, white, red, and green, respectively, while the light of the emanator – their essence – is in the water, having no colour at all. This essence does not change; it only appears to change as it flows through the vessels.

Better yet, imagine a ray of sunlight shining through a stained-glass window of ten different colours. The sunlight possesses no colour at all but appears to change hue as it passes through the different colours of glass. Coloured light radiates through the window. The light has no essentially changed, though so it seems to the viewer. Just so with the sefirot.”

– Moses Cordovero (Pardes Rimmonim [Garden of Pomegranates])

 

 

It is a basic truth, that there is no beginning or end.

In Gnosticism we find this in the Oroborous symbol. The snake eating its own tail. Often this is seen as the end being eaten by the beginning (mouth and tail)…but if we dive deeper into an inner insight we could argue that it explores the idea of transcendence. That there is no end OR beginning, far more than the end is in the beginning.

In kabbalah we can see that the first emanation is closer to the last than it is to the second. The end is in the beginning, the end IS the beginning…thus there is no end or beginning.

One could argue that a hidden 11th emanation or 12th is the entire tree itself, in one big “sphere”…. a sphere has no end or beginning…

The passage states the nature does not change only our perception of it. Thus a simple example would be states of matter. H2O is H2O, whether it is ice, steam or water….the substance is still H2O. As regards the divine, thus it does not change, our perception of the divine changes…or our perception of “AIN” changes

Thus to tie this in with the nullification of ourselves we see that we are really the divine, the water in the example, we are that water. We conceive of ourselves as being red, green, blue or purple etc. However really we are water….

“It and they are entirely one.”

 

We find this idea of not valuing one over the other echoed in the Isa Upanishad:

He who knows both knowledge and ignorance together, crosses death through ignorance and attains immortality through knowledge.

–Isa Upanishad

 

This union of duality can be seen:

Yin is yang, yang is yin

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].” (Gospel of Thomas)

Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal. (Gospel of Philip)

He who knows that both the unmanifested prakriti and the manifested Hiranyagarbha should be worshipped together, overcomes death by the worship of Hiranyagarbha and obtains immortality through devotion to prakriti. (Isa Upanishad)

What does this mean?

Spirit is form, form is spirit. Yet when spirit becomes form and form becomes spirit neither exists. All will dissolve into their origin that which is beyond spirit or form, beyond up and down, beyond male and female, beyond good and evil.

What does this mean? To Gnostics (some anyway lol) it means ascending the 7 heavens of the archons. To reach the 8th noble heaven….the realm of our heavenly parents, our origins.

22) The Savior said, All nature, all formations, all creatures exist
in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their
own roots.
(Gospel of Mary)

So it is not spirit, it is not form…..

Penis + vagina =child…. Child = penis + vagina, both and yet neither. Transcendence….

 In the world but not of it.

This to me is Gnosticism, which is why form is as important as spirit. BOTH are required, but neither should be valued over the other.

 

You are Aphrodite and Adonis as soft flesh endlessly dances on flesh
among the brilliant flowers of Mount Olympus.
You are the roll and roll of the universe
in the never ending movement of creation.
You are mastodons in rut,
but you are also a point of light beyond
manifestation.
That point explodes into a million fragments
like fireworks in cosmic eternity.
The two of you are one
but even the one melts into nothingness.
Finally, beyond thought, concept or even feeling at all
is the indescribable ecstasy
as your personality dies.
There is only god-consciousness in all directions and in all time
which is out of time forever.

 

“They do not eat meat either, on the grounds that the divine substance has fled from the dead or slain bodies, and what little remains there is of such quality and quantity that it does not merit being purified in the stomachs of the elect. They do not even eat eggs, claiming that they too die when they are broken, and it is not fitting to feed on any dead bodies…Moreover, they do not use milk for food…”Augustine, De Haer 46:103-113, Faustum 16

I think the key to anything is BALANCE

Too much of one thing is always bad. Extremism in any form is bad.

Asceticism has its place but once it has gained what it was meant to do, loss weight, cleanse the system, gain spiritual insight etc. It should be dropped. Total asceticism imo is largely insane.

Take a group who I won’t mention by name, they deny caffeine in their lives. Fine, a sensible option you’d think yes? Caffeine is bad, it raises the blood pressure, is highly addictive etc etc etc. So denying yourself caffeine is a sensible option, and thus is holy. But is it?


“I’m often asked, ‘well, as a vegan, what do you eat?’ which seems like such a strange question. What do non-vegans eat? Meat, cheese, milk, eggs? Vegans eat everything else. Indian food, Chinese food, Mexican food, Thai food, Japanese food, African food, and so on, and so on.
“Whether I’m having a pan bagnia sandwich (olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, basil and onions, on ciabatta bread) at Teany, my restaurant, or having marinated exotic mushrooms with mixed baby greens and an orange vinaigrette in Paris, or having fajitas in Los Angeles, or vegan Chinese food in lower Manhattan, or vegan Pad Thai in Melbourne, or etc etc – I’m always a very happy eater.
“Primarily I’m a vegan for ethical reasons, but if the truth be told it’s the culinary aspect of veganism that has sustained me for 16 years of animal-product free living.”
–Moby (muscician)

God is ALL, all that IS, WAS and WILL be…there is nothing that is not God. Does this mean then that if we are concentrating on caffeine and denying it we are concentrating upon the divine? Or are we focusing upon ourselves? Who should we be focusing on?

Asceticism is thus a useful tool, but like all tools once used should we not pick another? Just because eating soup with a spoon is better than a fork, should we use the same spoon to paint walls with? With the logic of extremism, yes, we should paint walls with a spoon.

Now bearing this in mind we must also consider that every one’s dietary needs are important and DIFFERENT. No two people have the exact same digestive system. Some people thrive on meat, others do not. Myself I eat meat three or four times a month. Coupled with how meat is produced along with the fact I have been surrounded by vegetarianism all my life, I cannot in all conscious promote the eating of meat. But no one can gain gnosis FOR another. Each must decide in their own hearts what is right for them.

Raw vegetables are great. I love raw carrots and tomatoes. Unfortunately I love potatoes. Eating raw potatoes make you sick. There is no two ways around that. So what are we faced with? BALANCE…. Let us not make it a crime to actually cook food. Cooking brings so much to our table. The interaction of preparation, herbs, spices, colors, smells and tastes. Food and cooking food are ever so holy things. Let us celebrate what the divine has given us, not become extremists. Of course this does not mean we should ingest poison deliberately; arguably mass produced meat is a poison. For some Alcohol and drugs is a poison. Each must decide for themselves unless we seek to paint walls with a spoon forever and ever.

“In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, author, Nobel 1978

Of course the cooking of food does have repercussions:

Johns Hopkins Hospital reports:

“The combination of heat, water and oxygen is disastrous to vitamins and minerals. Cook all foods at a very low temperature (below boiling) so as to retain the vitamins and minerals. Unless we eat food properly prepared, we suffer from inferior physical development, mental instability, low endurance and lack of resistance to infection”.

For more of the above and suggestions on cooking, vegan and vegetarian Gnosticism see:

http://essenes.net/vcook.html

http://essenes.net/index-isis.htm

http://essenes.net/subindex3.htm

The Buddha said:

“If a man can (control) his body and mind and thereby refrains from eating animal flesh and wearing animal products, I say he will really be liberated.”

 

 

 

Buddhist Wisdom/ The Middle path
Let me tell you about the middle path. Dressing in rough and dirty garments,
letting your hair grow matted, abstaining from eating any meat or fish, does not
cleanse the one who is deluded. Mortifying the flesh through excessive hardship
does not lead to a triumph over the senses. All self-inflicted suffering is
useless as long as the feeling of self is dominant.

You should lose your involvement with yourself and then eat and drink naturally,
according to the needs of your body. Attachment to your appetites–whether you
deprive or indulge them–can lead to slavery, but satisfying the needs of daily
life is not wrong. Indeed, to keep a body in good health is a duty, for
otherwise the mind will not stay strong and clear.

This is the middle path.


From “The Pocket Buddha Reader,”

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