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Training for Tranquility in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden

By Janet Yoneda

For many people, life is too fast-paced and stressful. We look about for "balance" to develop and sustain our inner quiet harmony amidst the rushing and striving. The study of tea ceremony, Chanoyu, provides unique and beautiful training for such balance and tranquility.

Last year I began to study and practice chanoyu. Our matsukaze (wind in the pines) tea group meets at the Ozawa Pavilion in the Kurimoto Garden of the Devonian Botanic Garden. It is a serene setting in all seasons for contemplation and repose.

The Ozawa Pavilion, a 1500-square-foot structure designed by Junichi Hashimoto, features stark simplicity of construction and the beauty of subdued colours and natural lighting. Inside it, standing on the unique cushioned floor of tatami mats, we look out at the beautiful garden and feel at ease and at peace. A host prepares a bowl of tea for the guest in the 10-foot-square chashitsu (tea room), a special, traditionally designed, darkened space. It evokes feelings of quieting essential for the spirit of chanoyu.

Both an art and a religion, chanoyu (hot water for tea) began in 15th century Japan as a discipline of preparing and serving tea. According to Murata Shuko, a Buddhist monk and originator of chanoyu, tea ceremony is "not an amusement, nor a technique either, but an enjoyment of enlightened satisfaction." It is a sharing activity, requiring a host and a guest.

The four principles of chado, the Way of Tea-harmony, respect, purity and tranquility-  refer to the relationship between host and guest, people and nature and seasons, and feelings within oneself which can stay beyond tea ceremony into busy real life. In the small sparse tea room, there are only the hanging scroll (kakemono), the flower in a vessel (chabana), the kettle, and special tea utensils. Our awareness opens, focus sharpens, and minds stay fully in the present moment. The clutter of everyday life is gone, and the simplicity of serving and receiving tea brings a rare tranquility.
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Reprinted with the permission of Janet Yoneda and Legacy (August-October 1998): 52.

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