Tranquility is a word in Chinese, but it contains two meanings, peace and quiet. Throughout history, both Taoists and have made tranquility a top priority in their practice. So, first, let's compare it to history to see if the world we live in is tranquil. In ancient China, all dynasties had troubled times, and there were very insightful summaries.
Generally speaking, in a chaotic state, the sovereign’s way of doing things is to set extremely high standards and then blame those who cannot attain them. Allocate burdensome tasks and then punish those who cannot finish them. Force people to take complicated undertakings and then sentence to death those who dare not do them. Being coerced by these three strict demands, ordinary people will resort to trickery to deceive their sovereign and then try to escape after doing something wrong. Hence, although the state might have stringent laws and dispense cruel punishments, it still could not prohibit wickedness.
The customs of a politically chaotic state are that people resort to trickery to deceive others and feign, decorate many useless things, cherish production of distant lands, value items that are difficult to obtain, and do not accumulate things necessary to sustain their lives. They cherish their finances above true love, and they don’t use their savings for what is needed for their livelihood.
As a result, the world’s honest customs became indifferent, simple tradition was broken, and stables were set up to confine and raise cows and horses. The lives of tens of thousands of people were disturbed, the clear was taken as the turbid, the lives of the people became uncertain, and all of them were in a disorderly state. Integrity and honesty were left in oblivion, and people lost their true character and inherent nature.
Although people were formally registered as citizens of the state, the gap between the rich and the poor was like the relationship between a sovereign and servants and captives; there was no comparison. Those who relied on their unique skills for wicked conduct could lead a good life while it was inevitable that those who kept the righteous way, followed the principles of justice, and did not make easy gains could not avoid the torments of hunger and cold.
Although our lifestyles are vastly different from those of the ancient world, when the world is in decline and chaos, the signs are very similar. When we compare our current living conditions with history, we can tell whether we are in or are about to be in troubled times. In troubled times, we should learn more from everything in nature in order to preserve ourselves. In nature, life and death are the norms, and we can learn something from the animals.
If tigers and leopards remain still, they will not fall into traps; if fish and soft-shell turtles remain immobile, fishing hooks will not pierce their lips. If the moose do not move, they will not run into the king of beasts. Everything is subdued by action. That is why there is a very classic Taoist philosophy of doing things which states, respond to all changes with unchanging action or adapt to changes without changing (以不变应万变). The real meaning of this is not to make people stand still, think nothing, or do nothing. Instead, it is about maintaining inner peace in the chaotic state of existence. When the world is in chaos, our hearts are the first to be affected, and it is only by remaining tranquil to cope with the restlessness and maintaining inner peace that we can protect ourselves from the outside world.
In ancient times, people lived in caves and were still in good spirits, but even noble monarchs felt melancholy every day in the last days. Therefore, whether we are happy or not has nothing to do with power and wealth, but rather with achieving inner peace. If we can keep ourselves from being slaves to material interests and do not allow our desires to disturb our inner peace, then we will be able to be happy without being complacent and sad without being worried. If we can see all the changes in the world and keep our inner peace, then nothing will make us unhappy, and we will be able to reach a state of bliss. Thus, tea has been the sacred product for self-cultivation in China since ancient times. When making tea and sipping tea, the art of cultivating inner peace and tranquility in the heart has become the most important thing.
It is recorded in Huang Valley Collection written by the famous Chinese poet and calligrapher Huang Tingjian（黄庭坚）in the Song Dynasty: “One person sipping tea alone can attain a celestial state; two persons drinking face to face may find fun from a delightful atmosphere; three persons toasting to each other will bask in a pleasant ambiance; and more than half a dozen persons feasting together, would only feel it a tea bazaar.”
And in the Ming dynasty, the tea man Zhang Yuan(张源) also recorded in his book Discourse on Tea(茶录): "When we meet to drink tea, the fewer people, the better, more people seem noisy, and once noisy, there is no mood. One person drinking tea can be described as serenity; two people drinking tea can be described as winning; three or four people can be described as interesting; five or six people can be described as pan, and when seven or eight people, then that is Shi Cha."
Cha is tea. Shi（施) in Chinese means almsgiving. So Shi Cha (施茶) means, if over seven people drink tea together, it will be like almsgiving tea, and there will not be a high spiritual level of enjoying the tea. Once there are too many people around the ceremony table, it will disturb the energy of the quietness. Too many people drinking tea together, disturb each other’s energy and focus. A busy environment becomes a low energy environment for people. The host serving the tea will be like an almsgiver to people and won’t have enough good energy to concentrate on brewing quality tea like they would in a more tranquil environment.
So, whether ancient or modern, everyone needs to create a tranquil environment for themselves and slowly appreciate the benefits of inner peace that tea drinking can bring us. The true meaning of drinking tea alone is not only to be able to quiet down and concentrate on tea tasting but, more importantly, such a state can keep our spirits undisturbed by the outside world. No matter how chaotic the world is and how difficult your work and existence are, we should always find a quiet place to become still and slowly sip tea, settling down to protect our spirits from external chaos.
When the sages in ancient times taught the people, they emphasized the importance of avoiding deficiency-evil and keeping the mind free from avarice. In this way, the good energy in the body will be in harmony, spirit-essence will remain inside, and disease will have no way to occur. Hence, people in ancient times all lived in peace and contentment, without any fear. They worked but never overstrained themselves, making it smooth for Qi (energy) to flow. They all felt satisfied with their lives and enjoyed their tasty food and natural clothes. This is one of the major keys for health preservation in ancient Chinese medical texts.
For this reason, the tranquility in the Chinese tea ceremony is not only a quiet external condition but more importantly, it helps people practice how to find peace from the inside and how to protect our spirits from being disturbed by the outside world. In a chaotic situation, one can keep one's mind and body from being harmed by the outside world. If everyone can achieve a peaceful mental state, human nature will naturally move toward peace and goodness so that our human society can achieve authentic peace and tranquility.
In Good Tea
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