In ancient times, some people lived in caves. Access to fresh water and clean air invigorated them. Nowadays, we have soft beds and cozy houses to stay in, yet we feel melancholy every day. By this token, whether a person is happy or not does not lie in wealth and comfort, but in gaining peace and calm in the heart.
The first, most basic, and the most essential environment we need when drinking a cup of tea, is quiet.
Many people are always wanting or fighting for so-called freedom. Still, they’ve never understood that even though we can go anywhere we want to and do whatever we want to, we won’t be able to experience true freedom unless we can obtain genuine peace and quiet from our inherent nature.
For thousands of years, throughout the history of tea, we have tried to figure out how to use tea to become proper human beings. In Japan, they concluded that the tea culture related to four important words:
(Wa) 和 ( Peace / Harmony )
(Kei) 敬 ( Respect )
(Sei) 清 ( Clean / Purity )
(Jaku) 寂 ( Quiet / Tranquility )
It beautifully describes how to work with tea to cultivate our inherent nature authentically. However, even though these practices seem quite basic, most people still cannot attain this level. Let’s take a look at the original roots of these four words to better understand how to follow these principles.
If you pay attention, you may recognize that some of us have already had this sort of experience: When the mind and spirit are focused on something, one might trip over or bump one’s head on a tree while walking, yet will not feel it. Although someone might wave at you, you won’t realize it, and even if someone might shout your name, you won’t hear it. Because it’s not that you have lost your eyes and ears, it’s that your spirit is not on duty.
So, if one’s mind is concentrated on trivial matters, one will overlook essential things; if the mind is focused on the inner, the outer will be forgotten; if the mind is concentrated on something above, the things beneath will be neglected; and if the mind is focused on the left, the right will be missed. The unfortunate reality is that we will always be tempted by one thing or another. People who are greedy and have various desires and lusts, are tempted by power, material interests, fame, and ranks. Therefore, they hope to outdo others with their superior intelligence. As a result, their spirit will wear down day by day and thus become more and more distant from their bodies. The spirit will dawdle outside of their bodies for a long time and won’t return. Their bodies will close up their hearts and refuse the spirit, and if this happens, the spirit can no longer enter the body. Therefore, disasters caused by blindness, crankiness, and the loss of one’s bearings often occur in the world.
If this sounds too abstract, then think about what’s happening at the moment. More and more ultra-powerful and rich people believe they can use artificial intelligence to reach immortality. They focus on exploring the universe and are trying to transfer their minds into machines; they want to change their bodies to become mechanical super-humans. With those superpowers, they believe that they will be able to outdo others. I do believe they will successfully achieve this in the near future, but at the same time, this group of people will be the biggest losers because their spirits will no longer be able to return to their natural bodies.
Once this becomes a reality, these people will no longer be called human beings because they will have lost three of the primary and most fundamental elements essential to a natural life: the body, Qi (chi), and Spirit. The body is the residence of life. If the body remains in a place of discomfort, the life within it will wither. Those who think that they can move their minds to dwell in immortal machines will carry their spirits into inhospitable conditions, and their minds will wither.
The Qi (chi/氣), according to ancient Chinese medical science, is the breath, the air, the energy from nature; without it, there is no life. If Qi is not respected according to its natural law, it will leak. If a bionic body or artificial intelligence becomes central to one’s life, the Qi will lose its purpose. Moreover, once Qi is no longer acquired from nature, the most crucial element to a natural life is lost: Spirit. If spirit does something unsuitable to itself, man will become muddle-headed.
Qi (氣) in the tea context is not the physical flavor you can taste, it’s the feeling you get from the tea. Good tea having Qi (氣)depends on who made the tea, if it was made by a very high-level tea master purely by hand, people’s feelings and the energy and emotion put into the tea by the people who made it. What type of person you are will be a deciding factor in what kind of tea you can make. If you are a person with deep Qi (氣) in your body, the Qi of the tea you make will be stronger and carry a strong spirit. Like a martial arts master who has deep Qi in his martial arts, you can tell and feel his movements will be much stronger than normal people’s.
Muddle-headedness arrives due to the pressure of life’s realities. Many people go against their spiritual pursuits and force themselves to engage in work they are not interested in. They sacrifice their hobbies and do work that can only meet their basic material needs. This inability to do what they like in order to meet their spiritual needs has led to spiritual deprivation and has, over a long period of time, gradually brought medical terminology like depression, delusional disorder, and other mental illnesses to the forefront.
When spiritless machines roam this earth, endless chaos will abound. Human beings can see and hear; their bodies can stand, their joints can stretch and bend, eyes can discern white from black, and the beautiful from the ugly, intelligence can identify similarities and differences and tell right from wrong. Why is that? Because Qi and Spirit are at their service. For those under the guidance of their spirit, their bodies will follow their spirit, which is advantageous for being a natural human being. But for those under the control of the body, their spirit will follow their body, which is disadvantageous to them.
Those under the control of the body usually let themselves act as slaves of material interests or allow desires to disturb the placidity in their hearts. Once their spirit comes into contact with external things, likes and dislikes will occur. After likes and dislikes arise, the spirit will be tempted by external things and, therefore, cannot return to its original state. As a result, the intrinsic nature will be neglected. Once the inherent nature is neglected, extreme anger or joy, great fear, sadness, and resentment will arise, after which illness, the numerous likes, and dislikes, disasters and troubles will follow. This is how social phenomena such as financial crises, epidemics, world wars, environmental degradation, and widespread death are born. These happenings are the typical signs telling us that we have compulsively been pursuing the wrong path of life.
This is why when drinking a cup of tea, what is crucial is not the taste of the tea, but the aspects of the experience that maintain and nourish our spirit. It’s also the reason why drinking a cup of tea requires peace, respect, purity, and silence. Humans are born quiet; it is our inherent nature. Whenever external things appear, the spirit feels them. This is the reaction of the spirit.
The first step to living a proper tea lifestyle that will help you stay peaceful during chaotic times is to cultivate your mind correctly.
Whether the world is important or not does not lie in the world itself but in how we regard it. It also doesn’t lie in other people’s attitudes toward the authority over the world but in our personal responsibility. Owning the world is about owning oneself. No matter how much craziness there is out in the world, if you can shut the door of interruption and make a genuinely peaceful moment for yourself, then at that moment, you own the world because you only have a peaceful mind when you can truly own yourself. So, first of all, sit in a quiet room and do nothing other than just being quiet. Then, relax your mind and forget all the craziness around you. By doing this, you can let the nature of life be where it feels safe and comfortable.
During chaotic times, the powerful and wealthy want to take any opportunities they can to control others. They use all kinds of methods to force people to become their slaves. But those people never understand a simple principle: A sovereign who resorts to imposing rigid penalties on people cannot unify the world, much less establish a powerful state.
In nature, that which perches in trees builds nests, and that which dwells in water digs holes; wild animals fill their dens with grass, and people live in houses. It is suitable for those living on land to use cows and horses, and those operating boats for transportation to reside nearby rivers. Everything exists and develops according to their inherent nature, so why should we interfere with them?
Anyone who would like to use tea to achieve a peaceful life should return to a quiet lifestyle, respect and understand the myriad things, and pursue non-interference.
When a man is in great fear, he will become maniacal. If a man remains sad and resentful, he will become ill after some time; if a man has numerous likes and dislikes, disaster and trouble will follow. Understanding common sense and remaining unchangeable is the highest state of tranquility; resisting all kinds of desires and lusts is the highest state of placidity; not mingling with external things is the highest state of purity.
I have seen too many people who cannot purify their minds when drinking tea or eating food. Too many external feelings disturb them. They focus on their numerous likes and dislikes; they carry too many emotions, and day by day, their sanity slips away. They drink tea and eat food but don’t even taste it because their minds have wandered off; their spirit is not on duty.
If we can reduce our demands, eliminate temptations, exterminate desires and lust, and cast off thoughts, we can purify the mind. Once we reduce our demands, everything we need can easily be supplied; we will then be able to live in peace and purity.
Establish a quiet place for yourself, respect the myriad things on this planet, and don’t interfere with anything. Reduce your desires and purify your mind. These are the first steps to cultivating your inherent nature and the beginning of the journey to a peaceful tea life.
If you are interested in to learn more how tea nourishes our essence, Qi and Spirit, here is more info you can find:
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