Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Day 17 Kyoto with Soren

Soren Bisgaard Sensei, yet another master from a different era. Spent the day at his beautifully restored old house in Northern Kyoto. First, I had to earn it. No one knew where his house was, even people who proved to live exactly 2 doors down. I walked around the neighborhood for a good hour before somehow finding it, after having inquired at the police station, old knick knack shop, about 10 passerbys, flower stall, and cab drivers. You would think any of these people would know their own neighborhood.
Soren was training a beginner student in tea ceremony when I arrived and I made him some Taiwanese oolong to mix things up a bit. There are actually two houses connected by a courtyard garden, and when his students arrived, they switched the tatamis to reflect the summer style of Chado vs. Winter, where the ofuro will now sit on top of the tatami.
Soren pulled out his latest creation, his prized tea scoop named 'hatsu enishi', or first affinity. Affinity in Buddhism is sort of like fate, where you meet someone and instantly you feel a connection on both sides. It could also be love at first sight. As a result, the tea scoop is yang on the bottom and yin on the top, curved vs. square, and dark bamboo on the bottom and light on top, all separated perfectly by the knot of the bamboo. Everything, you see, has such poetic meaning. Did you know that the yang hand is the left hand, asked Soren? I said I didn't know. He asked, 'do you know which direction the ancient Chinese emperors sat on their thrones?' I said sure, that's easy, they sit facing south, because the best feng shui is when you sit with your back to the north and face south. That means their left hand points to the east, which is where the sun rises, therefore making it yang, therefore making the left hand yang. Interesting isn't it? I thought it was at least. So the yang hand handles the yin chawan and the yin hand handles the urn full of tea, and full means yang. Anyways, ceremony helps us focus on a moving meditation. Use your entire body, not just your hands, Soren instructs his students. Otherwise your chi, or ki, or energy, collapses, and as a host you have invited your guests to receive an offering of tea, so if your energy collapses, then you are sucking energy, not giving! I said that is just like Tai Chi. In fact, Soren said, tea ceremony is a combination of Taoist, Buddhist, Confucian, Shinto, and even Christian philosophies!
The students tirelessly sat through about 5 hours of instruction. I had a great time observing, filming, and learning at least what some of the extensive nuances are. The flying arrow is the time when you practiced forever on something like archery, but at the moment you released your arrow in the air, you still don't know if it will hit the mark! So is like everything else in life.

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