Lingyin Culture

 Chan Tea Culture and Modern life

LY-Temple | 2014-06-29 | View: 3385

While growing and drinking tea is advocated in Buddhist temples, Chan masters integrate these practices with the philosophies of Buddhism and life. Thus, the idea of “oneness of tea and Chan” emerges. What Buddhism and tea have in common is that they are all about an experience which can only be taken in by savoring every drop. It is deemed exquisite to drink tea by sipping at ease, and it calls for a calm mind to seek tranquility, lucidity, and ease of ambiance and spirit. Tasting tea is a prelude to practicing Chan, while the latter is the aim of the former. Tea contains Chan within, while Chan is practiced through tea. Both of them are combined as one in harmony. They jointly promote the pursuit of spiritual cleansing and elevation.
Undoubtedly, an essential point of tea philosophy is to perceive the laws of the universe and the philosophy of life through the trivial. Chan requires concentrated meditation (Dhyamacron, jing lv) in order to attain enlightenment through ordinary things as well. Lu Yu, with his perception of life’s five flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, hot, and salty), used tea studies as a way of practicing Chan. Inspired by the Buddhist profundity, he attained enlightenment, and hence earnedhis title of The Sage of Tea. In The Classic of Tea, Lu Yu’s masterpiece, tea etiquette transcends into tea art and culture, which integrates material with the spiritual in harmony. Thus, it can be seen that Buddhism is not the only way to enlightenment. One can still attain enlightenment with an ordinary mind. The true meaning of Chan is revealed at such a “natural” state of mind.
As a venerable Chan master said, “The essence of drinking tea lies in the cleansing of the mind. So does the essence of Chan.” Generally, ever since the Tang and Song Dynasties, Chan has refined the quality of tea. Tea can wash away the fatuity of human mind and help people experience the world with a Chan heart. It is the oneness of Chan and tea that comprises the quintessence of tea philosophy.
The concept of oneness of Chan and tea, should it be truly realized, needs to be experienced by people themselves. Thus, it is believed that the integration of Chan and tea enables people to better nourish their mind by honing their own disposition. The experience can be brought on by the exercise of tea etiquette as well as the appreciation of poetry about tea. The concept to some extent contributes to the understanding of the meaning of life. Seven bowls of wine offer fine taste, while a pot of tea releases the true joy. Not understanding the meaning of millions of Buddhist verses, one might as well go and drink some tea.
In practicing Buddhism, one should start with an open mind. That is to say, be willing to taste all the sour, sweet, bitter and spicy flavors of life. Drinking and tasting tea are like practicing Chan. By doing so, one may relish various tastes of life and embrace everything, just as Maitreya Buddha does –“With a big belly, he accepts everything hard to stomach; with every kind smile, he smiles and laughs at anyone also deemed as ridiculous.”      
Like tasting tea, you can best taste your life with what you have already gone through. Investigating Chan is meditating on life. By tasting tea and practicing Chan, surely follows an enlightened life, a purified heart, and inspired wisdom.

Fine tea gives the relish of life to whoever tastes it. To those who are rich or petty, in favorable or difficult conditions, the fragrance and true color of tea stay the same. My friends, life is like a cup of tea, so just taste from a cup of Chan tea. I hope you can understand the true meaning of life.