In The Zendo

Each issue we explore a bit of why Tea and Zen are of one flavor; this time with an article by Thomas Leons.


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3 Responses to “In The Zendo”

  1. teakid Says:

    Have you ever asked your ‘leaf’ whether you should be promoting her/him?

  2. issue7 Says:

    I can only answer for myself, and Thomas is a bit ‘off the grid’ and may take some time to answer: For me, it isn’t the “leaf” I am promoting as a product, commodity, sensual pleasure or hobby–it is the experience that I find the word “leaf” more poetically and poignantly expresses, rather than saying “tea”. One of my teachers wrote a poem in which he says (translated): “Good teas exist in this world for the sake of fellowship. Through the search for good teas people of tea are discovering their own spirits and tastes. Without the spirituality, tea would become a matter of ounces and grams–a superficial and material commodity only.”

    Sometimes I personally do waiver away from the confusion of promoting one instead of the other. I don’t know what to do. Is silence better? How do you promote the ancient and pure spirit of tea, without at the same time promoting the commodity? Sometimes businessmen approach me at expos or lectures and say “thanks for promoting tea culture” almost as if to *wink *wink, though my lecture just spoke of things from a very different perspective.

    Tea was for thousands of years a medicine, more in the Native American sense of the word, rather than the pseudoscience and sometimes founded/sometimes sketchy medical research used to market tea. It was medicine to help cleanse the body, especially of poisons in food or drink. More importantly, it is to cleanse the poisons from the soul. And once it gets wrapped in materialism, and becomes a pure commodity quality is overcome by quantity and what was a tree becomes a cloned plantation with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weed-killers, etc. And sadly, you can’t use poison to cleanse poison. There is no healing when the medicine itself is sickness.

    Perhaps Samsara and Nirvana truly are one. Maybe it is love that binds and transcends them–love even for the commodity and those who promote it, process it and even those who spray it with chemicals that harm themselves and the earth. Maybe we are as responsible for these brothers and sisters as we are those who are awakening, and should include–rather than exclude–them to affect change and bring about a new world.

    Alas, your question is too deep for me: how do we promote the one without promoting the other?

  3. stephenc Says:

    “One answer is this very tea. Another is:…” What a wonderful way to end this article! I very much enjoyed the idea that Zen is in fact nothing and at the same time everything. – the tea is sublime but just tea; the very suchness of it makes it both. That is going to take a good few cups of tea to think about. Thank you for your article.

    The paradox of “promoting the leaf or not”. Indeed a true dilema. As you said in a reply to another post in this issue, too much cha and it is all so mundane and too much dao and it is all too heady (sorry to paraphrase). I think the same is with promotion. We all know that most tea is indeed just a commodity and its use is subjugated to that of a drink. We who are here may see things differently and that is in itself a paradox. We want people to know about tea, to drink tea and to think about it differently. But want and reality is twofold. We may want that, tea producers may want another. Brother Anthony points out that many Korean tea producers do not make a living out of their production. A true paradox, and as Oscar Wilde said, the only thing you can do with a paradox is to live with it.

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