The Wisdom of Tea

Who knew, in something as simple as tea, there would be so much wisdom? So much to be inferred from its history, how it is made, presented and consumed, that a whole creed could be made out of it. I randomly picked up The Book of Tea because I thought it to be nothing more than hilarity in a publication. Oh how wrong I was. There is a whole philosophy behind tea—Teaism. Beneath here are some quotes I picked up while going reading the book. Everything here is lifted directly from the book. These paragraphs do not occur sequentially in the book as presented here. All wisdom is directly related to tea: it’s preparation, presentation and consumption. All credit goes to Kakuzō Okakura, the author of this rather stunning writeup.

For Teasim is the art of concealing beauty that you may discover it, of suggesting what you dare not reveal. It’s the noble secret of laughing at yourself, calmly yet thoroughly, and is thus humor itself—the smile of philosophy.

In the liquid amber [tea] within the ivory porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of Confucius, the piquancy of Laotse, and the ethereal aroma from Sakyamuni himself.

The primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude necessities of nature. He entered the realm of art when he perceived the subtle use of the useless.

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.

Why do men and women advertise themselves so much? Is it not but an instinct derived from the days of slavery?

One can even buy Religion, which is really but common morality sanctified with flowers and music.

It is in us that God meets with Nature, and yesterday parts from tomorrow. The Present is the moving Infinity, the legitimate sphere of the Relative. Relativity seeks Adjustment; Adjustment is Art. the art of life lies in the constant adjustment of our surroundings.

In religion, the Future is behind us. In Art, the present is the eternal.

Truth can only be reached through the comprehension of opposites.

True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete. The virility of life and art lay in its possibility for growth. In the tea-room it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself.

Our standards of morality are begotten from the past needs of society, […] The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up the mighty delusion, encourages a species of ignorance.

Slavish conformations to traditions and formulas fetters the expression of individuality in architecture.


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