Tea, Zen, and snow all come to mind during this time of year. It is a time that we all strive for peace around the world and send out our wishes to friends and family for that achievement. Tea has served as a symbol of peace, and has in a way been its ambassador, for thousands of years. Trade for tea has promoted more friendly relations between nations. Many an argument has been settled over a pot of tea shared.
As for snow, what is more peaceful than that pure field of white? Or mountain tops with their snow-capped peaks kissed by clouds? And Zen Buddhism, whose temples are often located on or near those snowy peaks, began in China and has been part of tea since humans began enjoying that wonderful infusion. Enjoy our slideshow of images found online, sip your tea, and read the rest of this article for more information about tea and Zen.
While tea drinking is important in Tibet, an important spot for tea lovers is the Jiuhua – Sacred Mountain in Anhui Province, China. There is a special tea named after it: Jiuhua tea (Jiuhua Fo Cha), with leaves that are a bit downy but also very green. As you watch those two-leaves-and-a-bud combos floating gently in your cup you will feel that peace descending over your whole being. Sip the infused liquid slowly and relish each drop.
The third photo in the slideshow is one that I found online; it reminds me of a story about tea and a teacher of Zen Buddhist philosophy. The teacher poured tea for a student but did not stop even after the cup was full. As the hot liquid spilled over the cup sides to the ground, the teacher explained that, like the cup, the student’s head could not be filled if it were already full of this and that. The analogy is a bit off, since the human brain has a vast capacity for knowledge, but the story is interesting anyway. To me, the point is to drink your tea from the cup before trying to pour more tea into it and organize the knowledge in your brain before trying to absorb more.
In China, Zen is known as Chán with a history dating back to the middle of the Tang Dynasty (circa 765 CE). Chán spread through neighboring countries via trade along the Silk Road and elsewhere. China underwent a cultural revolution in the 1960s where many things, including Chán, were suppressed. It has revived both in the nation of China, in the nation of Taiwan, and in the former British controlled Hong Kong. Chinese living in other parts of the world also follow it.
There seems to be only two major ways of practicing and understanding Zen:
- Pen chueh says that we are born fully enlightened to the realities of this world and an appreciation for all beings in it.
- Shih chueh says that we have this enlightenment but that it is hidden from us until we meditate and find it, achieving an awakening. Thus the stress put on meditation, usually involving sitting in a certain way such as the lotus position and focusing on one’s breathing as well as looking inward at your own thoughts and feelings.
The key to Zen – and in a way, the key to peace – seems to be simplicity. Tranquility and health are also part of that equation. To achieve these with tea, just follow these steps:
- Focus – no distractions, mental or physical. See and be the tea. Set everything else aside, at least for this short time.
- No hurrying – Our lives are pretty rushed, especially during the Winter holiday season. This little respite will help you catch your breath and enjoy all those bright lights and sparkle even more.
- Be healthy – This “time out” will be a more healthy choice simply by virtue of the properties in the tea you are drinking.
For your moment of Zen (in addition to the above slideshow), fill your teacup, sit comfortably in front of your monitor, and gaze at this image while sipping.
Wishing you much peace, enjoyment, and good health with tea!