Friends traveling far

Sowing the moon tea house, Green Gulch Zen Center

I just completed the week long seminar, Zen and Tea at Green Gulch Zen Center in California. The setting is serene and beautiful.  Walking to Muir Beach is something that just feeds the soul.  Waking the sound of birds and sitting zazen in the morning felt cleansing and empowering.

Thank you to all the sensei, Christy Bartlett, Alexandre Avdulov, Meiya Wender and Jessica Rosenberg for their dedication to the way of tea, for their generous teaching and willingness to share what they learned with all of us who attended.  And to all the attendees of the seminar, thank you for your support and help. Even though your legs were hurting during class, you offered encouragement and support.


One of the activities of the week was a chashaku carving workshop. Meiya-sensei had collected some truly wonderful pieces of bamboo the last time she was in Japan.  She spent the time before we arrived to measure, cut and split the bamboo. And she worked to thin the pieces and bend the curve of the chashaku by heating it and shaping it. All we had to do was take the blank, whittle it down to size, shape it, and smooth the final piece.

Even though I have had some experience carving chashaku, every piece is different. It has different grain, splits differently, and a personality of its own.  Sometimes you have to just go with where the bamboo leads you rather than try to fight it with ideas of your own.

After the workshop, I had the privilege to be asked to collaborate on a special chashaku by Janet Ikeda.  I had had met her before, but I had not seen her in more than 10 years. She wanted a chashaku to use for the Parents Family Weekend chakai where she teaches at Washington and Lee University.

She began the project by carving the sides down to the final width at the workshop.  After the seminar, I took it home and did the final shaping, and smoothing the back with sandpaper.

Then we had to name it. We came up with

“Tomo ari” (Friends of a like mind)

This phrase comes from an opening passage of the Confucian Analects. The chashaku name comes from the second phrase. First he said, “studying and practicing what you learned, is this not a wonderful thing?” Second, “when friends who share the same mind travel a long distance to visit, is this not a joyful thing?” The last part of the master’s words, “Even when I remain undisturbed if people do not recognize or notice me, is this not a sign of virtue?”

有朋自遠方来 不亦楽乎

tomo arite enpoo kara kitaru

mata tanoshikarazuya

I like that we met at Green Gulch to practice and study tea together. It is also a chashaku to be used at the University where people practice and study. And it is also true that friends of like mind who travel a long distance to visit is apt since many people traveled a long way to Green Gulch and spent a lot of our free time visiting and catching up with each other. And the third part, remaining undisturbed if people do not recognize or notice me, is very much a virtue in tea.

The bamboo tsutsu (case) was given to me more than 10 years ago by my very good friend Taikyo Nakamura who passed on 3 years ago.  I was saving it for something special.  It is my attempt to calligraphy the name and the makers on it. Janet is going to use it for the chakai coming up in October for the Parents and Family weekend at Washington and Lee University and now she has a wonderful story that the students can tell at the chakai.


Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: