Many of these sayings have appeared in the blog before, and students will recognize many of them from my own teachings. I have gathered them together to best of my recollection. I hope you can add your own “sensei says” in the comments.
The term “sensei” has been translated as “teacher.” Quite literally from the kanji, the term “sensei” means “one who was born before.” If there is great wisdom, it is gained through life experience and wisdom imparted by their “sensei” born before them, going back through 400 years of Tea tradition.
My apologies to sensei for any mistakes due to the differences in Japanese and American culture and language. I am glad that someone was born before me to point the way. These words of wisdom, were spoken to me in class rooms and tea practice rooms by sensei who cared enough to help me develop in Tea and in life.
On life and Tea:
Wa, kei, sei, and jaku are easy in the tea room. The hard part is making it essential in the rest of your life.
Tea becomes much more than a hobby or social event. It becomes a lifestyle.
Tea becomes the yardstick with which you measure your life.
The attitude of gratitude is essential.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Complete this moment before going on to the next.
Don’t expect, just adjust.
Tea is where you realize your own religious beliefs.
What makes us uncomfortable makes us stronger.
People who endure hardship in life become tougher, like misshapen charcoal, they last longer than those with an easy life who burn out quickly.
Tea is movement. It gets us out of our heads, into our bodies, so we can touch our souls.
You can not learn Tea by reading a book. You learn Tea by training your body and to do it well, you must do it at least a thousand times.
Every time you do Tea, you learn something about yourself, even though you may have done it many, many times before.
Tea is not a thing to learn from teachers. The things you seek are already within you.
The existence of the teacher is more important than what he/she says, does or writes.
Learn with more than your brain. Observe, train your body, ask your spirit and relate to your guest.
Before you ask your teacher a question, look and observe. Try to figure it out on your own. You learn so much more that way.
On making mistakes:
You can do nothing right in class, but in chaji (formal tea gathering)you can do nothing wrong.
If you are going to make a mistake, make it beautifully.
There is no going back, just move forward.
There is no such thing as the perfect temae (procedure for making tea). Doing it perfectly is not the heart of Tea. Doing it as if it was the first time, finding interest and excitement like finding interst in your life, to avoid being jaded, that is the true heart of Tea.
The Tea room is a place where we abandon shame. Do not be afraid to make mistakes if you want to learn.
When you have mastered the forms, then you become free from the forms.
Learn the kata (form). When you know it thoroughly it becomes your katachi (style).
The body learns the form: it learns the discipline until it goes beyond the rules and becomes natural.
First master the form. The form is a vessel for the content. You need a strong vessel to hold what goes inside or it leaks away.
Awareness is not concentration. Tea is training in awareness
Tea training also teaches us how to receive.
Every time you make a bowl of Tea, it is not practice Tea it is the real Tea.
In training for Tea heart and spirit, as you gain maturity, learning and knowledge, the rules and guidelines change into a total experience of life.
The most difficult training is not temae, but to watch your mind and your behavior when you encounter nasty tasks and people.
Every difficulty you encounter is good training for you.
On doing the work:
Do the work. Tea is not for the lazy.
There are no trivial tasks in Tea.
There are no shortcuts in Tea.
Cleaning is 80% of Tea.
No matter how accomplished you get to be in Tea, cleaning the toilet is always the host’s job.
The mizuya (preparation room)should be clean enough to eat off the floor.
The mizuya (preparation) work should be done as if it is temae (tea making procedure).
It is your own responsibility to get to the heart of Tea.
With Tea, we are sitting on a mountain of jewels, but you must do the work and dig them out yourself.
You should do everything right because it is the right thing to do.