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White clouds

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When choosing the toriawase, the arrangement of utensils for a chakai, or chaji the first thing you should consider is the scroll.  It sets the theme for your event and gives the guests something to think about.  Most scrolls displayed in the tea room are zen phrases written by Zen priests, monks, or abbots.  They can also be written by Zen scholars, spiritual leaders or person of inspiration.

 

When we enter and bow before the scroll, we are not bowing to the scroll itself.  We are bowing to the person and the spirit of the person who wrote it.  We look at the writing, which may not be the most readable, nor the most classical of script, but embodies the person who wrote it at the time they wrote it.  Observe the darkness or lightness of the ink, the wetness or dryness of the brushstrokes.  Are the strokes bold or delicate?  Do they convey movement or stability? All of these things and more can be observed by just looking at the calligraphy.  And of course you can admire it as a work of art.

 

The scroll hung at Hatsugama this year was written by Eido Shimano Roshi of Daibosatsu.

It reads:  Haku un onozukara kyoraisu

haku-un

The English translation may be:
White clouds come and go of their own accord, or White clouds of themselves come and go

Like all Zen phrases, it may have many and deep meanings, so as a host, it would be good not only to read it when the first guest asks you to, but also to talk a little bit of what it may mean to you.  For example,

“White clouds come and go by themselves may mean that we cannot stop nature from doing what it wants, and in my life, trying to control everything is not productive, we have to let the white clouds come and go of their own accord.”

In the gomei discussions, I suggested that Zen phrases are good places to look for gomei.  “White clouds” or “come and go” can be used for gomei, and then you can recite the phrase from which the gomei is taken.

There is also a companion phrase to go with this one:  Seizan moto fudoo

seizan

The English translation may be:

Blue mountains by nature are immoveable, or blue mountains are steadfast

So if you hang the scroll haku un onozukara kyoraisu,  a very good gomei for the chashaku may be “seizan” blue mountains from the companion phrase, and then you can look like a sophisticated scholar.

As a reward for those of you who have read all the way to the bottom of this long post, I have a bonus for you.  Not all scrolls you may purchase on eBay have a scroll box.  To protect your scroll from damage and also to show some reverence for the spirit of the person who wrote it, here is a project plan for making a a scroll box of cardboard.  You can make it any size to fit your scroll perfectly. Then you can come and go as you please.

 

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