Tokokazari March 9, 2017

The paired hanging scrolls compliment each other in style and theme. Drawn by the same artist and mounted identically, the characters are drawn in a fluid, abstract style with brushstrokes that both curve and angle. The words of the poems, "dew majestic majestic," and "light there there," together evoke the first light of dawn on the horizon, illuminating the morning dew on the ground. Both of these subjects, dew and sunrise, are common natural phenomena; indeed the sunrise happens predictably every day. Yet, even something as common as the sunrise and as earthly as dew can inspire awe and grandeur. Both are ephemeral: as the sun rises and warms the atmosphere, the morning dew evaporates, and the sky's colors fade. We are reminded to appreciate these events, as all events, in the present moment. They are unique and will never occur in exactly the same way again.

As transliterated, both poems both use repetition for emphasis, with the syllables "dou dou" and "reki reki," respectively. Though not a literal translation, the translator achieves a similar effect by repeating the the second word of each poem, "majestic majestic," and "there there."

~ Jennifer C.


For this scroll Sensei left no translation for us as we viewed it. This reminds us that it can be easy to favor some details over others, keeping us from fully realizing what is in front of us. The absence forced us to consider the artistry, feeling, and spirit of the scroll, aspects that can be overlooked if we focus immediately on meaning. It pushed us to see an object with fresh eyes, to be present and appreciative of the moment and experience what it has to offer. This scroll is particularly conducive to this approach. Short, curving, drooping strokes capture the shape and sense of petals. A strong full stroke at the top contrasts with the smaller strokes to the right and the falling, vibrant stroke at the bottom. They radiate from a space in the middle, forming a bloom of ink and capturing the dynamic vitality of a spring flower.

~ Justin

Tokokazari March 2, 2017

To have a child-like mind, doushin, is to have a mind free of biases and preconceptions. A child’s mind is like a blank slate, unburdened by the weight of knowledge and experience. She doesn’t see the divisions and limitations that adults impose on their society; instead, she sees a simple and magnificent world, undivided and unlimited. She sees her surroundings more clearly than those who’s minds are clouded with other thoughts and worries. The blank slate of her mind can be easily written on, so the child is naturally curious and often amused. Every moment is an experience, every interaction a lesson. She has an incredibly unlimited imagination, capable of creating ideas and solutions. A child is happy to interact with the world, experiencing every moment with full emotions.

I try to emulate a child-like mind as often as I can. It’s important to be open to new perspectives and possibilities in my everyday interactions. When engaging in a new situation, I try to clean my mind of bias and keep my mind open. As for the curiosity of a child’s mind, I don’t believe that one can try to be more curious. Instead, I try to actively and frequently pursue the curiosities that I already have. Asking questions is important because it helps me learn new things every day. To have a child’s mind, I think, can help me live in a happier and more fulfilling way.

~ Itamar

Tokokazari February 2, 2017

“Gentle face, loving words”

Sometimes when people are stressed out or upset, they react with a sour face or say something harsh that can’t be taken back. I think that this scroll teaches and reminds us to be mindful of our actions because of the impact they have. Something as little as a smile or simply asking how someone is doing can really make a difference in someone’s day. (Conversely, it can also make someone’s day poor.) So being mindful of our surroundings and those around us by providing a gentle face and loving words will lead to a much better world. Also, it is more healthy for one’s kokoro when it is filled with happy, positive thoughts and able to spread joy!

~ Diana

Tokokazari January 26, 2017

Starting off the semester, we have a recitation of Rikyu's didactic verse: sono michi ni hairan to omou kokoro koso waga mi nagara no shishou narikere, or "To have the mind to enter this path is, indeed, to have an inherent teacher".

Just to dissect this a bit, we find that the word "path" is the same as the "way" in "the way of tea," or chado. The word "mind" here refers to kokoro, which may be translated not only as "mind", but also as "heart" or "spirit", and is a word that really encompasses all three. So then, what is this about the kokoro of those that study chado? What does it mean to have an inherent teacher?

Learning anything requires the communication of information from the environment into ourselves. In the traditional educational setting, this communication is between a teacher and the student. For chado, there is also a teacher to learn from during class. I feel part of what it means to have an inherent teacher is the capacity to teach ourselves more directly from the environment, from our own observations. That is, instead of relying completely on another person as our teacher, we are capable of reasoning and learning on our own.

Relating this to the rest of the verse, I feel like it's saying that the kokoro of those that study chado embody this quality of having an inherent teacher. It's a quality that certainly helps guide us along the "way" of chado, and perhaps something that guided us toward chado in the first place. One of the central tenets of chado is ichi go ichi e, or "one time, one meeting," expressing the value of the present moment. And to be in the present moment is to directly experience the environment around us from integrating all of our senses.

~ Felix

Tokokazari December 8, 2016

“Cultivation is unlimited”

It’s fitting that this scroll came at the end of the year. With everything that’s happened, one may feel like things are stagnating or even regressing. This is not the case as everything is constantly changing. It can feel chaotic but this means that there is always an opportunity to cultivate yourself and also the environment around you. The process of cultivation takes constant work and life is resilient even in the harshest conditions. Whether it’s planting seeds so that something will be harvested in the future or pruning and maintaining what is already there, cultivation is unlimited.

As another semester comes to an end, I look back and appreciate how much I’ve grown. Not just in the past two years since I arrived at Japan House and started learning tea ceremony, but as a whole person. (Japan House is quite the fertile environment for cultivating growth!) Even though the future is uncertain, I feel comforted that cultivation is unlimited and the potential to grow is always there even if it doesn’t necessarily grow in the way one envisions. In the past, I’ve sometimes felt stagnant or stuck on things, which frustrated me because I couldn’t force myself to grow exactly as I planned. Letting go gave me the ability to breath and I no longer felt trapped because I realized that all this time, I had more room to grow. Like a flower blossoming, I stretched out my roots and leaves and explored, which has been fruitful as I feel my kokoro has greatly expanded as a result and continues to grow.

~ Diana