Gurdjieff International Review

The Way of Tea

Nobuko Somers

It is the master we have in ourselves that presses us to follow the way.


The sound of falling snow, like the falling petals of cherry blossoms, the falling powdery snow on the bamboo leaves or the falling peony flower, was presently changed to the sound of melted snow drops from the eaves of my house as the rays of the sun shone through the ‘shoji,’ paper sliding door. Then, I appeared to hear the excitement of my ancestors at the family Buddhist altar soothed by jossticks burnt by the passage of generations. The unreturnable time and place where I communed with nature and its beauty in my childhood return to life in me, beyond time and place, whenever it snows. It leads me to silence and gives me some feeling of sensation. Where does this come from? It is not my knowledge. It is my flesh and blood.

Now I am a humble seeker in this great city, London. What and where is the place of practical work? Is there any particular place to work? If there is, it would be the place where I had lessons of the tea ceremony in my youth. When I closed the brushwood, door of the gate behind me, there was the world of tea. While I passed, along the ‘roji,’ stone-paved pathway, to the tea house to be greeted by the tea master, I collected myself. Within making a cup of tea, serving it, being served and finishing the tea ceremony our daily lives are presented in a refined and simplified way. It is very practical and economical. Our master told us often, “In lifting heavy utensils you must maintain a feeling of lightness; in holding the lightest of whisks, you are yet conscious of its weight.”

‘Cha-do,’ the Way of Tea, also resembles Mr. Gurdjieff’s Movements. Without attention and awareness the way of tea-making does not flow. The room, with art in a multitude of forms permeated by aesthetic considerations, was harmoniously silent without tension. There water was boiling on the charcoal and I listened to the incense smouldering. The host and guests were performing their own roles. My heart, grown wild from daily life in the large city, Tokyo, was cleansed. Then something real appeared, as rare as my own experience as a follower of the Fourth Way.

In these circumstances I have been able to be closer to myself than in my daily activities. Can I create these places in my functional living? I cannot escape from this wild world and my training place is no other place but here. Then, how can I be sensitive and gentle to be able to perceive something happening internally and externally now? What is my payment to make a bridge between the internal world and the external world as our teachers ask? I think wherever I am, at that place where the two worlds meet, if I can stay in contact with both worlds and am able to share something in common with mankind during my functioning, this is the place of practical work.

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First published in The Gurdjieff Society: Report of the Council to Members, London, April 1996–1997, p. 22.

Copyright © 2013 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013