Big in Japan: Green tea is good for the body and the soul

All this month, Big in Japan is bringing you a special series on Zen. From ancient scriptures and Buddhist mantras to austere minimalism and the sound of nothing, we’ll do our best to help you find your own little slice of inner peace and enlightenment.

Everybody knows that a cup of green tea (?????; ryokucha) is good for the body. High in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and a whole slew of anti-aging and cancer fighting compounds, green tea – a cup or two a day – will certainly keep the doctor away.

But, did you know that green tea is also good for the soul?

Believe it or not, the appreciation of this humble beverage is actually one of the key components of Zen (??). In fact, the Japanese tea ceremony or chad? (?????, literally ‘the way of tea’) has been strongly influenced by the core tenants of Zen Buddhism.

So, want to learn how you can turn an ordinary cup of Starbucks green tea into a vaulted object of philosophical admiration? Sure you do!

On that note, today’s post, the final in our special series on Zen, is all about the way of the tea.

The way of the tea or chadō is one of the most complicated aspects of Japanese traditional culture. Entire volumes have been written by learned scholars, expounding on the importance of every precise movement leading up to the first and last sip of green tea.

However, without having to dedicate the rest of your life to finding deep meaning in mere dried leaves, the take home message in both chadō and Zen is that new perspectives and insights on existence will lead you down the road to enlightenment. So, rather than just gulping down mouthfuls of hot tea in an effort to get your morning caffeine rush, slow down, and appreciate the beauty and sophistication of this humble beverage.

In chadō, each tea bowl, whisk and tea scoop is ritually cleaned before and after their use according to prescribed motions. This ritualized ceremony enables the practitioner to fully appreciate the amount of preparation that goes into making a single cup of green tea. While you can’t exactly replicate these motions at your local Starbucks, you can still find peace of mind in a seeping tea bag.

The next time you’re taking your teatime, stop and pause for a moment to reflect on the beauty in your cup. Green tea, served steaming hot without any milk or sugar, is a simple pleasure that refreshes the palette, warms the body, and tunes your mind into the ebb and flow of daily life. Considering that the key to Zen is discovering the Buddha-nature that inhabits the ordinary, perhaps Nirvana might truly be closer than you think.

Well, that concludes our special series on Zen (禅) – hope you learned a few new things! Be sure to tune into Big in Japan next month for our usual assortment of the weird, the wacky and the wonderful from the Land of the Rising Sun.

** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **