Lecture & Tea Gathering
XVI Grand Master Sen Soshitsu
National Gallery of Victoria
November 5-6 2011
‘ZaZen is still meditation and Chado (the way of tea) is moving meditation’ is one of the metaphors that the Grand Master used to describe the traditional Japanese practice of tea. Here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Melbourne Uransenke Tankokai Association, Mr Sen is the XVIth Grand Master in a direct line from the founder Sen Rikyu (1522-1591), and the first Grand Master to visit Australia.
A capacity audience at the NGV’s Clemenger auditorium listened in engaged silence as the Grand Master introduced us to the beauty and subtleties of Japanese culture. With disarming warmth, humility and gentle humour, and against the express instructions of his Zen master, he did speak of Zen and of his understanding of it: Not complicated but rather like a jigsaw puzzle comprising multiple pieces that over time fit together to make a comprehensible whole; an acceptance of anxiety and disturbing thoughts as part of the human condition, as our shadow, always there even when not visible, but try to extinguish your shadow and you extinguish your self. An evocative description of the life-death-life cycle of the seasons expressed the Zen sense of appreciation for the current moment captured in the phrase ‘ichigo-ichiei’ – one lifetime, one meeting.
This, and Melbourne, had a personal resonance for the Grand Master who recalled that Melbourne was the setting of the first novel that caused him to cry. An avid reader, the Grand Master read Nevil Shute’s ‘On The Beach’ at age 14 and was moved to tears. The final scene of the movie of the book focuses on a banner – ‘brothers, there is time’. Mr Sen did not connect the dots for us, rather left us with a space to ponder…in silence as we partake of a bowl of tea.