Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ichi Go Ichi E

In classical Japan a unique blend of visual artistry, poetry, philosophy and asthetic emmerged. Perhaps one of the more influential of the cultural phenomena to develop was the tea ceremony. In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or chado (茶道;also, especially at Zen temples, pronounced sadō?). Zen Buddhism was integral to the development of this cultural activity, and this Zen influence pervades many aspects of it.

Written on many calligraphy scrolls in dojos and tea rooms around the world is the phrase, ichi go ichi e, attributed to the tea master Sen no Rikyū.

Sen no Rikyū (千利休?, 1522 - April 21, 1591, also known simply as Sen Rikyū), is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, the Japanese "Way of Tea".

Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea; it expresses the ideal of the way of tea. Roughly translated the phrase means...

"one time, one meeting," "one encounter; one opportunity," "for this time only," "never again," "one chance in a lifetime," or "Treat each meeting as a one time meeting."

This phrase to me speaks heavily of the Zen ideas of being present and mindful in your practice. It says to me to be in the moment, to focus on the now and to treat each moment of training with the preciousness it deserves.

Quickly the floating world around us fades. Our teachers and parents wither and die, our bodies grow older, and even the young faces grow old before our eyes. Our time in our practice is limited and not something to be taken for granted.

Even within the practice every technique exercised is a precious moment, a gift of limited duration. Each moment comes but once. We have only one time to practice it and extract of much learning we can from each moment.

Alas we only get one life, and one chance to live it. If you have chosen your path as a person of Budo, each moment in the dojo, and in life itself should reflect this idea.

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