Wa Kei Sei Jaku

Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity) are the four principles of Chanoyu as left by tea master Sen Rikyu (1522-1591). They are the principles that practitioners of tea endeavor to integrate into their daily lives. These principles are a reflection of the pure spirit and soul of Sen Rikyu. While not a true zengo (Zen phrase) these four simple words can be realized after much practice.

Wa (harmony) is the ultimate ideal for human beings. It is the positive interaction between the host and the guest in a tea gathering or among people in any situation in life. Tea is the sharing between the host and guest and is not a solitary pursuit. Harmony extends to nature, as well, and to tangibles such as tea utensils, everyday utensils and life itself. True harmony brings peace.

Kei (respect) is the ability to understand and accept others, even those who we may be in disagreement with. When we are kind to others, and can humble ourselves, we can receive respect. In tea the host thinks of the guest and the guest of the host. It is this continued sharing and consideration that makes the tea gathering both memorable and successful. Ideally, all are of the same rank in the tea room. It is important to treat everything and everybody with the same respect. Treat utensils of various pedigree the same. The price of an object should not dictate how it is treated. Extend a pure heart and true respect can be realized.

Sei (purity) is the ability to treat oneself and others with a pure and open heart. This is really the essence of tea training. This purity is not one of absolute cleanliness but one of pure heart. With a pure heart, harmony and respect can be realized. When the tea garden is cleaned ones heart and soul are also being purified. When one wears clean clothes this purity also exists. A pure heart is not showy but natural. Sen Rikyu's ideal of purity was the natural look of the garden after it was cleaned and a few leaves from a tree fell onto the freshly manicured moss.

Jaku (tranquillity) is the point in ones training and practice where a level of selflessness is reached. While on the one hand it is the ultimate goal, on the other it is the beginning once again. A true master reaches this highest level and then putting the ideals of harmony, respect and purity into practice, begins again with a fresh and enlightened heart. At this point the endless possibilities of life can be realized.

(calligraphy by Kankai Onozawa, retired Abbot of Jukoin Temple at Daitokuji, Kyoto)