Sen Rikyu, the 16th-century tea master who perfected the Way of Tea, was once asked to explain what this way entails. He replied that it was a matter of observing but seven rules: Make a satisfying bowl of tea; Lay the charcoal so that the water boils efficiently; Provide a sense of warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer; Arrange the flowers as though they were in the field; Be ready ahead of time; Be prepared in case it should rain; Act with utmost consideration toward your guests.
The enduring allure of the Way of Tea is proof of its profound meaning for people – not only Japanese, but people of all cultures. Having been nurtured on Japanese soil, it represents the quintessence of Japanese aesthetics and culture. But, over and beyond this, people far and wide have discovered that life is beautified by this way – by the spirit that guides its practice, as well as by the objects which express that spirit and are an integral part of its practice.
The principles underlying this Art of Living are wa, kei, sei, jaku or harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. These are universal principles that, in a world such as ours today, fraught with unrest, friction, self-centeredness, and other such social ailments, can guide us toward the realization of genuine peace.