Photo: Amazon

In this book, Kakuzo talks about Teaism. Yes, something like this exists. Some Japanese people have something called tea ceremony (don’t know if it still exists) wherein they discuss philosophy including the principles of Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Sometimes, they don’t discuss, they express this philosophy through non-verbal things, like drinking tea. Drinking tea is such a mundane thing, right? But these people have made it an art. This practice originated from Zen Buddhism. The author says that Zen places a lot of importance on ordinary and ‘small’ things. And it also places a lot of importance on subjective experience of an individual. It says that there’s nothing greater than your own experience, there’s nothing greater than your mind. Kakuzo shares a beautiful story to explain the philosophy:

Two monks are walking when one of them notices fishes in the pond. He says, “The fishes are thoroughly enjoying themselves.” The other monk asks him, “But how do you know this? You are not the fish so you cannot say for sure that it is enjoying!” To this, the first monk replies, “But you are not me! So how do you know whether I am wrong about my judgement about the fish?!”

He also talks about art. For example: Let’s say you play flute. According to Kakuzo, you are real artist if there are no boundaries between you and your flute. You don’t know whether the flute is playing the tune that you want or if the flute is directing you to play its own tune. If you let the flute play its own tune, then you will create magic.

It’s unbelievable because I wasn’t expecting to find things like these in this book. The author says that our deepest beliefs are expressed through smallest of the things that we do everyday (including the act of drinking tea). This book will definitely make you think about ‘ordinary’ things that you normally don’t pay attention to.

There are some boring things in this book too. There is a lot of east v/s west rant which can be a little annoying sometimes. But this book was intended for the Western audience, so I guess it is fine.

This book has increased my respect for Japan. Just yesterday I read about this train station in Japan, which runs for just ONE girl! Yes, this girl travels to go to her school and she is the only passenger (Check the inspire story here).  I recently read about its female-only Otaku cafe as well (check this awesome story)!I hope I get a chance to visit this wonderful country.


2 thoughts on “The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō

  1. People definitely still practice tea ceremony in Japan! It’s a big hobby for a lot of people, and some people are professional teachers of the various schools.

    I like the fish story. It’s a good reminder that we don’t really know what’s going on in anyone’s life but our own.


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