Beautiful Imperfection

March 25, 2020

This is a picture of my tea bowl.  Whenever I am working and feeling a bit tired, I bring out my tea bowl and make a bowl of matcha. The tea perks me up and I am regenerated and am able to work on.  I love matcha the tea that is typically served at a tea ceremony.  Chanoyu or the art of tea is a very elaborate ceremony full of beauty and ritual.  I understand that one purpose of the tea ceremony is to lose oneself in the highly ritualization of making tea.

I for one enjoy the flavor of  the tea and I  love  my tea bowl.  It is one of several that I  own.  I have taken part in tea ceremonies, but never have taken  a  lesson in chanoyu.  One reason I love this tea bowl in particular is because it was a gift from a dear friend.  I also love this tea bowl because of the color and form of the bowl.  It is  full of  irregularites in form and  color. Upon close  examination, the lip of the bowl is not uniform, but is somewhat wavy.  The  color of the glaze is uneven around the rim. As I hold the tea bowl in both hands I can feel the uneven-ness, and I can feel the potter’s hands.

And yet, this bowl is so very beautiful and treasured by me.  As I hold the bowl, I can imagine the artist carefully creating the bowl with his hands, glazing the finished bowl and then submitting it to the earthen kiln where nature takes over.  For the artist, it is a moment of uncertainty.  The fire of the kiln takes over and what it produces is unknown to the potter.  Where nature takes over, is where the true beauty of the bowl manifests itself.  It is like the Other Power of Amida entering our life of imperfection creating the beauty of namoamidabutsu.

“Let us look at a beautiful piece of pottery.  Its provenance does not concern us. If the article is beautiful, we may say that it has achieved Buddhahood, for it is not man alone that may become a Buddha. A beautiful artifact may be defined as one that reposes peacefully where it aspires to be.  A man who achieves Buddhahood has entered the realm that lies beyond that of duality; by the same token, beauty is that which has been liberated-or freed-from duality.” Soetsu Yanagi


Rev. Shinseki