Roughly since the Tang Dynasty, drinking tea has been an essential part of self-cultivation. Chan-tea is a Buddhist tea ceremony encompassing “Chan” which means meditation, and “Tea” which includes preparation, presenting and drinking tea. Therefore, it is also known as Tea Meditation.
What is Chan?
“Chan” in Chan Buddhism means “meditation” and Chan Buddhists believe that meditation is the way to achieve enlightenment. “The Dharma lives within the world, enlightenment cannot be attained outside of living” Chan is living, we can practice Chan in every aspect of our daily life, whether we are making or drinking tea, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. With Chan, it means to approach our daily life through an internal peace of mind and reflect on our true nature.
How did Tea Chan come about?
Monastics have busy daily lives and after long hours of sitting meditation, naturally feel drowsy and distracted. However, drowsiness works against effective meditation. Tea is prized for its ability to ignite the vitality and strengthen the will. Besides refreshing one’s mind, it also relieves fatigue resulting from eating greasy food. As such, the tea became the ideal beverage to keep monastics awake and focused during the long hours of deep meditation. They also developed the daily habit of drinking a cup of tea after each meal.
Besides keeping the mind clear and awake, Buddhism believes that tea helps with cultivating the body and mind. Being mindful and focused, having a clear and clean mind, are essential in meditation. Tea, with its bitter flavour and cooling nature, is considered to aid in achieving such a state of mind. Additionally, the tea ceremony encompasses sight, sound, taste and inner thoughts, just as sitting meditation leads us to the Chan mind, so too does the tea ceremony.
The long history of drinking tea at temples allowed the masters to gradually combine their understanding of Chan Buddhism with tea drinking, eventually forming the Chan-tea culture.
As drinking tea became an essential part of Buddhism activities at temples, “Tea room” were formed as a place where Chan monks discussed the Dharma, and a place to receive the lay followers and distinguished guests. Generally, nuns and monks host their lay followers and distinguished guests by serving them tea in the temple.
Chung Tian Temple has a Tea room to welcome visitors. We conduct Chan-tea sessions at the adjoining Tea Chan/Meditation room. If you are interested, feel free to book a session with us. Refer to the poster below for our Chan-Tea schedule.