Apr 24, 2018

CHADŌ and ZEN - talking about the impossible at SPIRU HARET UNIVERSITY

This time things discovered a hole in the time fabric and I found myself in a 1950 style auditorium, equipped with a barely surviving PA system and manned by an incredibly warm hearted personnel to whom I will always be grateful for guiding me through the ad-hoc learning of the technology.

With a smile on their faces and a warm cup of tea at the end, they surrounded me with friendship explaining what they believed was an error in the heating system, as the hall was a freezing trap somewhere, away from dusty, humid and very warm atmosphere of the streets of Bucharest on April 19, 2018.

I was at the STUDIO hall of the Spiru Haret University, in the centre of the centre of Bucharest, where I was invited to discuss about Chadō and Zen (two topics one should not easily dare talk about in public) thanks to the kindness of the management and in particular the willingness of a man of vision who happens now to be a good friend, doctor Matei Georgescu - professor at the department of the Science of Education and Psychology.

Dr. Matei Georgescu fights to bring back perennial values into the mainstream educational curricula. The injection of "specialisation" without the injection of basic human values tends to destroy the fabric of society. And we do not want that don't we?

Materialistic values, competition, quick fixes, the race for efficiency lead all to alienation.
Ignoring the food that makes man be human and the human remain human -  the exercise of the humanistic instinct and of the ability to appreciate, study and continuously grow the aesthetic and ethic values fundamental to our civilisation, leads us to nowhere.

Talking about spiritual values, today, when even the word "spirituality" became a confusing abstraction, used anywhere, from a lavatory, to a disco, to a menu of a new age restaurant, is either an impossible task or a task that has to be undertaken with a clean sense of humour and respect.
We chose the second option.

Chadō (the Way of Tea), and Chanoyū  (the Japanese Tea Ceremony), are about the heart and spirit of the Japanese people. Zen, the forever elusive and undefinable teaching, is the spiritual backbone of this Tea Ceremony and is a key ingredient in the fabric of the Japanese soul. Or so it was hundreds of years ago.

The key element here, and the purpose of the conference, was to walk, together with the audience, through the formation and the evolution of this spiritual backbone and to ask ourselves whether the values are today obsolete or just forgotten.
Whether the missing link which many of us feel inside, the seed of anxiety, the fabric of depression, is due to the fact that, while the values present in Chadō and Zen, are perennial, permanently next to us, human beings, we forgot about them, we do not know they can be resurrected, they can again be our friends.
Become again our friends, because while imbibing the morality of a Japan of the XVI century, they transcend the Japanese culture as they represent fundamental human values even today.

The poster, an enthusiastic impromptu of poster art, included all the information possible - nothing was left out.

And placed everywhere to complete the typical Romanian poster infrastructure:

The hall, few moments earlier empty and cold, filled with people who brought their warm feelings and curiosity. Not many people - you do not know what to make of such a title for a conference: Chadō and Zen today. But they warmed up the space with their sincerity and curiosity. A good bunch of people who joined the speaker in a genuine debate.

The Embassy of Japan, was always supportive of such cultural activities. Ms. Yukiko Yasuda - cultural attache and Mr. Takahiko Watabe - counselor / advisor to the Embassy of Japan honoured us with their presence. Mr. Takahiko Watabe offered an eloquent and well focused introduction to the role of the Tea Ceremony in Japan, underlined the importance of such activities and introduced the speaker.

A formal photo session took place prior to the start of the conference.

Sharing cultural values and trying to understand their dimensions, their true meaning, beyond instinctive immediate associations, is a key factor for a good cooperation and expansion of our cultural space. We look forward for more such encounters.

The local paper Opinia Nationala had a supporting review of this event which you may read by clicking on the image below:

Apr 16, 2018

MINDFULNESS visits Calea Victoriei Foundation

MINDFULNESS, a quasi untranslatable word (no wonder, as it has a quasi untranslatable meaning - could anyone imagine the MIND flattering itself, who would be the "flattered", who would be the "flatterer"? ) is the darling of the community of dreamers about the "DREAM" - growing larger and larger today, as the society grows weirder and weirder.

MINDFULNESS is the buzzword of today, replacing YOGA, MANAGEMENT, KARATE, FENG-SHUI, WASABI, ZEN-SUSHI, ZEN-SPAs and other attractors like these.
And, to drive all of us nuts, MINDFULNESS had a pretty noble origin and a very serious intention.

The intention of no one else but Mr. Buddha, many years back, was to structure and format a prescriptive WAY for those who like him, were searching for the Impossible, but lacked the good luck! A WAY to let all of us, hit by the thunderbolt of the Enlightenment, transgress somehow the world of Dualism, of the Subject - Object epistemological dilemma, and finally come to terms with ourselves realising that Impermanence is nothing but Impermanence and this is not too bad at all, as it is what it is.

To do that requires some sort of discipline and codes, lots of codes of prescriptive moral and ethical demeanour, the resources (internal and external) for dealing with RIGHT and WRONG. And of course the discipline NOT to LAUGH as in the end both right and wrong stop making sense or anything else.
All started with the commentaries and the texts interpreting the Divine Revelation of the Vedas and the Dharma. In these texts there was a MUST: always remember the Dharma. But how?

Well, Buddha pointed out to the Suffering as the source of all evils. The source of the Suffering was the Ignorance and Buddha passed the Mandate to control it and a Path to defy it: the Eight folded Path. Among the eight Commands - The Correct Attention, (Samma Sati), at the end of and endless train of translations and interpretations known today as MINDFULNESS.

The whole point is that the Path must be complete. Practicing MINDFULNESS alone, whatever resolution the meaning of the word brings to people's MIND, is a NO STARTER. It is like starting to build the house with the roof. But the today's community of SPA owners, HEALING aficionados, shrink gurus and management consultants have a different opinion.

The Spectre of the Palliative is here with us to stay. There is, a placebo effect. People do benefit sometimes from the effects of applied MINDFULNESS. This perhaps because there are also clever psychologists. In the end, a side effect: there is money to be made and people to be brainwashed happy.

Buddhism, Zen and Chadō are among those paradigms who provide a healthy space for the true practice of the eight folded path. Not only them. But they all point out to discipline and effort. A quick fix - the MUST of today, is not on their list.

The endlessly curious and eager to disseminate culture staff at the Calea Victoriei Foundation decided that an open discussion on this matter may a profitable humanistic and spiritual experience for their public.
And it was. On April 14, on a splendid spring day, our Urasenke Tankokai Romania - Luminis Association presented a conference on the TEA CEREMONY, ZEN and MINDFULNESS followed by the ceremonial serving of a cup of tea for the public. An interactive, intense and enriching experience.

Our sincere thanks to the Calea Victoriei Foundation for their amazing role in maintaining Culture on the pedestal on which it was always meant to stay.

Here are some photos from the event.

A bright room that makes you feel at home ready for its guests

The discussion warms up
The public, focused, gets involved in the conversation

Cristina, the Event Manager, makes sure ALL happens as it should: the right time, the right place, the right message

The discussions unveil a public eager to know, to ask, to challenge, to smile, to critique, to exist.
When we all conclude that MINDFULNESS is of great support when correctly understood and applied as a part of a whole and not as a separate quick fix, it is time to prove it: a good cup of tea will do it!

Many thanks to Alina, Cristina, Elena and Miha for their elegant presence and professional serving of the tea.

Apr 14, 2018

Hanami in Bucharest - organized by the Japanese Embassy

 Hanami (花見), translated in English as flower viewing, is one of the most awaited events in Japan and not only. This has been the tradition for a long time of welcoming and appreciating spring. What people usually do is to gather around the cherry blossom trees and have a picnic in which they enjoy food, drinks and of course sakura. 

14th of April was the perfect day to enjoy sakura trees in the Japanese Garden from King Michael I Park which was also the day when the Japanese Garden opened the first time after its restoration. Since sakura goes so well with tea, the Japanese Embassy gave us and our colleagues from Urasenke Tankokai Romania Association the opportunity to do tea for more than 300 guests. It was a fruitful happy tea day.

By Andreea Stanca


Mar 11, 2018

Chanoyu Demonstration at Ki Dental Clinic in Bucharest

You can find here a link to a small video from the demonstration:

Chanoyu demonstration @ Ki Dental Clinic

One sunny Sunday morning I was invited to speack about Chado and to perform a demonstration of Chanoyu at a dental clinic. One strange spot one could say. Yet, the dentist is a Ki Aikido sensei and is much in love with the Japanese values and culture.

The interest in Chado increased as we went along with the event. Many questions came from the audience about tea and about Japanese history and culture. I was lucky to have with me Mrs Nishiike Mayo, from the Japanese Embassy, who kindly helped me answering all the questions.

My choice for the scroll was: "Nichi Nichi Kore Ko Jitsu" or:  Every day is a good day

I performed a simple Usucha Hirademae. My guests were Mrs. Pepel Mihaela, dentist and sensei in Ki Aikido and Mihai san, the sun of Mrs. Nishiike Mayo, student in Chanoyu. My assistant, hanto, was Alina Cherata, also student in Chanoyu.

We all enjoyed a happy and quiet moment.

By Cristina Comanac

Mar 10, 2018

Diploma from the Japan Embassy

10th of March, probably a day to remember for our tea school. I can hardly grasp the importance of this moment, but I am grateful. The Japanese Government, through the Japan Embassy had the amiability to present our Chado Urasenke Tankokai Romania "Luminis" Association with a diploma that shows their gratitude to our efforts in promoting the Japanese culture. We are honoured and thankful for all their support in our activities! 

Their Excellencies Mr. and Mrs. Ambassador, the architect of the Chashitsu at MNAR and members of the two Romanian Tankokai.

Some members of our group, students of Chanoyu, in this sunny and beautiful spring day.

Mar 9, 2018

The Romanian Museum of National Art Chashitsu baptised with its first demonstration

"MNAR" - precisely the name of a Viking warrior or an Avatar from the constellation Cygnus Alpha XP-1549.
Well, not really!
This provoking name stands for the Museum of National Art of Romania. But stepping inside, in the belly of the former Royal Palace, gives you the chills of an incredibly touching experience. The sober, glorious and majestic display of confused monumentalism, (trimmed here and there by the presence of ginkgo leaves design metal lacing cage style elevators, silently moving you from a surreal space to another, as you submit slowly to the acceptance of being lost forever), suddenly changes its face, as it spits you inside another universe: a quiet, dust free, temperature controlled white space, a drop of the "impossible" inside of the "possible".

There, on its own, sleeping like a cat, a little Japanese tea house, a Chashitsu with its friend, Roji, the tea garden. The first such construction to ever exist in Romania, grace to an auspicious encounter between the management of the museum, the Japanese Embassy in Romania, a group of remarkably generous sponsors and the talented hands and vision of the Japanese architects and builders.
Never had such a thing been so close to the Romanian public, hands able to feel the texture of the impeccably processed high quality wood, the eyes absorbing the transparency and fragility of the Japanese Shoji paper, the air filled with the smell of freshly washed straws of the tatami. A strange thing, reminding us of the Japan of the XVI century and the birth of the most incredible tradition ever, the Japanese Tea Ceremony. What to do?

What to do? Well, try it out.
We, the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Romania - Luminis Association, had the chance, thanks to the kindness of the museum management and in particular the museum director, Mr. Liviu Constantinescu and Carmen Brad, art historian and the curator of the tea room, to offer a demonstration of a Chaji, (a gathering of tea connoisseurs), for the museum staff who worked with abnegation and joy helping to bring alive this incredible construction - the Chashitsu.

Below, no talk, just images to let you share a bit of our emotions during this brief demonstration. The photos are the results of the presence of the mind and the hand of Andrei Nicolas Stefan, whom I met by pure chance, well in fact by being impressed by his work, who accepted to record this event and whom I strongly suggest you should follow, if you want to be delighted by what we, many times, are ignoring: the beauty of lights, shadows, the eye catching relevance of the detail lost in the sea of the routine and the presence of the human spirit.

Mar 8, 2018

Tea at Carturesti on Women's Day

Carturesti, probably the Romanian version of Barnes & Noble's bookstore, organized a small event in their Tea Shop for the Women's Day. We've been delighted to share a cup of tea with all the readers present there and answer all their interesting questions.