Traditionally there are two schools of Feng Shui thoughts in China: the Form School and the Compass School. The Form School often referred to as the Landscape School is the most traditional feng shui school. It focuses on assessing qi energy from the form of the landscape pattern as well as the form of man-made buildings.
In Seattle, an American architect friend complained to me.
“This Feng Shui is really killing me!”
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
He explained that a client from Hong Kong had commissioned him to design a house – and insisted that, for the sake of good Feng Shui, the door had to face south. But on that particular piece of land it made no sense to have the main door facing south.
Pu Yu (普雨法師) was the 133rd head master of Yungquan (“Bubbling Spring”) Temple on Gu Shan (“Drum Mountain”) in Fuzhou, China. Established in the Tang dynasty, this monastery has over 1,200 years of history. I formally became his disciple in the late 1970s, just a few years after the end of the Cultural Revolution. At that time, due to the long suppression of religion in China, the temple had few monks and hardly any visitors. As a result, I was able to enjoy quite a bit of time with Master Pu Yu during my stay.
Once I visited him in his private room while he was making tea, and he handed me a cup of steaming brew. The cups in the monastery were bigger than the tea cups usually seen in homes. It was a Song dynasty design, with a soft celadon glaze. I bowed, accepted it with both hands, and carefully took the first sip.
This was a special oolong tea known as “rock tea,” which has a bittersweet taste but a robust aroma with a hint of smoke in its flavor. While we had tea, I asked, “Master, what exactly is Zen mind?”
He smiled, but went on talking about tea.
After a while, when I had nearly finished my cup, I was about to repeat my question. He looked at my nearly empty cup, looked at me directly, and said very quietly, “So, do you remember?”
I was puzzled.
After a short moment, I asked, “Remember? Remember what?”
“Didn’t you just ask me about Zen mind?” he replied.
I tried to figure out what he meant, but was still confused.
“Do you remember the very moment you took the first sip?” he asked, looking right into my eyes.
After pausing briefly, he continued, “Do you remember that moment? Before you could tell whether the tea was hot or warm? Before you could differentiate smell from taste? Before you could tell what kind of tea it was? Do you remember that moment?”
As soon as I heard Master Pu Yu’s words, I understood: that moment is the state of Zen mind.
I looked at him and smiled in silence. He nodded and smiled back. It was but a brief moment; yet I have retained this memory for decades.
The foundation of Zen teaching is this: no matter where we are or what we are doing, we must fully live at that moment.
So, do you remember?
Mirrors are common household items. They are used for dressing, for reflecting more light and for creating the feeling of a larger space. But mirrors also have negative aspects.
Mirrors can create false images and incite chaos and conflict. For example, a bedroom with mirrored closets often creates insomnia. Also, have you ever noticed that if you talk with a friend while sitting next to a full mirrored wall, the discussion often turns into an argument?
Mirrors have become feng shui gadgets. Some feng shui schools claim that mirrors can deflect bad energy, draw good energy, and can even create an invisible opening when hidden inside a wall. These are just some of the few examples that some claim are the powers of mirrors. For the past few decades, as feng shui gained popularity in the United States, many have come to see mirrors as the aspirin of feng shui, possessing the ability to take care of all issues.
A mirror is a very ordinary object. However, there is much to be learned from it.
Mirrors have been used as a metaphor in many ancient teachings. The best known example in China is an event in Zen history. When the Fifth Patriarch was about to pass on the transmission, he asked all his disciples to present their understanding. The head teacher, Shen Xiu, wrote: “Our body is a Boddhi [wisdom] tree, our heart is a mirror, dusting it diligently daily, does not allow it to be covered by any dust.”
Hui Nen, a monk, working in kitchen, who did not know how to read and write, asked a fellow monk to write and present his understanding: “The Boddhi has no tree, the mirror has no platform, if there is nothing to begin with, how can dust rest anywhere.” With this understanding, He received the transmission and became the Sixth Patriarch.
A mirror reflects what is in front of it. When that disappears, the reflection also disappears. The lesson here is, when something comes, reflect and respond to it; when it leaves, do not hold on to it. Live in the moment, not in grasping after the past or future.
When people stand in front of a mirror, it reflects them. When a king stands before a mirror, it reflects the king. When a beggar stands before a mirror, it reflects the beggar. There is no discrimination. A king does not receive more, nor does an ordinary person receive less. A reflection is just a reflection. No matter who comes to you, then, you should treat them equally.
When a mirror reflects a color, the mirror does not change. The mirror maintains its original nature. As a person, regardless of how things change, one does not change oneself.
A mirror, an ordinary object, can be a great teacher. Isn’t that also true for all things around us? If we pay attention to ordinary things, situations and events, how much additional insight can we gain?
Blue Mountain Institute
With green tea as an innocent, energetic teenager, and oolong tea as a sophisticated, mature lady, there must be a father figure in the tea family; it is an assertive gentleman– Black Tea.
Black tea, which the Chinese call “red tea” because of its rich red color when properly brewed, is a fully fermented tea. With a strong full-bodied flavor and taste, black tea is the most consumed tea in the world. It accounts for some 70% of all production and consumption.
The process of making black tea is similar to that of making oolong tea, except that the tea is fully “fermented” by allowing the oxidation process to continue until complete. Originally, black tea was made only in China. But after 1830, the British successfully grew Assam tea in India, which became the world’s largest tea producer of black tea. Black tea cultivation has since spread to Africa, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other parts of the world.
The most famous black in China are Lapsong Souchong , Keemun, and Dian Hong. All Chinese black teas are enjoyed without adding milk or sugar, though many Westerners often do add them. Others enjoy their black tea with honey and lemon.
Full-bodied black tea is assertive, like a successful, vigorous gentleman. To brew it well, the water should be near boiling point. Relating to a vigorous, assertive gentleman is very different from relating to a teenager. It’s not just that gentlemen are unafraid of challenges; they prefer challenges. In the someway, black tea prefers water near the boiling point. If the water is not hot enough, many qualities of the tea do not develop. Like a vigorous, successful gentleman, black tea is straightforward and forthcoming. Unlike oolong, which can be steeped several times with increasing subtle difference, black tea does not gradually reveal different aspects with successive steepings. Every steeping remains the same (though it may become weaker). It is what it is, and presents itself fully from the beginning.
While a youngster can quickly lose the energy of youth, a mature person has endurance. In the same way, green tea may lose its freshness quickly, but black tea retains its flavor for years.
In the West, most black tea is sold in the form of tea blends, a combination of teas from different areas. This allows tailoring the blend to many different customer tastes and creates a more uniform quality. However, blending teas creates a loss of distinctiveness of teas produced at particular time in particular areas.
In a traditional family, in addition to parent and children, to have mellow and affectionate grandparents are an added blessing. In the tea family, there is this added blessing –- Pu-erh Tea. To be continued…..
“As a tea drinker, one comes not only to enjoy the beauty of tea drinking, but also to find that tea can be a path for self-cultivation and spirituality:
Through sharing: harmonizing relationships with people,
Through appreciation: inspiring self-improvement, balancing body and mind,
Through understanding: achieving harmony with nature.
Through tea, one can come to unify the subjective and the objective, matter and mind, self and other, humanity and nature.”
Excerpt from: The Essence of Tea by Shan-Tung Hsu
Yes, The Essence of Tea is published! To view the trailer on YouTube:
Human beings live between Heaven and Earth, nourished by Yang and Yin energy. The energy of Heaven comes downward from above, manifesting as sunshine, rain and so on. The energy of Earth rises upward from below, manifesting as food, water and other nourishing products. Heaven (yang) energy implies dynamic expansion while Earth (yin) energy implies collection, connection, cooperation and nourishment. Without the effects of Earth’s energy that emerges to balance the outward expansion of Heaven’s force, there will be conflict and strife. What are the most powerful factors in manifesting Earth energy, the energy of connection and cooperation? The answer is trees, forests and all vegetation. The places that tend to have more conflict in the world are just those
places that lack forests, or that have undergone recent, sudden deforestation. In modern history, there are positive correlations between the depletion of natural forests and the general level of strife and chaos in the world. This is the source of the problem.
In the arenas of politics, economics or other specialized spheres, there is constant effort to control chaos and conflict. The emphasis is not on how to solve the issues but on how to not create further problems. Due to this, there will always be an uphill battle to find a fundamental solution to today’s issues. From a feng shui perspective, the best solution is found in Mother Nature. We must look at it from an energy (chi) level. Chaos and conflict means there is too much Yang energy so it is necessary to increase the nourishing Earth or Yin energy or increasing energy for cooperation and support. How do we go about this? We must begin by planting trees and establishing greenery all over the world. In the meantime, where forests are abundant, water will be abundant. And water, to the planet, is like blood in the human body.
The global warming and the increase of CO2 is the modern urgent concern. While people search for different ways to find solutions, which are often complicated, we should just ask our Mother Earth for a solution. According to a scientific study, 20% of CO2 is attributable to deforestation, which is more than all of the world’s cars and trucks combined. Let us stop and take the time to think. How much of a positive impact will there be in solving the CO2 issue if instead of deforestation, we increased forestation?
In life, often the most ordinary things are the most unordinary and the most familiar are the most unfamiliar. For example, every day of our lives, we sleep and we wake up. Have you ever thought about how we fall asleep at night? Or what part of the body wakes up first in the morning? Do we wake up from head to toe or is it from toe to head? Or does the whole body wake up all at the same time? Have any of these questions ever crossed your mind?
We all enjoy beautiful things, whether it is a scenic landscape, colorful foliages in autumn, new buds bursting out from a branch in early spring, or a garden in full bloom. We can all appreciate the beauty in each of these images. But, have you ever stopped to think about how you enjoy these beautiful things? Do you simply stare at them with your big eyes? Do you just look at them casually, not giving much thought? Have you ever tried to communicate with them? Have you ever noticed your breathing patterns when looking at beautiful images?
The universe is an open system. This means that the process of exchange between us and our immediate surroundings to the greater whole of nature is a process of exchange that never stops. This exchange includes information and energy from all matter. However, most people have never received the benefits of a full exchange. What happens is we end up depleting our own energy more than receiving from nature. For example, as we look at beautiful scenery or even a flower, we are giving it energy which means we are depleting our own energy.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could constantly replenish our energy from nature? Just imagine that after a stressful day at work, you could come home and recharge your energy to enjoy your free time! Wouldn’t that be nice! Actually, this is possible. To gain this type of knowledge cannot be too difficult, or even complicated, as in nature, all things are easy and simple. We just complicate things on our own. Just imagine if schools stopped focusing on teaching only academic knowledge and instead taught useful living knowledge, it would open the minds of the youth. It would be wonderful if they taught how to receive energy from a flower, tree, mountain, ocean, moon or sun. I hope that those of you out there with such knowledge and wisdom will begin to write and share such valuable information.