Sen Soshitsu XV, the Fifth Grandmaster of the Urasenke School, wrote this account back in the 1970s. It sat comfortably beside Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book of Tea on my shelf, and I think picking up one is a good enough excuse to pick up the other. Neither are long reads. They’re not similar in content necessarily, but both are introspective looks on culture and East meets West.
What Tea Life, Tea Mind really focuses on though is the Feeling of chanoyu, and the essence of what goes into the decisions that define the ceremony. It’s not quite a biography, and definitely not a guide, and I think it’s useful to stress that for those looking to get into chado and searching for a beginner’s guide. This is more an exploration of the feelings and motive behind the ceremony, and definitely not instructional. It’s a nice, short work that makes you stop and reflect on tea. I like those kinds of works.
Soshitsu starts with a recounting of his early life growing up under the tutelage of his father, the then-Grandmaster. Reflecting on Knowing his destiny from a young age, and later his own quest for meaning. He continues with a vague outline of the ceremony–but the focus is on etiquette and feeling and meaning of the choices. Later, he shifts into anecdotes, and a bit about the history of tea in Japan, and finishes with the qualities tea drinking should aspire to. All of this in under a hundred pages, and I finished it in about two sittings.
Copies of this book don’t tend to go over $20; I picked mine up for $10, and as I said, I think it’s as really nice addition to a shelf. It’s got a bit of the quotability of The Book of Tea.