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What is Fukusa, a silk cloth used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony?

In the tea ceremony, we use a silk cloth called Fukusa to "purify" utensils like Chashaku (a bamboo scoop) and Natsume (a tea caddie). The size is "sukoshi" smaller than 1 foot on each side.

When Fukusa is stored, it is folded, with each fold holding symbolic meaning.

First folded into two, representing "heaven and earth," then into four, symbolizing the four directions. The four-fold cloth represents the whole world.

Then, it is folded one more time; making the eightfold cloth. The eightfold cloth symbolizes Buddhism's Eightfold Path, wrapping around the entirety of existence.

The Eightfold Path includes

1. Seeing circumstances objectively,

2. Managing your thoughts,

3. Choosing right expressions intentionally,

4. Taking right actions,

5. Practicing good habits,

6. Contributing positively to the well-being of oneself and others,

7. Being mindful of the first six, and

8. Gaining clarity by paying attention to your thoughts.

The little cloth, Fukusa, holds significant symbolism. The tea ceremony is not just about drinking tea; it is a holistic experience that embodies principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

Rikyu, a Zen monk and the tea master, refined the aesthetics of the Japanese tea ceremony in the late 16th century. The use of fukusa adds an element of elegance and refinement to the ceremony, contributing to the spiritual experience for participants.

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