Tea Is the Hardware.

And We Do Not Want to Die Without Knowing the Hardware… Do We?


Have you been invited to a Tea gathering? If yes, you may have noticed the wet surface of stoned pavement leading up to the entrance. Uchimizu is the act of sprinkling water outside. In a Tea setting, it is one of the many gestures of welcoming guests: it navigates them through the gate to the entrance without someone pointing in the right direction.

So a host sprinkles water before his guests arrive for his Tea gathering. If it’s too early, the surface might dry up before their arrival, but if it’s too late… then it’s too late. Such simple act as sprinkling water can be complex when you have to time it.

Anyway, one day, I was told we were expecting visitors. They were guests of someone we knew; all familiar faces. I opened the entrance door, prepared a room for them, and thought it was all done. 


I was in the garden attending weeds when I heard someone call my name.  

“Oshosama is calling for you.”

I rushed back into the temple. It was about 15 minutes before the guests’ arrival time. 

“Do you know Uchimizu?” Oshosama asked.

“Ehh… yes, when you sprinkle…”

“Yes or no?”


“Have you done Uchimizu?”

“No” …was I even supposed to?

“Did you fill up the stoned basin by the corridor?”


The guests could be arriving in a minute, so I rushed back, grabbed a bucket and pail, and started sprinkling the path. 

“No need for such trickery” He snatched the bucket from my hand and poured it all over. 

“Don’t make it more complicated. In a zen temple, it’s all about standards (simplicity), not elegance”

A minute after I had gone around filling up the stoned basins to the top, so the water overflows wetting the rims, guests arrived and tranquillity was restored.

Oshosama called me once again.

He was in the hearth space, writing caligraphy on a big sheet of paper.

I don’t remember precisely, but I think he told me what it means to welcome guests. And said,

“Uchimizu, Tea and footsteps are hardware. Sweets, words and letters are software.

It’s so easy to get trapped in the software and die without knowing the hardware.”


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