What are your views and Perspectives on Okuden ('secret') temaes?

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From a previous post on Satsûbako, an interesting issue on Okuden temaes was raised , and why they are kept as ‘secret’. Firstly, the translation of the term “okuden” is not “secret”, but oku (rear) den (transmission; teachings; tales…), i.e. the teaching of these temaes are passed/transmitted “by mouth” and more hardliner teachers of Urasenke would not even allow students to take notes about the steps of the temae.I would love to hear perspectives from other contributors, from Urasenke and other schools.

— Edit

(Answer has been cut from the question, and re-posted as a answer)

  • Admin Admin
    Can you split the question from your answer. That is either edit the question and remove the answer, and then add it as a answer. If you do not have enough point for edit I’ll do that part for you, but you still need to report the answer as an answer
  • fukuda
    I have amended it but I’m not sure if I understood correctly your request. Please feel free to just edit at your discretion.
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This was posted as part of the question, but has been taken out to make it an answer on equal terms with other answers.Fudoka if you would like to receive points for this answer, please re-post it as an answer and I’ll remove this one.

If you are a practitioner of tea that is not willing to go all the way through deepening your studies towards receiving the authorization to teach, most teachers would say that the 2nd step on the certificates (authorizations, in fact) called in Urasenke “Konarai” would suffice, once you learn 16 temaes (and its various variations), which are the procedures of tea that emerged from the highly complex temaes when temaes were firstly introduced in Japan, and digested by – more prominently – Sen no Rikyu and other tea masters of that time.

After the konarai, the next step is the Shikaden, which are the preparatory step to the start of the studies of Okuden temaes – Shi (4) Den (teachings), i.e. 4 teachings, which are related to how to handle karamono utensils (which now, what we use in the okeiko are all produced in Japan and not in China or Korea), using two tea containers at once etc., that are the foundations of temaes labeled Okuden, e.g. Gyo no gyo Daisu, Shin no gyo, etc.

Bottom line, these okuden temaes are a way to understand the roots and the foundations of the current temaes and procedures. Grosso modo, the okuden temaes are the ‘ancient’ forms of temae that are not those we perform in any circumstances other than in the okeiko. An example of that is the the use of the fukusa for karamono – that was once upon a time how the fukusa was used.

More than keeping these a secret, I think by not making okuden temaes of ‘public domain’ is the Sôke keeps it for those who are studying tea only, for deepening the learning of chanoyu, but not for “everyday” “any situation” temaes.

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The way I see it the secret temae serves a few purposes in our modern society. The main reasons I see for having these temae bee secrets are:

History

In Buddhism there is a mistrust of the written word. The teachings should be passed from teacher to student directly. This is also the way tea was thought in the past, but today you can learn a lot about tea from the books available on the topic. Yet there is, to my knowledge, no books describing the Shikaden and Okuden temae. So your only option to learn them is to have it transmitted directly from a teacher. Which makes these 9 temae in Urasenke the only temae to be thought in the traditional way.

Motivation

It gives the most dedicated students a sense of reward. They study hard for a long time and then they are admitted into a sort of inner circle of the tea community as they are given access to the “secret” teachings. Personally I found it very motivating. I can’t imagine that I would have taken extra Saturday classes for any other purposes except learning these secrets while I was studying at Midorikai.

Bonding

By having secrets that are only given out to the most dedicated of members you create a sense of exclusivity. This is done in many organisations from fraternities, religious orders to secret societies. By having some knowledge that is only available to a inner circle you make the inner circle more exclusive, and bind that inner circle tighter together. Secret handshake anyone?

Money

There is also a financial aspect to this. First of all the price for getting the permissions to study these temae is steep, especially in Japan. These prices might be outdated but they serve to illustrate the point. Getting a full set of nyumon, konorai and chabako cost 10.000 yen. Getting a full set of Shikaden cost 21.000, and 134.000 to get all Okuden (including the two teaching licenses) and finally 15.000 for Chamei. Looking at this increase in price it is clear that the school makes a decent amount of money by selling these permissions.

In addition since you can not learn the order of the temae by buying a 2.000 yen book and study at home teachers are able to charge more for the lessons. Many places Shikaden lessons are more expensive than nyumon and konorai, and Okuden lessons is even more expensive. In addition you could argue that since there is no books to study from, and each student has to make their own notes, you need more lessons to learn these temae than you would if there was books you could use. This again allows teachers to hold more of these expensive lessons.

 

 

  • Elmar
    It is true that you cannot now learn the order of the temae as specified by the various schools, but many of these temae were elaborated despite Rikyu’s attempt to simplify them all into the same pattern of gokushin-demae. In all the densho that have been translated to date into English, there are various initial arrangements using different shelves, etc., but once the bow has been completed at the beginning, Rikyu’s procedures were always the same.
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Okuden (奥伝) are the inner transmissions of a discipline. Beyond okuden, there is another level called kaiden (皆伝) that is transmitted only to the heir. In Urasenke, okuden temae are shin-no-gyo daisu, daien-no-shin, daien-no-so, gyo-no-gyo daisu and shin-no-zumi. Kaiden refers to Shin-no-shin daisu that only the Iemoto and eventually his appointed heir know.

One could agree and disagree that okuden temae exist only within the classroom. Nowadays, okuden temae appear during okeiko only but historically these were temae performed with specific utensils and in front of a particular public. All okuden temae incorporate dai-tenmoku. Before the Meiji Restoration, the use of dai-tenmoku was reserved to a court official equal to or above the rank of shôsanmi正三位. For an official below that rank, Omotesenke uses daikazari and Urasenke uses kinindate. Utensils once used for these temae still exist, though extensively in museums and some private hands. However, the aristocracy has ceased to exist which removes the raison d’être of performing these temae in public.

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In my opinion, 奥伝 okuden is better translated as “inner transmission”. It is not 秘密 himitsu which actually means “secret”. Nor is it “rear transmission” except in the sense of the northern building in 寝殿造 shinden-zukuri architecture which sat to the rear of the main building and constituted a type of inner chamber. The idea of “oku” is more of being privileged or being part of an inner circle or being held close. I was once honored at a restaurant trip by my poetry circle by the teacher insisting that I sit in the “ichiban oku” position. Regardless, “private transmission” might also be closer to what is going on.

The logistical situation for tea in North America is very different from Japan or even Europe with its comparatively tiny countries. It is very easy in North America to live distances from tea teachers which are functionally unimaginable in Japan or even Europe. I once had a Dutch co-worker in Oneonta, NY whose mother came to visit him. When he asked her what she wanted to do, she not only asked to visit the Grand Canyon, but insisted that as she was tired of air travel that they go by car. As I recall, her son obliged, but she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Consequently, I believe that we must be open to transmitting okuden in absentia in the wilds of North America, Australia, Russia, and similar places. This may be accomplished by teleconference or other means.

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Concerning “secrets” in the martial arts and in Japanese art forms in general. When the Tokugawas took power at the beginning of the 17th century, the arts had significant socio-political importance in Japan. Hideyoshi had been dragging his golden tea room all over Japan in part as an effort to establish his legitimacy. This was not a new phenomenon. A number of medieval Japanese art forms were patronized and arguably conjured into existence by the military class in order to assert their cultural legitimacy in opposition to the courtier class which owned classical art forms.

Regardless, Ieyasu sought to assert control over various art forms practiced in Japan and especially any which could be part of any sort of political power play. He did this by mandating the iemoto system. Under the iemoto system an art form had to have three things: 1) An iemoto with a lineage. 2) A theoretical work (the Okura school of kyōgen actors almost immediately scrambled to produce one of these), and 3) “Secrets” or an inner body of teaching. All of these were mechanisms for controlling art forms.

Another short note about martial arts. You will recall that “sword hunts” were already in operation under Hideyoshi and Hiezan was razed during the sixteenth century. Ieyasu was just much more insistent on reigning in potential opposition. He had just pulled off a military coupe himself.

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While I agree with much that you say I must respectfully disagree about a few points.

What every the translation of the terms, in Asian arts and martial arts there are always points held back as “secret” for the best students as well as to financially support the school. For the martial arts this also could take the form of self preservation. This sometimes has resulted in the degrading of the arts as they passed through generations. Of course in tea you have Hideyoshi’s restrictions on daisu that obviously had political implications as well. To this day at least in theory students without the licenses are not supposed to view these temae. Taking notes is not to be allowed in any traditional setting.

I would disagree that that these are only for Okeiko. If you have one of these utensils you should be using these temae. Of course we use Japanese copies for practice and the truth is that we are unlikely to ever find ourselves in a situation where we would participate in a “real” version as these sorts of high ranking utensils are so rare.
Satsubako is an exception. One would expect this to be done more often. In theory one might do this whenever a gift of tea is brought.
I once had a conversation with the head of an Omotesenke branch family. He told me had only done Satsubako only once when the head of one of the famous tea producing families brought a gift of tea to a tea gathering he was hosting.

Indeed they exist in the real world primarily as you suggest but they are real temae that are appropriate for and therefore should be used in the appropriate circumstances.

Two points of interest about Omotesenke. Satsubako and Karamono are sometimes done in semi public classes for instructors & teachers. There are only Shindaisu, Midare, Bonten, Daitenmoku, Karamono and Satsubako licenses in addition to the regular licenses; Nyumon, Naraigoto and Kazarimono.

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The point of ‘financially support the school’ was raised also by some other contributor on another post – I don’t quite understand it. Could someone elaborate on that? Thanks

  • Admin Admin
    This should be edited into the original question, posted as comment to the main question or posted as a separate question all together.
  • fukuda
    Dear Marius, please kindly feel free to edit, delete, amend my comments/questions. I may not have still gotten the rules of procedure here. Best wishes, Fukuda
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