San Self Tea Gathering requires full participation of all
There is a certain format to follow when we organize a San Self Tea Gathering. With simple tea ware for travelling, each participant is to be seated in a loop formation and serve tea in one direction for a pre-agreed number of brews, after which they will pack up. A key feature is participation of all – each participant will have to be fully involved throughout the tea gathering. This is why someone once concluded that a San Self Tea Gathering is an occasion when everyone brew, serve and enjoy tea.
When a fellow tea drinker wanted to organize a San Self Tea Gathering some time ago, he announced, “It is proposed that the occasion accommodates forty participants, among whom twenty will bring along their tea ware for brewing. The rest, who either have difficulty in bring their tea ware, or are not familiar with the procedure of a San Self Tea Gathering, will be treated as onlookers and served by their fellow participants.” We were dumbfounded upon hearing this, as it could not be further from the spirit of a San Self Tea Gathering. Firstly, such arrangement would have undermined the intention to do away with hierarchy – there are bound to be people who find it too troublesome to bring their own tea ware, and ‘privileged’ ones who think that they are to be served rather than to serve. As such, the Organizer need to remind participants individually to ensure there are enough participants bringing the required tea ware. The truth is if such activities are to adopt the name of San Self Tea Gathering, it is necessary for them to adopt the practice as well.
We may chance upon some friends while on the way to a San Self Tea Gathering. It is fine to ask the friends to come along. These non-brewing participants could draw lots for seating, and may be served tea by fellow participants. The only thing is the participants to their left (if this is the direction in which tea is served) would be served one cup less (since these are non-brewing participants). Meanwhile, for venues with a lot of people passing by, there may be ‘onlookers’ who are interested in the tea gathering. The Organizer may arrange for a presenter to explain the nature of the activity to these onlookers, and prepare some disposable cups for serving a couple of brews to them. Do note that this is different in implication from telling participants beforehand that some of them are exempted from bringing along their tea ware.
The organizers must be able to master the nature of the activities they are putting together; this cannot be truer than when we are organizing tea gatherings with clear ideology. A failure in presenting San Self Tea Gathering with integrity would make it very hard for newcomers to feel for it.