The true meaning of ‘setting aside personal preferences’
蔡荣章 Rong-tsang Tsai
‘Setting aside personal preferences’ is important when it comes to appraising tealeaves – our preference for certain types of tea makes it hard for us to be objective and unbiased when we are assessing the quality of teas. The same can be said of Sans Self Tea Gathering. A participant may be served with four types of tea (if each person is served four cups) because there is no restriction on tealeaves. As such, we have to accept and appreciate the tea offered by others. Keep our mind and heart open, and ‘set aside personal preferences’.
Having said that, ‘setting aside personal preferences’ is different from ‘not being able to tell the good from the bad’. There are two sides to the idea – firstly, it refers to the absence of a very strong feeling towards what one likes and dislikes; secondly, it refers to the ability to rise above personal feelings when we look at, accept and even appreciate matters that are different from what we are accustomed to. In the world of tea, there are different varieties – green tea, pu’er, oolong, black tea, and a lot more. If you insist on drinking oolong and neglect green tea, you are depriving yourself of the beauty of green tea. Meanwhile, tealeaves come in different qualities, from unbelievably good to downright poor. Your may choose to take only tea of premium quality, but what if there is none? You will probably say, “Well, this is not my cup of tea.” Or think, “I would rather pass on it than corrupting my taste”. Some fellow tea drinkers declare, “I take only the first two brews (referring to small pot brewing)” just to tell the others that latter infusions are not good enough for them. This attitude has left much to be desired because it rules out possibilities. By putting themselves on a materialist high ground, they are imposing upon themselves a form of self-imprisonment – it is not uncommon to see some people bolstered by wealth, knowledge or moral authority staying in self-built prisons and act in stereotyped ways.
This will bring us to what Laozi said: Harmonize with all that is bright as daylight, and identify with all that is common as dust. By breaking down the barrier between the self and the world around – light and dust included – we will be able to feel genuinely free in this vast universe.
What we advocate is an open mind and an open heart. Appreciate different types of tea with objectivity. Accept tea of different grades. Take all infusions, first or latter, with pleasure. The study of tea may be about progress –better quality tealeaves, better brew and better tea-drinking environment. And yet, we should not rule out latter infusions of lesser quality tea (as allowed by circumstances) if these are made with one’s best effort. (1430)