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|November 24, 1997||
Buddhist monks take Hindu sages out for tea
For the delegates and local people who had gathered at the newly-built Balaji mandir in Modipuram, Meerut, it was an amusing sight to witness a cultural exchange where a group of Hindu sanyasins were guests at a Japanese tea ceremony.
The 30-minute function, organised as part of the third International Conference on the Great Religions of Asia, saw saffron-clad swamis, squatting along with Buddhist and Shinto monks, drinking green tea in porcelain bowls offered by half-a-dozen petite kimono-clad Japanese girls.
The ceremony, held in a small open pandal inside the temple precincts, was funded by the Modi foundation which organised it in collaboration with the World Buddhist Foundation. It began an hour before the inauguration of the mandir on Saturday morning.
Against the backdrop of traditional Japanese music, the tea was prepared by an aged lady sitting in the centre of the pandal. She was supplied with mugs of hot water in which she put sugar and maccha -- the green tea -- kept ready in a packet kept near her. The tea, prepared by mixing the three with a wooden ladle resembling a shuttlecock, was handed over to the girls who served it to the guests along with okashi, the dessert.
For the small crowd which assembled in front of the pandal, it was interesting to see the girls ceremoniously revolving the bowl thrice with the right hand before offering it to the guests.
The way the Hindu sanyasins held the bowl while drinking the tea, however, was not quite identical to the manner in which the Buddhist and Shinto monks did. While the Japanese religious leaders, squatting on their heels, drank it holding the bowl with elbows raised, the Indian sages sat cross-legged.
The sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti, Swami Jayendra Saraswathi, politely refused the tea. ''Iska hara rang kuch ajeeb lag raha he (I find the green colour a little bizarre)," he said.
Asked if the ceremony was in any way different when it was performed on the Indian soil, Thinley Gyari, a delegate said, ''We have the metallic pot kept above fire unlike hot water being stored in flasks as was seen here. Also, the chasu, the bamboo-made ladle used to pour water from the pot to the bowl, was missing here.''
Asked if it was not live music that was usually played at such ceremonies, the delegate said, ''Earlier we had it live. But now it is mostly recorded ones.''
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