洗心：Senshin, wash & purify kokoro (heart)
In Japan, at the entrance of many temples and shrines, a large water basin is provided, which is called, mitarashi (御手洗). These two characters (洗心), or senshin, are often inscribed on the side of the basin. The literal translation of senshin is “wash kokoro,” a concept which originated in Shinto belief. It is a part of a Shinto purification ritual called misogi, a ritual ablution. This practice is part of everyday life in Japan, including bathing, watering the path in front of the house, even washing a car. It also plays a critical role in the tea ceremony in which the invited guests use water to wash their hands and rinse their mouths at the tsukubai (water basin) before entering the tearoom. The host also goes through the process of purifying all the utensils she uses for serving a bowl of tea.
A quote from Namporoku states, “When you visit Soeki (Sen Rikyu), you see that he, himself, gets the water to put into the basin. When I asked him the reason for it, he answered by saying, “In the roji (tea garden), the first thing for the host to do is to fetch water and use the tsukubai. This is an important principle for both for the host and the guests to follow in the roji and so-an (tea house). The basin is for all who visit this roji to remove worldly impurity.”
We can apply this purification practice not only to washing at the basins before visiting shrines or temples, or in the roji, but also when washing our faces in the morning or our hands during daily life. We are not only physically cleansing our face and hands, but also dispelling all of our defilements consciously, so that we can start the day fresh and new.
During this COVID-19 ordeal, we all having anxiety, irritation, frustration, and helplessness. Instead of storing these feelings away in our inner core, now is the time we should wash them away when we wash our faces in the morning and every time we wash our hands, which we should be doing to prevent the virus, as well as to keep fresh and clean our kokoro.
~ Kokoro message from K. Gunji
Tea students in the Urasenke Urbana-Champaign association