Tag Archives: Buddhism

#atozchallenge: T is for Tea

by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2018



From Cha’s Tea Blog; The Story of Tea:

In the early 600s AD, tea was introduced to Japan through contact between Zen priests and Chinese Buddhist monks. The Japanese Zen priest, Saichō returned to Japan in 815 after many years spent in China. He brought with him compressed tea bricks and tea seeds, which he presented to the reigning Emperor Saga. Interest in tea remained guarded and centered solely around the court and its high-ranking officials for several centuries, until the Japanese Heian era of 794-1185.

During this time, the Japanese Samurai class rose to power, along with a flourishing of the arts and intellectual pursuits, tea drinking among them. The Zen priest, Myoan Eisai introduced Chinese tea seeds and bushes to the island of Kyushu, and they were then transported to the outskirts of modern day Kyoto, where some of Japan’s finest teas are produced to this day. After many subsequent visits to China and a deep immersion in the tea culture, Eisai wrote, Kissa Yōjōki, translated as, “Drinking Tea for Health,” lauding the medicinal and health benefits of the ancient beverage. Many other writers poetically connected tea to the changing seasons and landscape.


From Britain Express:

Curiously, it was the London coffee houses that were responsible for introducing tea to England. One of the first coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley. He sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at six and ten pounds per pound (ouch!), touting its virtues at “making the body active and lusty”, and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age”.



Tea gained popularity quickly in the coffee houses, and by 1700 over 500 coffee houses sold it. This distressed the tavern owners, as tea cut their sales of ale and gin, and it was bad news for the government, who depended upon a steady stream of revenue from taxes on liquor sales. By 1750 tea had become the favoured drink of Britain’s lower classes.

Ironic, isn’t it? What first began as the ceremonial beverage of the upper class traveled around the world to become the daily drink of the common people. I love history!




Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Food, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, travel, Writing

Taking Inventory on Success

by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2016


Knee Update: As long as I stay off of it, my pain level is pretty low. If I’m up and around for more than half an hour, the twinges start. Driving is tough.

I go see my primary care physician on the 4th. “Hello, New Year! Do I need to see an orthopedic specialist?” Somewhere in the world they believe that what you do on the third or fourth day of the New Year indicates how the year in general will go. In pain? No thanks. Doctor appointments? Not a happy thought. Stoned on pain meds? Been there, done that. Tends to slow down my writing.

Speaking of writing, I would like to take a moment to review this year in terms of my career successes.

From Digital Fiction Publishing Corporation come these three titles:


Killing It Softly is packed full of horror stories by female authors including the amazing Nancy Holder! In this volume you will find my vampire story, “Saving Grace.” Historical fiction, this story features a Russian Orthodox noblewoman who is hiding out as a governess in the castle of a 14th Century French nobleman. A party of pilgrims arrives seeking shelter. Among them is a German scholar who has an unhealthy interest in the schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.


Uncommon Senses makes available “The Family Spirit,” my Christmas ghost story which originally appeared in Weird Tales. This was the first deliberately humorous short story I’d written. Reading it aloud at conventions is always a lot of fun.


This is the first short story I ever sold. Fallen Idol appeared in After Hours and was later reprinted in DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories XX. Many thanks to Michael Willis and the folks at DFP for bringing the story into the Digital Age!



From Transmundane Press comes this collection of fairy tales in the fine tradition of Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Sisters Grimmer. My story opens three years after the fairy gives the good sister the gift of speaking in flowers and jewels, while her wicked stepsister earned toads and snakes as punishment for her bad manners. “Happily ever after” is in the eye of the beholder!


Sky Warrior Press just released Alterna-TEAs, a steampunk anthology full of danger and excitement. Tea is the pivotal motif to every one of the stories included here. My contribution, “Tea and Trickery,” launches the espionage career of translator Lady Caroline Worthington when she’s recruited by the head of British Intelligence. There’s a nefarious conspiracy afoot intent upon sabotaging Great Britain’s efforts to bring steam engine technology to Japan.

Here’s hoping 2017 sees the launch of The Flower Maiden Saga!





Filed under Christmas, Conventions, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, editing, fairy tales, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, Horror, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, love, publication, research, romance, steampunk, travel, Writing

Dear Mr. East (Kyoto Day Two)

by Lillian Csernica on November 22, 2015




Higashi Hongaji, the Eastern Temple of the Primal Vow, and its gardens across the street from the temple complex kept Pat and me enthralled during our second day in the magnificent city that is Kyoto.  There is also Nishi Hongaji, the Western Temple of the Primal Vow.  The two temples have been awarded affectionate nicknames by the local Japanese.  For Higashi Hongaji, that is “Ohigashisan,” or Dear Mr. East.


We walked down one of the main streets to reach the temple complex.  Both our hotel and the temple were in central Kyoto, but that still meant we walked at least six to eight blocks to get there.  (We had not yet considered, much less mastered, the subway options.)  Major construction work on one of the buildings made a massive amount of noise.  That has to be hard on people who come to the temple to pray and meditate.

Photos really don’t do justice to the main temple.  The pillars are so big my arms could reach only halfway around them.




Down in the basement of the temple was a large amphitheater .  Pat and I watched an audiovisual presentation on a big screen about the history of the temple and its modern day events.  My Japanese is nowhere near good enough for me to follow the commentary, so I now have a lot more questions about the specifics of worship in Shin Buddhism.  I did learn a lot.  For example, I had no idea Buddhist services include choirs.  There were dozens of people chanting “Namu Amida Butsu” (Adoration for Amida Buddha).

2015-10-23 21.12.34

The Visitors Center. We couldn’t tell if the sign was an official pointer or just a polite suggestion.

The Visitor Center reminded me of the Department of Motor Vehicles here in the U.S. because there were four numbered “windows.”  I have no idea what the sign over each window said, but it’s safe to assume each window dealt with a particular purpose one might have for coming to the temple.

It was here that I attempted to do some serious research.  For one of my Kyoto-related writing projects, I need to know how a monk would address the Abbot of Kiyomizudera.  After a good fifteen minutes of trying to convey this question to a very nice young man named Toshiko who wore one of those black scholar’s robes like the men at Bukko-ji, I was struck by the realization that I was asking the wrong person the wrong question.  At Higashi Hongaji, there aren’t any monks.  Therefore there is no abbot.  My question was meaningless in the context of this particular sect of Buddhism.



Lesson to the gaijin: I watch too many movies.  I thought the monks of Zen Buddhism were what all Buddhist monks must be like, and I thought every temple must have monks.  Wrong!

Out of gratitude for Toshiko doing his best to help me figure out the answer, which he did, I gave him one of the “souvenirs of California” I brought with me.  It was a small pewter turtle with “patience” stamped on its belly.  (In Japanese, patience is “nintai.”  The poor fellow certainly had a lot of it!)  Toshiko asked me to wait a moment, then he dashed off.  He came rushing back to give me a bookmark.  On it was a photo of Higashi Hongaji, along with a magnifier for easier reading.  This is another excellent example of how wonderful the Japanese really are.  Gift-giving is a very important part of Japanese culture, with all its own protocols and nuances.



In the gift shop we found lots of incense, an amazing variety of prayer beads, and those colored stoles.  I was on the look-out for shrine tokens, the ones for long life, good fortune, etc.  Higashi Hongaji has temple charms, but they’re the kind meant to dangle from one’s cell phone.  That’s OK.  They’re quite pretty and I did buy one.

The gift shop includes an area with padded benches and vending machines.  Pat and I took a rest break there.  The ladies who worked in the shop were quite helpful, answering questions about the temple and even asking us about our trip.

We left the temple complex via a walkway across the narrow moat.  As I crossed the walkway, I looked down to see a koi as long as my hand and forearm put together!  That meant it had to be at least a hundred years old.  The koi was a solid shade of deep gold.  What’s more, three black koi swam with it.  My fairy tale-packed imagination promptly thought of them as a prince and his three ninja bodyguards.


I rushed back into the gift shop and bought a bag of cookies.  I don’t know what made those cookies special, but there they were.  When I came back to the walkway the koi were still there, looking up at us humans with that air of placid expectation.  I took out a cookie and broke off a small piece, then tossed it to the golden koi, who promptly ate it.  The black koi got their share as well.



I became aware of a Japanese lady standing next to me.  She was all excited about the koi, practically bouncing up and down.  I know a kindred spirit when I meet one, so I broke off another piece of cookie and offered it to her with a polite, “Dozo.”  That made her really happy.  I didn’t understand why until she looked down at the golden koi and began to speak.  I do not know what she said, but the formal way she called out and then tossed the bit of cookie to the koi made it seem like an important ritual.  The black koi backed off and the golden koi ate the cookie.  This made the Japanese lady even happier.  Something about the koi accepting her offering meant a lot to her.  With a big smile, the lady put her hands together in a wai and bowed to me.  I gave her a big smile in return.  I don’t know exactly what happened there, but I am positive it was something good.

Next up: More adventures on Day Two as we visit the Shosei-en Gardens!




Filed under bad movies, charity, fairy tales, Fiction, Food, history, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, legend, nature, research, travel, Writing

Guest Blog: Broken Glass by Melanie Spiller

by Lillian Csernica on January 11, 2015

I am very happy to present to you a guest blog by the multi-talented Melanie Spiller, a lady of great inner strength and a very big heart.  Please visit Melanie here.

Broken Glass

About a month or so ago, my dear friend Mindy came over for dinner. I served the meal in some heavy ceramic bowls that she admired and she asked where I’d gotten them. When I told her that I’d had them for many years, she said “the glass is already broken.”

I was mystified. She explained that in her household, dishes and such tended to break because so many people came trooping through, so she was always on patrol for replacements. She went on to talk about the Buddhist koan “the glass is already broken.” She and I agreed that it seemed to mean that no matter how much sentiment, nostalgia, or monetary value we attribute to things, one day, they will break or otherwise no longer be ours. In the spirit of Buddhist non-ownership and impermanence, it is wise to think of the glass/bowl/cup as already broken.
I did a little thinking about it in the next few days (Mindy is very wise, and she is always saying things that make me think for a few days), and then I forgot about it.

Then, I went to this little meditation group that meets in my neighborhood, and the evening’s koan was “the glass is already broken.” I’d already gone down this path a little ways, so I was delighted to meet my old friend in this way. Again, I let it resonate for a day or two (and I ate out of one of those bowls), and then it slipped out of my head.

Last Monday, I sat next to a stranger on a plane. We talked about our jobs, traveling, being vegetarians, his wife’s religious belief in the Great Spaghetti Monster, and we enjoyed a nice little conversation. And then, out of the blue, he said “the glass is already broken.”

The plane could have dropped out of the sky in that moment and I wouldn’t have noticed.

I had thought that the koan was about the intemperance of things, about falsely associating things with meaning. I had thought that I’d understood what it was supposed to teach me.

Apparently not.

In the last week or four, I’ve been feeling general dissatisfaction about some social commitments, some musical endeavors, and about my job. Oh, none of it was new dissatisfaction; it just seemed all to be boiling unpleasantly at the same moment. And in truth, none of those things are incredibly unsatisfying. They’re just going through a cycle of unpleasantness on their ways to being pleasant again.

But this expression, the koan “the glass is already broken” coming out of this unexpected mouth, made me realize that I’d been thinking in terms of physical things themselves, and not really about my own attitude toward them. For me, now anyway, this koan is about false expectations.

I expect to always enjoy my musical endeavors, my social engagements, and because it has been true in the past, I even expect to enjoy my job. But really, life is about change, not about stasis. We grow up, we grow old, pets, people, and plants die, people move away, move up, move on. There is no way to stop any of that, and there’s really no excuse for wanting to stop it.

My job, my social commitments, my musical endeavors—all of these add color to my life. It’s really not reasonable of me to expect them to add meaning. Sometimes they do, and for those times, I am grateful. When they don’t, though, there’s no sense griping about it. Change seems to be the only permanent thing, after all.

And someday, whether I own them or not, those bowls will break.

Thank you, Melanie!


Filed under charity, Food, Goals, Self-image