Pacific Buddhist Academy students Kano Hashimoto (right) and Yuma Sky Tochika practice chadö under the watchful eye of Marion Yasui-Sensei (in kimono). (Photos by Alan Kubota/Courtesy PBA)
Pacific Buddhist Academy students Kano Hashimoto (right) and Yuma Sky Tochika practice chadö under the watchful eye of Marion Yasui-Sensei (in kimono). (Photos by Alan Kubota/Courtesy PBA)

Chadö Will Soon be Included in Pacific Buddhist Academy’s Required Curriculum

Kristen Nemoto Jay
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Today’s millennials can often be found with their heads buried in their laptop computers or mesmerized with their thumb-happy smartphone devices. So words such as “silence” or “mindfulness” in a classroom setting are often totally foreign to them.

That’s changing at the Pacific Buddhist Academy, the only Jodo Shinshu Buddhist high school in North America, where the “social media generation” is breaking away from their electronic devices and learning how to be “still” by participating in the formal Japanese practice of preparing and serving tea. The practice is known as chadö, the way of tea.

The course is proving to be an asset in the students’ curriculum. Josh Hernandez Morse, PBA’s head of school, says teaching chadö to students is in keeping with the school’s mission: “To prepare students for college through academic excellence, enrich their lives with Buddhist values and develop their courage to nurture peace.”

“I believe chadö has taught our students to slow down and become more mindful of the present moment,” Hernandez Morse said. “Obviously, this stems from Japanese cultural values, but I think American students can benefit a lot from the practice.”

Hernandez Morse believes that while American values — and teenage culture, in general — encourages individualism, determination and competition, there is value also in teaching humility and enjoying life’s simple things. From observing the beauty of the outdoors from within the tea room, to being mindful as a host, chadö can create great opportunities for learning.

“Some may not understand its mannerisms and formulaic methods, but I believe it builds knowledge for mindfulness and teaches wisdom about the present moment,” he explained. “Overall, I believe chadö teaches about the importance of the relationships that you build with one another, to be mindful of someone’s company and how your actions, or inactions, can affect them.”

Originally offered as an elective, chadö will become a required course for all incoming freshmen next year at PBA. The opening of the school’s new 12,000-square foot Harry and Jeannette Weinberg learning facility last fall made that possible. It included space to host chadö classes in a tatami-matted tea room that was dedicated last month. The tea room was given the name “Seifu” after consulting with the iemoto (grand master) of the Omotesenke School of Tea and the Omotesenke Domonkai Hawaii. The students put their learning into practice by preparing and serving tea to the guests at the opening program.

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Kristen Nemoto Jay was born and raised in Waimänalo. She recently left her job as editor for Morris Media Network’s Where Hawaii to pursue a freelance writing career. She also tutors part-time at her alma mater, Kailua High School, and is a yoga instructor at CorePower Yoga. Kristen earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Chapman University and her master’s in journalism from DePaul University.

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