INDIA: On the origins of TEA

T he discovery of tea, Camellia sinensis, was ever a story of many dimensions, and the telling of the tale depended on the leaf’s use as medicine, food, or drink. Due to the stimulant effects it was intimately related to deities, demi gods, and mortals. Actually, it makes sense from a scientific point of view. Most people living in ancient times searched for food to survive and for medicine when they were sick.

TheanineIn fact, the presence of a unique amino acid in tea, L-Theanine can affect aspects of brain function in humans, relaxing the mind without bringing on drowsiness. Further research has indicated that the combination of L- Theanine and caffeine (Tea contains more caffeine than coffee by dry weight), can improve speed, performance and accuracy in cognitively demanding tasks – the cognitive performance is improved and it can promote alpha wave production in the brain.

Bodhidharma, Chinese: Ta Mo; Japanese: Daruma 達摩,  was a Buddhist monk who traveled from India to China during the 5th or 6th century. Some thirty five years earlier, he was born a Brahman of the Hindu faith and a prince of the southern Indian kingdom of Pallava, Kanchipuram. He converted to Buddhism in his youth and was instructed by his teacher to go to China.

Read the legend about Bodhidarma in Japan

How Tea came to India

5 00 after Christ, the Bodhidharma took the vow not to sleep for 7 years. After 5 years of mental darumaimmersion it appeared that he could no longer fight the need to sleep. Knowing he would not be able to keep his vow, in despair, he grasped a couple of branches of the tree where he had made his camp. He put a few leaves into his mouth and chewed them. Immediately, Dharma experienced a refreshing and invigorating effect, his tiredness evaporated and he could keep his vow.

Wie der Tee nach Indien kam

I m Jahre 500 nach Christi legte der Bodhidharma ein Gelübde ab, 7 Jahre lang nicht zu schlafen. Aber nach 5 Jahren geistiger Versenkung jedoch, schien es so, dass er den Schlaf nicht mehr bekämpfen konnte. Verzweifelt und im Bewusstsein sein Gelübde nicht halten zu können, griff er nach ein paar Zweigen des Baumes unter dem er sein Lager aufgeschlagen hatte. Er stopfte sich ein paar Blätter in den Mund und kaute. Dharma erlebte alsbald die erfrischende und belebende Wirkung und seine Mattigkeit wich von ihm, so dass er sein Gelübde erfüllen konnte.

Como el té llegó a la India

E n el año 500 después de Cristo, el Bodhidharma hizo el voto de no dormir durante 7 años. Sin embargo, después de 5 años de sumersión espiritual, parecía que ya no lograba vencer el sueño. Lleno de desesperación y consciente de no poder cumplir su voto, cogió unas ramas de un árbol debajo del que había acampado. Se
llenó la boca con algunas hojas y las masticó. Poco después, Dharma experimentó un efecto refres
cante y estimulante y recuperó las energías necesarias para cumplir su voto.

Come il tè arrivò in India

I l Bodhidharma, nell’anno 500 dopo Cristo, fece un voto di non dormire per sette anni. Dopo cinque anni di riflessione spirituale peró, sembró non riuscire piú a combattere il sonno. Colto dalla disperazione perché non avrebbe tenuto fede al suo voto, strappó alcuni rami dell’albero sotto al quale fu seduto. Si mise alcune delle foglie in bocca e le masticò. Dharma fu pervaso dagli effetti stimolanti e rinfrescanti delle foglie e la stanchezza fu sollevata, permettendogli di adempiere al suo voto.

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REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

  • Harbowy M. &  Balentine D..Tea chemistry. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. 1997.
  • Porter Bill. The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma. 1987.
  • Dumoulin Heinrich. Zen Buddhism: A History. 1988.
  • Wikimedia Commons: formula of L-theanine, by Benrr101 (Own work).
  • Daruma as depicted in the Butsuzō-zu-i 仏像図彙, Collected Illustrations of Buddhist Images. Published in 1690 (Genroku 元禄 3).
  • CHINA: On the origins of TEA
  • *JAPAN: On the origins of TEA