Smells like Zen spirit

This weekend while waiting in the gift shop for my enzyme bath at Osmosis, I spied these nifty little Good Karma candles made by Zensual.*  I’m not normally enthusiastic about candles and gift shops but something about the colors and design caught my attention, and as I opened them up one by one to smell their scents I learned that I could identify vanilla, green tea, cherry blossom (okay, “flowers,” close enough), and lavendar without looking at the label.

It occurred to me that someone at Zensual had intentionally chosen the colors and scents to go with the concepts of “Peace,” “Happiness,” “Love,” etc. printed on the outside, and that three layers of symbolic associations were interwoven in each little package, perhaps reflecting some deep cultural understandings of how the world works.

When I picked up the little package marked “Zen,” I was delighted, because I wasn’t aware of ever having considered what the color or smell of Zen might be.

Is the color of Zen the black of the robes that priests wear or the zafus and zabutons they sit on?  Or is the color of Zen the brown of the smooth wood surfaces of the tans and the floors in the zendo? Or the yellow of the tatami mats in the Buddha Hall?  Or the reddish orange of the ceremonial altar cloths from Eihei-ji we use during the Full Moon ceremony? Or the pinkish red of the bougainvillea outside in the courtyard?

Is the smell of Zen the scent of specially-made incense from Japan we use in the temple?  Or the fragrance of the huge pink peonies that the flower chiden bought to display in the Kaisando for the annual Suzuki Roshi Memorial?  Or the lemon ginger, peppermint, and other teas and cookies we put out for guests on Saturdays at 11:00?

Perhaps you have your own color/scent associations, and perhaps they are different from the associations that seemed correct to the Chief Symbologist at Zensual when they rolled out this product line.  Let’s find out – here’s a quiz just for you!

Quiz:  match each concept in the left column with its “proper” color and scent

Bonus question:  which candle did Gretchen choose to buy, and on what basis?  (concept, color, or scent?)

Prosperity          Yellow                             Blue Lotus

Love                    Dark Blue                       Vanilla Orchid

Peace                  Dark Green                    Lavendar

Health                Light Blue                       Lychee Blossom

Good Luck         Red                                  Green Tea

Zen                     Lavendar or Pink           Mojito

Tranquility        Light Yellow                   Bamboo & Lemongrass

Happiness          Light Green                   Cherry Blossom

(ANSWERS: Prosperity/dark green/bamboo & lemongrass; Love/pink or lavendar/lychee blossom; Peace/light yellow/vanilla orchid; Health/light green/green tea; Good luck/red/cherry blossom; Zen/light blue/blue lotus; Tranquility/dark blue/lavendar; Happiness/yellow/mojito. Bonus question:  Gretchen chose “Prosperity,” on the basis of its lovely scent)

*Honestly, I have no idea who these Zensual people are and I’m not getting paid to plug their product.

About gretchen

Gretchen lives in San Francisco. She writes about Zen practice and mundane moments on a planet that is increasingly ... hot.
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