Meditation & Health No 9 - Table of Contents

Meditation and Tea-Drinking

      The Resident Head led the two new student monks to the lodging of the Abbot, a dimly lit and sparsely furnished room. Within the four walls, other than the Buddha statue obviously meant for worship, the only furniture was a soiled bed with broken frame. This was obviously the place of retreat for on ardent spiritual cultivator. Seated in the room was a skinny old man, none other than the Meditation Master of Zhao province. However, he was not adorned with an abbots robe. Instead, all he had was old, ragged commoner clothing, and his hair was grey. He was meditating with his eyes closed, as still as the statue of Buddha. His presence gave the sense that thousands of years of happenings were all captured in his singular thought.

      Stunned by the sight, the two students stood frozen, lost for words. The speech they had prepared vanished from their minds. Only the Resident Head stepped forward to greet the Abbot.

      The Abbot slowly raised his head. He opened his eyes and examined the two students. “Have you been here before?” he asked one. 

      “No, I’ve not,” replied the student, with respectful haste.

      “Now you can go and drink tea!” the Abbot instructed.

      The student was dumbfounded.

      The Abbot then turned to ask the other student the some question, “Have you been here before?”

      The student quickly answered. “Yes.” He was beaming with eagerness to relate their last meeting when the Abbot repeated his instruction, “Go and drink tea!”

      Puzzled, the Resident Head asked, “Why do both the newcomer and the old student have to do the same thing, go and drink tea?”

      “Resident Head! Just go and drink tea!” the Abbot ordered sternly.

       The Resident Head was stunned but quickly recomposed himself, an understanding smile twitching his lips. He led the students to the tearoom.

       One of the students exclaimed, ‘What kind of meditation practice is this? There’s no Buddhist teaching being given, no direction at all! There’s no sign of enlightenment. This tea-drinking is meaningless.”

      The other student, however, went into deep contemplation over the instruction for quite a while. Then he remarked, “Perhaps this is meant to directly penetrate our thoughts. A teaching without written scripture. If Abbot says to drink tea, I’ll drink tea. After searching in the dark I’ve found a profound teacher.”

      Whenever one is embarking on a path of leaning, whether following a teacher or simply letting experience be the guide, it is imperative to set aside judgments and preconceived notions and keep an open mind. Within simplicity lies profundity. Deep meaning and learning lives not in the elaborate and complicated, but rather in going with the flow with on attitude of calm acceptance.


Meditation & Health No 9 - Table of Contents