Thursday, March 1, 2012

Zen and Tea

I recently had a guest who came to the Zendo to discuss the matter of Zen. He was a well read practitioner who had some questions regarding Zen teachings and practices. I invited him into the dokusan room where we sat on cushions at a low table while I prepared tea. I offered that we would drink tea in silence, but he was welcome to speak while I was preparing the tea.

After the usual pleasantries, he seemed to get more comfortable and his questions began to be more pointed. As I poured the water from the kettle to the tea pot he said “I understand that you have trained in multiple traditions including Japanese Zen and Chinese Ch’an”

“This is true.” I confirmed.

“With Zen and Ch’an being so different, which do you practice?”

While thinking to answer his question, I selected four small tea cups from the shelf and placed them on the table, two in front of him and two in front of me. The tea was ready, so I poured a bit of tea into each of the four cups. “Please have some tea.”

We each picked up a cup and began drinking our tea. After drinking from the first cup, I picked up my second cup and began drinking from it; in turn, he did the same.

When we had both returned our cups to the table, I said “This is a very special grade of Oolong tea, how do you like it?”

“Very nice.” he replied with a nod.

“These cups are also special; one is made of Yi Shing clay and comes from China, the other is raku and comes from Japan. Did you notice the difference between the tea from the first cup and the tea from the second?”

“No I’m sorry, I didn’t notice any difference at all.” he replied.

“Nor did I….would you like some more?”


  1. Brilliant...:)! Cannot think of a better way of answering that question.

  2. You look like a roshi and you behave like a roshi. Sorry, Miles, it's "Roshi" from now on!

  3. I don't come for the tea... only the silence.