The Samurai & The Tea Master

Today I would like to share a story about self mastery (gong fu) that stems from the land of the rising sun. Please note I have taken away some of the technical jargon to make the story easier to read (feel free to look up Kiri-sute gomen if you want to know more about dueling).

The story goes:

There was once a revered tea master that had perfected every aspect of the tea ceremony. His movements were graceful, precise, sincere and held great presence as well as reverence. For his mastery of such an art, his samurai lord granted him, a commoner,  the title of samurai and gave him the right to wear samurai robes.

Upon travelling with his samurai lord, the man decided to take some leisurely time off. With some friends, he went exploring when suddenly they turned a corner and ran into two grizzled looking samurai. The tea master, knowing his rank, stepped into the gutter to allow the men to pass as was etiquette at the time. One samurai passed yet another stood staring at him, wondering why another samurai would be so willing to step into the gutter and shame his own honour. He enquired about the rank and title of the man to which the tea master responded accordingly.

The samurai was outraged that a non warrior dared to wear the robes of a samurai and challenged the man to a duel claiming he would either die with dignity to honour his ancestors or die like a dog which would end the farce. The enraged samurai declared the location and time of the duel to the friends accompanying the tea master before storming off.

Though the tea master was flustered his friends encouraged him to relax as they would all donate their funds in order to buy the samurai off and ensured him that in the worst case scenario he could ask his samurai lord for help. Though these were options the tea master refused, he could not bring shame upon the house that had adopted him and would instead die with dignity. He approached his samurai lord and with great resolve – asked to be taught the way of the sword. The lord heard the story and asked the man to perform a tea ceremony for him and as the tea master was his servant, he had to comply.

The tea master gathered his tools and went into a calm state of mind, all fear and anxiety leaving him, he performed the ceremony with absolute mastery and reverence that he was known for. Upon completion his lord told him there was no need to learn the way of the sword and to enter the battle exactly as he would if he were preparing tea. Trusting his lord he would do just that.

The duel was set for dawn of the next morning.  The tea master approached the site where the enraged samurai was waiting. He entered the same mindset he normally would for making tea but instead of laying out his tools, he tied up his clothing for battle, drew his sword and held it over his head ready to strike with absolute clarity and reverence.

Seeing this man in front of him, the previously enraged samurai thought he had been tricked. No longer was it the meek coward that stood in front of him but instead a warrior with true presence. The samurai bowed deeply begging for forgiveness regarding his transgressions the previous day and promptly exited the dueling site.

The tea master had been saved by clearing his mind and entering the same state of mastery he knew so well from the endless amount of time he had put into honing his  tea craft.

This story reflects upon the idea of self mastery. It does not matter what craft you decide to hone, as long as you do so wholeheartedly it will come across in your actions. Practice hard and diligently in all that you do and the results will become obvious over time.

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