A master of the tea ceremony in old Japan once accidentally slighted a soldier. He quickly apologized, but the rather impetuous soldier demanded that the matter be settled in a sword duel. The tea master, who had no experience with swords, asked the advice of a fellow Zen master who did possess such skill. As he was served by his friend, the Zen swordsman could not help but notice how the tea master performed his art with perfect concentration and tranquility. “Tomorrow,” the Zen swordsman said, “when you duel the soldier, hold your weapon above your head, as if ready to strike, and face him with the same concentration and tranquility with which you perform the tea ceremony.” The next day, at the appointed time and place for the duel, the tea master followed this advice. The soldier, readying himself to strike, stared for a long time into the fully attentive but calm face of the tea master. Finally, the soldier lowered his sword, apologized for his arrogance, and left without a blow being struck.

Eyes wide open, focused breathing, and a general calm, time seems to fade away to clearity, reactions happen in slow motion, almost like a dream. It’s that moment of calm, that the soldier saw in the tea master. It transends all activities, a face of concentration and tranquility. It’s a state of mind. The tea master did not possess the same skills as the soldier, however, his clear understanding of himself calmed even the most volatile anger.

– Keel Brightman

Tea Master and the Samurai|Keel Brightman

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