The Prince and the Tea Master

There once was a vain young prince, who’s most proud possession was the greatest tea master in the land.

The old tea master lived a joyous and natural life in the prices’ hereditary castle, much what you would expect from a master of his great stature. Just one thing however was unusual. And that was that in all his life and training, he had never once stepped foot outside of his lords castle gates.

One day the prince was invited to a neighboring castle, and decided to show off his tea master. He began preparations for the visit and sent a servant to the tea master, requiring his attendance. The tea master immediately sought out his prince, pleading not to have to leave the safety of the castle. “My lord, I beg you not to take me, I know something awful will happen if I accompany you tomorrow.” The master could not imagine actually stepping foot outside the gates, never mind traveling a great distance to some unknown castle. But the price refused to take no for an answer. The tea master was mortified. He hardly slept a wink.

The next day, as they were about to leave the safety of his beloved castle, the tea master said, “My lord, last night I had a most terrible dream. I know that utter disaster and misfortune awaits me outside these gates. I beg you to let me stay.” But there was no changing his mind, and off they went.

As the humble master entered the gates of the neighboring castle, he turned his head to look back at the heavily fortified doors closing him in, when he bumped right into the most vicious mean looking samurai he had ever met. “Oh, pardon me, I am so sorry.” said the tea master.

The brutish samurai glared down at him saying, “You little fuck, who do you think you are. I’m going to cut your shrimpy head off for that!” “Oh no please, it was foolish of me not to look where I was going. Please forgive me.,” said the tea master with his nose in the dirt. But the huge samurai picked him up by the scruff of the neck with one hand and declared, “Tomorrow you meet at the river, crack of dawn. Bring your katana!”

Later that day the prince introduced his tea master to the neighboring lord, who in turn introduced him to his trusted majordomo. The officer could see the troubled countenance of the tea master and took him aside to inquire. When the warrior learned of the impending duel, he put his hand on the old mans shoulder, and then said a very wise thing, “This calls for tea”.

An hour later the majordomo bowed low as he entered the small tearoom, which had been meticulously prepared by the tea master. They bowed to each other and soon the great warrior was humbled to the bone at the mastery, the beauty, and the utter power in simplicity of each and every breath and gesture he observed and shared, in what would be the final tea ceremony. Then as the master offered the cup in a movement that was one with his mind, his spirit and body, his eyes held the majordomos, and the warrior was awestruck.

After finishing a few sips of the green brew, he looked at the tea master and said, “tomorrow, you have nothing to worry about. Take my sword, and when the samurai comes to you at the river, raise the katana, just as you raise this cup. Hold it over your head, and just look into his eyes.”

The next morning at dawn the tea master waited next to the river, and when he saw the muscled samurai coming, he grasped the katana with two hands and raised it above his head, focusing his whole being on the big samurai before him. Not a hair moved, he breathed the natural breath of a sleeping baby. His whole being was as one.

And the samurai instantly knew he could step no closer. He stopped and bristled, eyeing the tea master in front of him. “Mmmmmm, you are not the same man I met yesterday. I do not think it is wise for us to continue. I forgive you.”

Bob Toabe
MIT Aikido Club

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