Nov 21, 2007

The Samurai and the Tea Master

A long time ago there lived a Tea Master. He was an elderly, small and frail man. He was known throughout the countryside where he lived for his beautiful Tea Ceremony. His work was so good that one day the Emperor heard about him and summoned him to the Palace to perform this special ceremony.

The quiet, little Tea Master received this invitation from the Emperor. He packed his belongings, placed them on his back and started on a long journey by foot to the Palace.

After many long days the little man arrived and performed the ceremony for the Emperor. The Emperor was so impressed! He presented the Tea Master with the highest honor that he was allowed. He presented him with the two Japanese swords of the Samurai.

The Tea Master accepted the swords. He bowed to the emperor, placed the swords on his back, picked up his belongings and started his journey home.

Two days later the little man was walking through a small country village when he was spotted by the Samurai that protected that area. He was a great and powerful Samurai. At first the Samurai could not believe his eyes. Where those swords? What was this little frail man doing with them?!

The Samurai confronted the little man. “How dare you make a mockery of all Samurai! I can not stand for this dishonor. "

The Samurai challenged the Tea Ceremony master to a duel to the death with swords, and said: "Meet me here today at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and we shall fight.”

Honor would not permit the Tea Ceremony master to refuse the challenge, so he had to agree. But he was frightened, and went to his own teacher of Tea Ceremony, to ask him what to do. "I have never held a sword in my hand in my life," he said. "He will surely kill me".

The older Tea Ceremony master replied with a calm smile. "Do not worry," he said. "Go meet him at the appointed time, and do what you know how to do. Perform the Tea Ceremony."

At four o'clock, the Samurai arrived with swords. But the Tea Ceremony master arrived with charcoal, matches, a tea kettle, water, cups, and began to prepare the tea.

The Tea Master opened his tea container and the pungent smell of the green tea mingled with the fragrance of the flowers. Quietly and purposefully, the tea master scooped a small amount of green tea into a cup. With the ladle he dipped hot water from the kettle and poured it onto the tea. The Samurai watched, caught up in the quiet intensity of the tea master’s movements. Taking the whisk, the tea master applied it vigorously until the tea foamed. Then bowing with complete calmness, the tea master handed the cup to the Samurai.

The Samurai sipped the tea properly. When he finished, he said to the Tea Master: "I am defeated. You have united body and soul so perfectly, you defeated me. The only thing I can honorably do to a man like you is ask you to teach me. Will you instruct me in the ways of the tea ceremony?"

“Of course,” said the Tea Master. “Meet me at sunset tomorrow.”


  1. Maybe you are familiar with this well travelled story (and its many variations) as well:

    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.

  2. Thanks Rich for stopping by. I love these stories about the Samurai and tea master. Do you have any more? Thank you for sharing.