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#84606 - 04/20/05 06:19 PM Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


First I’d like to share a story to illustrate my point. It’s a long story, but I’ll paraphrase it to keep it as brief as possible.

The tale is about a samurai and a teaman. It takes place toward the end of the 17th century. Lord Yama-no-uchi of the province of Tosa wished to take his teaman on an official trip to Yedo. Lord Yama-no-uchi was a bit proud to have one of the best practitioners of tea ceremony in all of the nearby provinces, and desired to show him off. The teaman, however, was frightful of travel (as it could be quite dangerous in those times).

In the end the teaman was unable to persuade his lord to let him stay home. Knowing that he would be an easy target for ruffians the teaman asked permission to dress as a samurai so he could at least look tough and not dishonor his lord by being robbed. Soon he was outfitted with the proper garments and two swords.

Eventually on their travels they came upon another samurai who was suspicious of the teaman and wished to gain a bit of money through some careful manipulation. The samurai politely addressed him: “As I observe you are a samurai of Tosa, and I should consider it a great honor if you permit me to try my skill at swordplay with you.” Expecting the teaman to own up to his trickery and offer to buy his way out of the dangerous situation, the samurai was surprised at the teaman’s response: “Sir, If you insist, we will try our skill at swordplay, but at the present I am on my master’s errand. I must first make my report then I will meet you back here.”

And so they parted with the teaman’s promise to return. The teaman hurried back to town where he sought out a renowned swordsman who was the friend of his lord. The sword master listened to the teaman, who told him of his most earnest wish to die as befitted a samurai and thus cause no dishonor to Lord Yama-no-uchi. The swordsman said, “I will help you to learn how to die, but first serve me a cup of tea, as I know of your skill in the art.”

The teaman was glad to oblige because this was quite likely the last cup of tea he would ever serve. Forgetting all about his approaching tragedy he serenely proceeded to prepare the tea. The sword master was deeply impressed with the teaman’s concentrated state of mind, from which all superficial stirrings of ordinary consciousness were swept away.

“There you are!” exclaimed the swordsman. “No need for you to learn the art of death. The state you are in now is enough to deal with any swordplay. Prepare yourself for battle just as you serve your tea. Take off your coat fold it up carefully, then bind your head and tie up your sleeves. You are now prepared to meet your death. Close your eyes and lift your sword up high. When you hear your opponent yell strike him and it will probably end in a mutual slaying.” The teaman thanked the master and went back to the place he had promised to meet the samurai.

The teaman did as he was told and prepared himself for death exactly as he would prepare himself to make tea. Seeing this display of fearlessness and seeing no way to attack; the samurai was overcome. He prostrated himself before the teaman and begged his forgiveness for the crude request. The teaman nodded and the samurai quickly left the field.


On the surface it may appear that the story only deals with the idea of fearlessness. Do you not believe that there is more to it than that? The samurai would have no doubt faced many “fearless” opponents. The teaman was beyond just a state of fearlessness.

The Zen mind neither fears death nor wants life. Some Zen masters have described satori (enlightenment) in terms of life, that is, of birth-and-death which is no-birth-and-death. Or to put it another way the reality beyond what we conceive as birth and death.

If every living being has an instinctual desire to remain alive then how can the Zen mind rectify the idea that we must consciously eliminate the want of life? How can one embrace the idea of death if the unconscious mind will not allow it to do so?


--Dallas

grammar edit

[This message has been edited by Dallas (edited 04-20-2005).]

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#84607 - 04/20/05 07:47 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


I contend that when in the service of a higher cause (God, country, family, no cause at all) the mind is totally focused upon that one goal and nothing else. This total relaxation is Zen. It is more than simple fearlessness. Fight a man protecting his family, he will fight like ten. Fight a man who is protecting nothing, yet protecting all in doing so, and you face a thousand.

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#84608 - 04/20/05 08:30 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


Beautiful story, I believe I've read it before, but always a pleasure to read it again.

I am no wordsmith like many of the people here, so I will only put a couple snips of my thoughts on this story.

Be in the moment- no worries about the future, the past- only the now.

Be where you are- no worries about what's over there, what's not over there- only the here.

Mushin.

Joel

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#84609 - 04/22/05 03:54 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


Let me ask this:

Is it possible for the human mind to have no fear whatsoever of death?

If so is it then possible for the mind to be indifferent to the very idea of life and death?

--Dallas

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#84610 - 04/22/05 10:21 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Dallas:
Let me ask this:

Is it possible for the human mind to have no fear whatsoever of death?

If so is it then possible for the mind to be indifferent to the very idea of life and death?

--Dallas
[/QUOTE]

I think it is possible. The question is if it is healthy and productive during your life.

There are documented cases of fearlessness of death. For instance, mental illness, traumatic stress, and death acceptance of the terminally sick. These only show that it is possible...not a healthy way to pursue intentionally.

Here are two learned ways of acceptance...
Acceptance through understanding:
Death is our master teacher. By accepting death and understanding its full meaning, we acquire wisdom.

Acceptance through faith:
By accepting death through faith, we find courage, comfort and an undying hope.

By 'faith' I mean beliefs for afterlife. It does not matter what specifically those beliefs are, as long as they are genuine beliefs.

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#84611 - 04/23/05 10:51 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


To understand that death is an ultimate reality and not a punishment or some other delusion. We can learn to live our lives in this moment tending to this and only this. As we learn to do this we learn to live well, when we live well we die well. death strips away all of the delusions created by our ego. the non-reality of it all. if we live in the illusion death will be a scary event ,we will go down kicking and screaming . for when the delusion is removed the veil is lifted we will see the fallacy of living under the thumb of our ego. western cultures do not adress death untill we have to, at the time of grieving and sorrow , so our attitude towards death is dark and fearfull. read the incredible book by Sogyal Rinpoche "the tibetian book of living and dying" it matters not what your religious cast is, if you read it with an open mind you will walk away with open eyes.

May you life go well!
^gassho^

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#84612 - 04/24/05 02:09 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by JoelM:
Beautiful story, I believe I've read it before, but always a pleasure to read it again.

I am no wordsmith like many of the people here, so I will only put a couple snips of my thoughts on this story.

Be in the moment- no worries about the future, the past- only the now.

Be where you are- no worries about what's over there, what's not over there- only the here.

Mushin.

Joel
[/QUOTE]

I consider these simple words to have been quite soundly "smithed".

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#84613 - 04/24/05 05:29 PM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


We have addressed the conscious mind. One can remove the fear of death if the proper state of mind is achieved and certain realizations are acknowledged.

Now, how does the unconscious or instinctual mind deal with the idea of non-existence. Does not every living being have an innate desire to remain alive?

The perspective of the Zen swordsman may help us conceptualize the idea a little better.

How can the swordsman achieve a state of mushin in a life or death battle if the unconscious mind will not allow him to fully let go of the desire to live?

--Dallas

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#84614 - 04/25/05 09:20 AM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


Conscious mind, unconscious mind is understanding through duality.

No-mind is not no mind. In the state of perfect awareness fear does not exist. That is the attraction to martial artists...to be able to function in a hyper-aware state of fearlessness. To be able to do their job.

However, if you are talking spirituality No-Mind is only the beginning of the journey.

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#84615 - 04/25/05 11:11 AM Re: Zen and the death of a tea master
Anonymous
Unregistered


harlan, I see what you are saying about the duality of thinking concerning the conscious vs. unconscious mind.

I also realize that even trying to verbalize what we are talking about is difficult.

I think what I am asking is more of an exercise in exploring the philosophy of Zen and how that philosophy handles certain conundrums.

[QUOTE]No-mind is not no mind. In the state of perfect awareness fear does not exist. That is the attraction to martial artists...to be able to function in a hyper-aware state of fearlessness. To be able to do their job.[/QUOTE]

While I am aware that this state of perfect awareness exists, having glimpsed it myself, I'm having trouble seeing how this state is even possible (from a purely analytical point of view) if our brains are hard wired to resist death. Of course Zen thinking does not lend itself to analytical thinking, but I find it an interesting endeavor nonetheless.

--Dallas

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