Nov 25, 2009

the Buddha in a cup of tea

Too worldly for a monastery,
I find Buddha in a cup of tea:
Up with the sunrise,
I sit alone in my cabin,
Mind washed by simmering water
Sound, like wind in the pines.
This is my solitary quest,
Buddha under the Bodhi Tree
Meditated for seven days,
Until a beautiful sunrise
Made him give up
The futility of revealing
What was never hidden.
I prefer a simple cup of tea,
Seven minutes to boil water,
Much easier than seven days.
Complete, unexcelled Enlightenment:
Of course, only if
You are paying attention!

The Four Noble Truths
First, suffering exists:
Why else would we drink tea?
A daily taste of paradise in the everyday.
Second truth: suffering caused by tanha--
“Self-centeredness, grasping, and greed;”
Drink tea and be ego-free;
Self dissolves in service to the holy leaf;
Guests arrive and Buddha meets Buddha.
Third truth: suffering can cease
The tea cup is a raft between
Nirvana and Samsara,
Neither shore more holy than the other.
Fourth truth: there is a way to end suffering,
The Noble Eightfold Path:
Right view: the beautiful leaves, the color of the brew.
Right intention: prepare a delicious cup and enjoy.
Right speech: no yesterday or tomorrow in the tearoom.
Right conduct: spontaneous morality needs no rules.
Right livelihood: honest, forthright, a good example.
Right effort: delight in details: gong fu cha!
Right mindfulness: care for another cup?
Right concentration: nothing but tea, yet tea includes all.

All of this called
The Middle Way,
No extremes:
Neither asceticism nor hedonism
Greedy people make insipid tea.
The overly patient brew it
Too dark and bitter.

Elaborating on obvious truths
Tea Buddha also teaches
Anatta—no self,
How can I know I,
Since I’m the one doing the knowing?
I am not I, and tea is not tea!
And anicca, impermanence,
The same guests, like the same moment
Never return—one time, one meeting.
Tea changes: white, green, oolong, red, pu erh.
Today’s Long Jing is different from yesterday’s.
And tathata—suchness, the beingness of Tea:
What is tea? Just this, just this, just this…

Kenneth S. Cohen

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