The Tea Master and the Samourai


Lord Yamanouchi was an honorable Samurai warrior, skilled at intertwining his mind and body through the meditative arts.

No matter how many vile enemies he battled, his mind would always be at peace, ensuring that his sheer concentration would conquer all.

As a lordly man, Lord Yamanouchi had a tea master in his service. No one had ever before performed the tea ceremony with such quiet confidence, grace, and peace; in fact, the lord was so awestruck by his tea master’s perfected art that he bestowed upon him the rank and robes of a Samurai warrior.

Lord Yamanouchi frequently travelled throughout Japan, and he was always certain to take the tea master with him. One day the duo traversed to the cultured city of Edo, present day Tokyo.

One evening the tea master and some of his friends set off to view the city’s beauty. As they walked through the streets they encountered two Samurai warriors. The tea master and his friends immediately parted ways in deference to the warriors. The tea master, standing in the gutter, quietly bowed as one of the warriors passed him by. The other warrior, however, stood steadfastly in the road glaring incredulously at the tea master. This warrior could not believe that a genuine Samurai brother would act so meekly, and the longer he looked at the tea master submissively bowing in the gutter, the more his anger grew.

“Tell me, strange one, where are you from and what is your rank,” the warrior demanded.

The tea master humbly replied, “It is my honor to serve Lord Yamanouchi and I am his master in the way of the tea.”

When the Samurai discovered that it was a mere tea master within the sacred robes, his fury reached its zenith. He would teach this lowly tea pourer the respect the Samurai deserved, so the warrior challenged him to duel the following day.

Utterly terrified by the prospect of battling a trained Samurai, the tea master returned to Lord Yamanouchi. He told him about the impending duel and asked his master to teach him how to die with the honor of a Samurai.

Lord Yamanouchi replied, “I will teach you all you require, but first, I ask that you perform the way of the tea for me one last time.”

Of course the tea master agreed to the request, performing the rite with an inner peace and humility of a true master. When the tea ceremony was complete,

“There you have it”, the Samurai told the Tea Master, “no need to learn anything in the way of death. Your state of mind when you perform the tea ceremony is all that is required.  Just hold your sword like you hold your teapot.”

The tea master could not comprehend how his respectful ceremony would prepare him for battle, but he took his master’s words to heart and prepared for tomorrow.

That following morning when he met his opponent, the tea master performed exactly as his Samurai master had instructed. The opposing Samurai had expected to see a quivering wreck of nerves, but instead his eyes fell upon a quietly confident, unswerving opponent. In fact, he thought that this was an entirely different man than the one he’d encountered in the gutter yesterday. So awed was he by the man before him that he bowed respectfully, asked for forgiveness, and retreated from the battle without even raising his sword.


photo credit: Edwin1710 via photopin cc

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