When Tea is Offered

Posted by on July 16, 2015

tea

Photo credit: Yao Xiang Shakya, efh ©

By Yao Xiang Shakya, efh

I came to love tea as a child sitting at one end of an old table and my mother at the other. She often sat facing the kitchen door while I sat facing her. We shared the silence over a cup of tea. The morning silence rooted in things being just as they are is the spirit of the mystical peak. It is the karma of when tea is offered. There was nothing else; no regret, no remorse. The distinctions were unnoticed.

The kettle boiled and steamy hot water was poured into a teapot full of black odd shaped leaves. Justice and injustice never were mentioned or even any consideration of vice or virtue. Nothing got counted for or against.

When she spoke to me she placed her hand on her hip to declare her given authority and say things in a riddle. I wasn’t surprised by them since I understood she wanted to say something even though the enigmatic words were unfathomable.  But her words somehow belonged on the table in amongst dusty plastic flowers, a soiled envelope with words from her hand… bread, milk and Newports and unwashed dishes from the night before.

The words fell off the mantle above the table from glassless prints of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  She mouthed them in the King’s English, bold and brassy.  I think my mother was forever making plans to find the truth in these bottomless words. It sounded important when she’d turn to me and crown my bent head with “The devil has your soul.” I figure these words were her attempt to tell me about eternity. I think she thought they were true, but I can’t say for sure. I never responded to these words since I didn’t have a response. When she’d say these words, encouragement to speak shrunk up and disappeared.

It’s taken a lifetime of making plans to find the truth to realize “When tea is offered” is the same tale as the two Zen monks walking along a dirt and dusty road. One monk says to the other, “This is the top of the mystical peak,”´ the other monk replies, “What a pity!”  The morning tea ritual was ordinary life on top of the mystical peak where one monk says, “The devil has your soul.” and the other replies, “What hard luck!”

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