On Eating and Tasting For Tea
From Solala Towler
The Master was traveling with some of her students. At one of their stops they were served the meat of a pig. The students were horrified to see the Master calmly eating this forbidden food. “Master,” they cried, “is not the flesh of an animal forbidden by our order?”
The Master went on chewing slowly, clearly savoring the taste of the pig. When she had finished she said, “Can you not see that this was a great and honored gift from these poor people to be given this delicacy? No doubt it was given at great cost to them and with an attitude of humbleness and generosity. Who am I to spurn their gift?
“Besides,” she said, taking another bite, “it is not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but what comes out.”
Tasting for Tea
There is a famous story about Lu Yu, a famous tea master who was an expert on the best kind of water for brewing tea. He actually wrote a book on twenty sources for the water to be used for brewing tea. The best, he said, was from midstream on the Yangtze at Nanling.
Once when he was on a trip on that river with a local dignitary he was given water from midstream to taste. The extremely self-important dignitary handed Lu Yu a ladle, saying “Here Master, is the water which all men know as ‘the finest under heaven’.” Upon tasting it Lu Yu frowned and said that the water was not from midstream but from closer to the shore where the water was not as pure.
“But that cannot be,” said his host. “I am sure it was taken from midstream. I ordered it so myself.”
“Perhaps,” conceded the master, “but there is some other kind of water mixed into it, perhaps from another part of the river.”
Later it was discovered that some of the water from the container had been lost when the boat had rocked and the servant had replaced it with water taken from nearer the shore.
Thus was the wisdom of the old masters both deep and all-encompassing. If they could taste the difference between one part of the river and another how profound was their understanding of Dao!
Solala Towler – has been involved with Daoist practices such as Taiji, Qigong and meditation over 20 years. He has published The Empty Vessel: the Journal of Daoist Thought and Practice for 18 years. Mr. Towler has written a number of books on Daoist thought and practice, including Cha Dao: the Way of Tea and the Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu, and has been leading tours to China to study Qigong and other Daoist practices in the sacred mountains of China since 1997. In addition, he has recorded four CDs of meditation, relaxation, and movement music, using Tibetan singing bowls, both Chinese and Native flute with harmonic overtone singing. You can find more information about Mr. Towler on his website, http://www.abodetao.com