Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tea with old man Tcheng

Old man Tcheng, he said (speaking directly to my bald-headed nitwit self):

I, old Tcheng, do not intervene to maintain, modify or change the course of things by following the desires of the individual mind. Let there be neither distrust nor revolt but only the necessary act.  If I behave in a different way with you, it is so that you might, at last, by yourself, directly see original spirit instead of always seeking it through the mediation of dead fellows or by running after scatterbrains like me.

My own manner, indeed, is to shake you like a sapling in the mountain wind.  Thus, I break up all your struts and props and, there you are, all undone, with nothing more to hold on to. But since I sap up all that you rely upon and, thus, you are filled with fear, you say, to reassure yourself, that I sin against the law and convention and am but a vile blasphemer. So you go on desperately clinging to appearance and accessories instead of letting them depart from you by themselves, without striving to hold onto them.

My words find no echo in you, so I play a trick on you and tell you they come from a great and famous fellow who has been dead for centuries. But you still do not understand that they are your direct and immediate concern. On the contrary, you seize on them as something precious, good for keeping and to cultivate. Bald-head, by holding onto your futilities, you simply waste your life away and the evidence of original spirit slips through your fingers. What a shipwreck for you!

Nitwit, original spirit does not appear when sleep leaves you and does not disappear when sleep comes to you. Original spirit is nothing and is totally independent of that which changes and dies.

If original spirit were truly your sole occupation, you would see all that alters and dies in the same way that you perceive the movements that dancers give to their streamers, and would resolve to constantly seek that which in you neither varies nor dies and , once you find it, then not one of the thousand worlds could divert you in your thoughts for the instant of a flash or in the slightest degree make you stray from it in your actions.

You believe you aspire to original spirit but you only actually seek the satisfaction of a condition, or learning, and of merit. Because of this, nincompoop, you are entirely under the fascination of all that in you and outside of you is not steadfast and just dies.

That is why the sayings of old Tcheng simply go through you without making an impression, like the birds which leave no trace in the sky.

Bald pate, all that you think and say concerning original spirit is but the erring and wandering of your own puny little mind. To that which nature spontaneously brings you, you respond only after interpretting it through all that you have placed on a pedestal above your head.

Baldy, this being as artificial as the dragons made for festivals, how can you hope to see original spirit in its spontaneity?

In my youth, I went all round the land giving myself up to study and practices. I associated with those who had strayed and, imagining they had found the light, did nothing but cause others to stray. Then, I met him who enabled me to see all the useless mud I bore with me. The way of truth appeared to me and original spirit became my sole occupation. And, one day, everything suddenly collapsed into awareness.

I, old Tcheng, do not imitate so and so, or such and such a one. I hold to no belief, no school of thought do I follow, no one’s disciple am I. In my true nature I know nothing, I own nothing, I am nothing… for there is no old Tcheng there! In the ordinary way, the things in which I take part, of themselves, just flow by, pass away on their own. Even original spirit is no longer my concern.

The words I speak to you come not from that which is learnt.

Shaved skull, I have hidden nothing from you. What profit is there for you? Nothing but stuff and nonsense!

Exit old man Tcheng


  1. I follow your blog because it's very nice and interesting. I have reported a link to your blog on my tea ceremony blog(italian and english).
    (if you're interested the link is )
    If you want you can return the favor.
    Thank's. Letizia

  2. Hi Letizia,
    Thank you for your kind comment. I'm happy to add your tea blog to my list of blog sites. You have a truly lovely space in which to enjoy teas! Nice to read both English and Italian post versions, too. :)

  3. Aloha,
    I loved the November entry about old man Tcheng! What is the original text, would you mind sharing it. It would be very significant for me. Thank you!

  4. Hi Anon :)
    Glad you enjoyed this little essay as much as I have. I got it from "The Book of Listening" by Jean Klein (worthwhile reading it it's own right, not just for the great stories and quotes that Klein includes in it like this one).