Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tea suchness



Tasting Some New Tea from Ekkei

A gift of "immortal buds" sent from an old friend 
"first spring picking from Ekkei fields," he said.
Opening the packet, color and fragrance filled the room, 
Proud banners and lances of outstanding quality.
Clear water dipped at the banks of the Kamo 
Well boiled on the stove, just right for new tea.
The first sip revealed an incomparable taste, 
Purifying sweetness refreshing to the soul.
No need wasting time on butterfly dreams
Rising up, utterly cleansed, beyond the world,
I smile, there's not one word in my dried-up gut,
Just the wondrous meaning beyond all doctrine.

I've been poor so long, pinched with hunger, 
Now a kind gift to soothe my parched throat, 
Dewdrops so sweet they put manna to shame--
A fresh breeze rises round me, lifting me upward.
It doesn't take seven cups like Master Lu says. 
My guests get old Chao-chou's one cup tea;

And whoever can grasp the taste in that cup
Whether stranger or friend, knows my true mind.
Sake fuels the vital spirits, works like courage,
Tea works benevolently, purifying the soul.
Courageous feats that put the world in your debt 
Couldn't match the benefit benevolence brings.
A tea unsurpassed for color, flavor and scent,
Attributes that Buddhists refer to as "dusts,"
But only through them is the true taste known,
They are the Dharma body, primal suchness,

            -- Baisao (1675-1763)


(note: "Dusts," according to Buddhist philosophy, are the objects or fields of sensation and perception: form, sound, smell, taste, tactile feeling and thoughts)

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