[droning sitar, swarmandel, dilruba etc. Tabla starts up....]
A long time ago, in the Zi Duang province of eastern country, a young merchant's son approached his father. "Father, I grow restless living this life of pampered ease and indolence. I wish to acquire wisdom so that I may one day repay you for all the many kindnesses and good fortunes your wealth has bestowed upon me. I propose to travel to Western province that I may study there at the feet of the great Zen master, returning here only when he has taught me all there is he has to teach. What say you father of my plan?" The merchant replies, "you are a fine son of whom I am duly proud. I will give you my finest steed and a manservant to assist you on your arduous journey. Tell the great Zen master that once he has taught you all he has to teach, I will gladly reward him with anything it pleases him to ask of me. Oh, lovely boy, you have made me the happiest father alive - there is nothing I have in my possession could mean more to me than this. Come, hug me my son before my heart bursts with pride." The two hug and the next day after a huge farewell banquet, the merchant's son and his manservant set off on the long and treacherous journey to Western province.
For many days, the merchant's son and his manservant travel, through cool valleys, along burning plateaux, fearfully skulking through the forest of thieves, riding in awe in the shadow of the great glass tipped mountains until finally, exhausted and relieved, they enter the great Zen master's academy in the Zi Duang province of eastern country. A huge crowd of apprentices and students gathers to help the merchant's son from his mount, carrying the clearly exhausted young man to the cool enclosure of the Zen master's tent. The Zen master gets up from his meditations and bids the merchant's son to join him for a ceremonial tea. With two servants at his sides cooling the young man's brow with broad leaf fans, the merchant's son makes his appeal to the great Zen master. "Sir, I have travelled many miles, over long, arduous terrain to sit before you and beg you to allow a dense and witless clot such as myself to humbly submit to your tutelage that I may one day acquire wisdom and thus repay my father all his kindly patronage by one day being worthy of handling his great affairs. My father's wealth is unsurpassed and he has promised to grant you whatever you may ask of him once I have been the beneficiary of your great and wise teaching."
The great Zen master, waving a hand at an underling who scurries off to the servants' quarters, replies to the merchant's son, "so, young man - you wish to learn the wisdom of the great Zen master? You know this may take many years? You must follow every instruction of mine without question and submit to my tutelage unconditionally - is that understood?" "Of course great Zen Master, whatever you ask." The servant reappears carrying a large teapot and two small cups which he places before the great Zen master. "Now, no more of this until we have had some tea - I am sure that you are very tired after your long journey, yes?" says the great Zen master as he begins to pour tea into one of the small, teal coloured cups. The merchant's son smiles and nods in reply but begins to frown as he observes that the great Zen master is still pouring tea from the pot into the small tea cup. "Excuse me, sir", the merchant's son begins, but the great Zen master continues to pour, despite having long since filled the small vessel. "Sir...", exclaims the merchant's son as he watches uncomprehendingly the tea flowing over the edges of the tray like a vast river breaking its banks, transforming the fine, white linen tablecloth into a sodden, brown flood plain. "Accchh! You silly old fool!!", exclaims the merchant's son as scolding hot tea begins to drip from the tablecloth onto his lap.
The great Zen master stops pouring, places the teapot down on the drenched table top, bends towards the young man and says, "that, pupil, is your first lesson", then, with a courteous bow, walks off...
Our serialization of 'How Green was my Rinpoche?' by Windsor Davies continues tomorrow....
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