The story of Zhao Zhou and his tea
In southern China, close to the Burmese border, tea trees planted hundreds of years ago grow in shady groves surrounded by sub-tropical jungle.
Two novices came to learn from Zhao Zhou.
– Have you been here before? – Inquired Zhao Zhou.
– “No”, replied the novice.
– Go, and have some tea – said Zhao Zhou.
Zhao Zhou repeated the inquiry with the other novice and got the opposite answer:
– Yes, I have visited the monastery.
– Please, go and have some tea – answered Zhao Zhou.
Hearing the same response to the different answers the chief administrator of the Monastery felt puzzled and asked Zhao Zhou: “Wh did you ask them to have tea regardless of their different answers?”
– Chief admin! – Master Zhao Zhou said loudly.
– Yes, Master.
– Go, and have some tea. – said Zhao Zhou.
Zhao Zhou was a well known chinese Chan master who lived for 120 years, between A.D 778–897.
Zhao Zhou became a monk at an early age. His teacher was Nanquan Puyuan (南泉普願 748–835), a successor of Mazu Daoyi 709–788.
Zhao Zhou began to travel throughout China visiting the prominent Chan masters of the time before finally, at the age of eighty, settled down in a ruined temple in northern China.
There, for the next 40 years, he taught a small group of monks.
Zhao Zhou is sometimes touted as the greatest Chan master of Tang dynasty China, during a time when its hegemony was disintegrating as more and more regional military governors began to assert their power. Zhao Zhou’s lineage died out quickly due to the countless wars and frequent purges of Buddhism in China at the time, therefor it cannot be documented beyond the year A.D 1,000.
A newly arrived monk told Zhao Zhou apologetically:
– I have come here empty-handed!
– Lay it down then. – said Zhaozhou
– Since I have brought nothing with me, what can I lay down?
– Then go on carrying it.
– When a beggar comes what shall we give him?
– He lacks nothing. – Zhao Zhou.