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Then Have A Cup Of Tea

Joshu saw one monk and asked, “Have I seen you before?”

The man said, “No sir, there is no possibility. I have come for the first time, I am a stranger — you could not have seen me before.

Joshu said, “Okay, then have a cup of tea.”Then he asked another monk, “Have I seen you before?”

The monk said, “Yes sir, you must have seen me. I have always been here; I am not a stranger.”

The monk must have been a disciple of Joshu’s, and Joshu said, “Okay, then have a cup of tea.”

The manager of the monastery was puzzled: with two different persons responding in different ways, two different answers were needed. But Joshu responded in the same way — to the stranger and to the friend, to one who has come for the first time and to one who has been here always. To the unknown and to the known Joshu responded in the same way. He made no distinction, none at all. He didn’t say, “You are a stranger. Welcome! Have a cup of tea.” He didn’t say to the other, “You have always been here, so there is no need for a cup of tea.” Nor did he say, “You have always been here so there is no need to respond.”

Familiarity creates boredom; you never receive the familiar. You never look at your wife. She has been with you for many, many years and you have completely forgotten that she exists. What is the face of your wife? Have you looked at her recently? You may have completely forgotten her face. If you close your eyes and meditate and remember, you may remember the face you looked on for the first time. But your wife has been a flux, a river, constantly changing. The face has changed; now she has become old. The river has been flowing and flowing, new bends have been reached; the body has changed. Have you looked at her recently? Your wife is so familiar there is no need to look. We look at something which is unfamiliar; we look at something which strikes us as strange. They say familiarity breeds contempt: it breeds boredom.

I have heard one anecdote: two businessmen, very rich, were relaxing on Miami Beach. They were lying down, taking a sunbath. One said, “I can never understand what people see in Elizabeth Taylor, the actress. I don’t understand what people see, why they become so mad. What is there? You take her eyes away, you take her hair away, you take her lips away, you take her figure away, and what is left, what have you got?”

The other man grunted, became sad and replied, “My wife — that’s what’s left.”

That is what has become of your wife, of your husband — nothing is left. Because of familiarity, everything has disappeared. Your husband is a ghost; your wife is a ghost with no figure, with no lips, with no eyes — just an ugly phenomenon. This has not always been so. You fell in love with this woman once. That moment is there no longer; now you don’t look at her at all. Husbands and wives avoid looking at each other. I have stayed with many families and watched husbands and wives avoid looking at each other. They have created many games to avoid looking; they are always uneasy when they are left alone. A guest is always welcome; both can look at the guest and avoid each other.

Joshu seems to be absolutely different, behaving in the same way with a stranger and a friend. The monk said, “I have always been here sir, you know me well.”

And Joshu said, “Then have a cup of tea.” The manager couldn’t understand. Managers are always stupid; to manage, a stupid mind is needed. And a manager can never be deeply meditative. It is difficult: he has to be mathematical, calculating; he has to see the world and arrange things accordingly. The manager became disturbed. What is this? What is happening? This looks illogical. It’s okay to offer a cup of tea to a stranger but to this disciple who has always been here? So he asked, “Why do you respond in the same way to different persons, to different questions?”

Joshu called loudly, “Manager, are you here?”

The manager said, “Yes sir, of course I am here.”

And Joshu said, “Then have a cup of tea.” This asking loudly, “Manager, are you here?” is calling his presence, his awareness. Awareness is always new, it is always a stranger, the unknown. The body becomes familiar not the soul — never. You may know the body of your wife; you will never know the unknown hidden person. Never. That cannot be known, you cannot know it. It is a mystery; you cannot explain it. When Joshu called, “Manager, are you here?” suddenly the manager became aware. He forgot that he was a manager, he forgot that he was a body; he responded from his heart. He said, “Yes sir.”

This asking loudly was so sudden, it was just like a shock. And it was futile, that’s why he said, “Of course I am here. You need not ask me, the question is irrelevant.” Suddenly the past, the old, the mind, dropped. The manager was there no more — simply a consciousness was responding. Consciousness is always new, constantly new; it is always being born; it is never old. And Joshu said, “Then have a cup of tea.”

Osho – “A Bird on the Wing”

Osho's Explanation of This Story

The first thing to be understood is that complex things can be understood, simple things cannot. A simple thing is alone. This Joshu story is very simple. It is so simple it escapes you: you try to grip it, you try to grab it — it escapes. It is so simple that your mind cannot work on it. Try to feel the story. I will not say try to understand because you cannot understand it — try to feel the story. Many things are hidden if you try to feel them; if you try to understand it nothing is there — the whole anecdote is absurd.

The first thing to be felt is that for Joshu, everything is new, strange, mysterious. Whether it is the known or the unknown, the familiar or the unfamiliar, it makes no difference. If you come to this garden every day, by and by you will stop looking at the trees. You will think you have already looked at them, that you know them. By and by you will stop listening to the birds; they will be singing, but you will not listen. You will have become familiar; your eyes are closed, your ears are closed. If Joshu comes to this garden — and he may have been coming every day for many, many lives — he will hear the birds, he will look at the trees. Everything, every moment, is new for him.

This is what awareness means. For awareness everything is constantly new. Nothing is old, nothing can be old. Everything is being created every moment — it is a continuous flow of creativity. Awareness never carries memory as a burden.

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of Osho's “Then Have A Cup Of Tea” Story?

We become so accustomed to the people and things in our lives that we forget to truly see them, to appreciate their essence with fresh eyes. The story of Joshu and the monks invites us to examine our relationships and interactions with a newfound awareness, reminding us that every encounter holds the potential for discovery and renewal. How do you cultivate a sense of curiosity and wonder in your daily interactions, allowing yourself to see the familiar with new eyes and an open heart?

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to fall into the trap of routine, to overlook the subtle nuances of our relationships and surroundings. Yet, beneath the surface of the familiar lies a world of mystery and depth waiting to be explored. The story of Joshu's equal treatment of both stranger and friend serves as a powerful reminder of the ever-present potential for transformation and awakening in every moment. How do you cultivate a sense of presence and mindfulness in your interactions, remaining open to the unfolding mystery of life?

At the heart of Joshu's teachings lies a profound truth: awareness is the key to unlocking the mysteries of existence. In a world consumed by distractions and obligations, it's easy to lose sight of the present moment, to become ensnared by the trappings of the past and future. Yet, true liberation lies in embracing the unknown, in surrendering to the ever-flowing river of consciousness that animates all of existence. How do you cultivate a deeper sense of awareness and presence in your life, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the richness of each moment?

The story of Joshu and the monks invites us to question our preconceived notions of familiarity and acquaintance, challenging us to see beyond the surface and into the depths of the soul. In a world that often values the external over the internal, it's easy to lose sight of the inherent divinity within each being. Yet, when we approach each encounter with an open heart and mind, we create space for the sacred to reveal itself in unexpected ways. How do you honor the divine spark within yourself and others, recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings?

In the grand tapestry of existence, every interaction serves as a thread weaving together the fabric of our collective journey. The story of Joshu's simple act of offering tea reminds us of the importance of kindness and hospitality in fostering connection and community. How do you extend warmth and compassion to those around you, creating a space where all are welcome and valued?

As we navigate the complexities of human relationships, it's easy to become entangled in the web of expectations and assumptions. Yet, the story of Joshu and the monks reminds us of the importance of approaching each encounter with an open mind and heart, free from judgment and preconception. How do you cultivate a spirit of openness and acceptance in your interactions, embracing the unique gifts and perspectives of each individual?

At its core, the story of Joshu and the monks speaks to the transformative power of presence and awareness in our lives. In a world that often values speed and efficiency over depth and meaning, it's easy to lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us. Yet, when we slow down and immerse ourselves fully in the present moment, we create space for miracles to unfold. How do you cultivate a sense of presence and mindfulness in your daily life, allowing yourself to fully engage with the richness of each moment?

In the midst of life's challenges and uncertainties, it's easy to lose sight of the interconnectedness of all beings and the inherent divinity within each soul. Yet, the story of Joshu and the monks serves as a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness of all life, inviting us to recognize the sacred spark that unites us all. How do you honor the divine within yourself and others, cultivating a spirit of compassion and reverence for all beings?

In the sacred dance of existence, every moment holds the potential for transformation and awakening. The story of Joshu's simple act of offering tea serves as a poignant reminder of the power of small gestures to create ripple effects of kindness and connection in the world. How do you infuse your daily interactions with a spirit of generosity and compassion, creating a ripple effect of love and healing in the world?

As we journey through the tapestry of existence, may we approach each encounter with an open heart and mind, embracing the mystery and wonder that surrounds us. In the words of Marianne Williamson, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflecting on the story of Joshu and the monks, how do you perceive the notion of familiarity in your own life? Do you find yourself becoming complacent or disengaged in relationships or situations that have become too familiar over time?
  2. The tale highlights the tendency of familiarity to breed contempt and boredom. How does this observation resonate with your own experiences? Have you ever found yourself taking someone or something for granted simply because it has become too familiar?
  3. Consider the anecdote of the businessmen discussing Elizabeth Taylor. How does this story illuminate the concept of familiarity causing us to overlook the beauty and uniqueness of the people in our lives? Have you ever caught yourself falling into this trap of seeing only the surface and missing the depth beneath?
  4. Joshu's equal treatment of both stranger and friend challenges the notion of making distinctions based on familiarity. How do you navigate the balance between treating people differently based on your level of familiarity with them and approaching each encounter with an open heart and mind?
  5. Reflect on the manager's reaction to Joshu's actions. How does his confusion and discomfort mirror our own tendencies to resist or question experiences that defy our expectations or understanding? Have you ever found yourself grappling with similar feelings of uncertainty in the face of the unknown?
  6. The story emphasizes the importance of presence and awareness in our interactions with others. How do you cultivate a sense of presence and mindfulness in your daily life, allowing yourself to fully engage with the richness of each moment?
  7. Consider the manager's response when called out by Joshu. How does this moment serve as a reminder of the ever-present potential for transformation and awakening within each of us? Have you ever experienced a similar moment of sudden awareness that shifted your perception of yourself or your surroundings?
  8. Reflect on the idea that awareness is always new and constantly evolving. How does this concept challenge our tendency to cling to the familiar and the known? How can you cultivate a deeper sense of awareness and openness to the mysteries of life?
  9. The story suggests that consciousness is eternal and ever-renewing, transcending the limitations of the past and the mind. How does this perspective shift your understanding of yourself and your place in the world? How can you tap into the infinite potential of your consciousness to embrace the unknown with courage and curiosity?
  10. In closing, consider how the story of Joshu and the monks inspires you to approach each encounter with a sense of wonder and reverence, embracing the mysteries of existence with an open heart and mind. How can you integrate the wisdom of this story into your own journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth?