Siddha Story

Transferring Mastery

Lord Yama no Uchi of Tosa was making his annual trip to the capital to visit the Shogun. On this particular trip, the lord decided to have his tea master
accompany him. This way Lord Yama no Uchi could not only enjoy the tea ceremony during his visit, but he would also be able to show off the tea master’s skill to the other high-ranking officials while he visited the capital.

The tea master was quite apprehensive about the trip. The capital city was crowded, noisy, and busy, not at all like his quiet country home. The thought of going to a place where he might encounter many samurai from other provinces was very intimidating to the tea master. While he had the favour of his own lord and the respect of his lord’s samurai, the tea master himself was not of the samurai class. Should he encounter samurai from other provinces, he would be without protection should they try to bully him. In fact, the law allowed even the lowest ranking samurai to kill him on the spot if the samurai could claim provocation. The tea master had protested to his lord against going. However, the lord insisted on the tea master’s company and the tea master made the trip.

Upon arriving at the capital, the tea master initially spent all of his time in the compound that housed the lord and his retainers. Eventually, Lord Yama no Uchi gave the tea master permission to go out for a day and see some of the city. Although against regulations, the lord gave the tea master permission to dress as a samurai so that he could move freely around the city.

As the tea master walked through one of the parks, he felt himself watched by an unemployed samurai with an evil gaze. The tea master tried to avoid the samurai by going another way. However, the samurai homed in on the tea master and forced a conversation. “I see by the emblem on your jacket that you are from Tosa province,” said the samurai. “I would be honoured if you would accept my challenge to a fencing contest.”
The tea master explained his situation. “Although dressed as a samurai, I am really just a tea master and I have no knowledge of or experience with fencing. So you see I really could not fight with you a duel.”
This news did not deter the unemployed samurai, in fact, he pressed his case even harder. Thinking that he might be able to extort the tea master into buying his way out of the predicament, the samurai became insistent on a duel.
Being completely without options, the tea master relented. “Fine,” he said “but first, I have to complete some tasks related to my master’s business. You must allow me that time, I will meet you in the park this evening at sunset.” The tea master did not want to disgrace himself to his lord. He therefore resolved to try to die as honourable a death as possible at the hands of the cruel bully.

At that point the tea master had an idea. He remembered a fencing school that he had passed on his way to the park. Perhaps, thought the tea master, the sword master could teach him some rudimentary sword etiquette or some opening movements so that his inevitable death would at least be more dignified. The tea master approached the fencing school and urgently asked one of the students to call the sword master. When the sword master arrived, he listened quietly while the tea master explained the whole story.

“This is most unusual,” mused the sword master. “Most of my students come to me because they want to learn how to use the sword as a means of surviving conflict. You, however, have come here asking to learn to die. I will grant your request, but before I do, would you do me the favour of serving me tea.”
The tea master agreed. It was an appropriate exchange of favours between two masters. As the tea master began the preparations, all thoughts of his problems disappeared. He became completely absorbed in the act of the tea ceremony. The sword master watched him closely, observing his serenity and concentration.

Suddenly the sword master slapped his knee and exclaimed, “that is it! You have no need for any further instructions. To die properly you have only to bring to the duel the exact state of mind that you have now. When you meet your opponent, consider him just as you would consider a guest in your tea house. First, greet him courteously as if you are about to share something very special with him. Then, before the fighting starts you will make your preparations by taking off your coat, lying back your sleeves, positioning your sword in your belt, and the like. Complete all of these preliminary tasks with the same purposefulness that you would apply to the preparation for tea. Finally, when the time comes and you do draw your sword, simply hold it over your head so that you are ready to strike and wait for your opponent’s attack while you simultaneously strike down on him with all your concentration. If you are lucky, the duel will end in a mutual kill and you will die with honour.”

The tea master thanked the sword master and walked back to the place where he had promised to meet the rogue samurai. When the samurai arrived, the tea master followed the sword master’s advice to the letter. The tea master’s serene composure greatly disturbed the samurai. The samurai could not understand the tea master’s lack of intimidation or the well-paced manner in which the tea master fixed his clothing in preparation for the duel.
Unnerved, the samurai thought, “Surely this is not the same man whom I challenged earlier!” As they both raised their swords, the samurai saw that he had no opening to attack and that the tea master was completely without fear. Instead of attacking, the samurai backed up and shouted. “I give up!” He then dropped
to his knees, bowed, and hastily apologised for his rudeness before hurrying away.

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