The Master’s Teacup


Zen Master Ikkyu had always been quick in his thinking. This quickness often came in handy when he got in trouble as a young monk. On one such occasion, Ikkyu accidentally dropped his master’s teacup, breaking it into many pieces.

It was a serious problem, because the teacup was his master’s favorite. It was a rare treasure; a beautifully hand-crafted heirloom, wrought from precious material. Of all the master’s possessions, it was probably the one thing he cherished the most— and now it was hopelessly smashed!

Ikkyu felt guilty, but before he could formulate a plan to get away, he heard footsteps approaching. He swept the broken pieces together and, blocking them from view with his robe, turned to face the door just as the master entered.

When they were within speaking distance, young Ikkyu asked, “Master, why must people die?”

The master replied, “It is perfectly natural. Everything in the world experiences both life and death.



“So it is not something we should feel upset about?”

“Definitely not. When its time has come every person and every thing must go.”

“Master,” said little Ikkyu, shifting his robe aside to reveal the broken pieces, “it was time for your cup to go…”

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