read stories

The Monk Who Broke His Teacher’s Tea Cup

Even monks screw up sometimes… here’s a story about a monk who screwed up and how he handled it…

A young monk named Ikkyu was waiting for his Zen teacher to arrive when he accidentally knocked his teacher’s tea cup on to the hard floor, shattering it into many pieces.

It wasn’t any ordinary tea cup either, it was a beautiful antique that his teacher treasured and considered his prize possession.

Hearing his teacher’s footsteps coming, Ikkyu panicked and did the only thing he could think of: scooped up the tea cup pieces into his hand and then tucked them into his robe, safely out of view.

By the time his teacher had arrived Ikkyu had formulated a plan. He asked his teacher:

‘Why do people have to die?’

‘Everything in the world experiences both life and death,’ his teacher said, ‘Everything must die eventually, it’s perfectly natural.’


‘Everything,’ his teacher said with certainty.

Ikkyu then pulled the broken pieces of the tea cup out from his robe and showing it to his teacher he said:

‘It was time for your cup to die.’

:D I love funny Buddhist/Zen stories like this. One thing that the story doesn’t say though is how Ikkyu’s teacher reacted.

Was he mad that the cup was broken or did he get the point that Ikkyu was trying to make? Or maybe the just thought Ikkyu was being a brat lol?

In any case a Zen master that’s so attached to a tea cup probably had a long way to go in the study of Zen, hopefully the incident with Ikkyu helped to move him along a bit.