Drinking a Cup of Tea, I Stop the War

by Robert Brumet

Two men sitting face-to-face, cross legged, wearing antique armor, drinking tea.

Paul Reps was an American poet and artist who lived in Japan during the Vietnam War. When his visa expired, he applied for a one-year renewal at the consulate in Japan. They said it would take at least a month to process the paperwork–no exceptions. Reps returned the next day with the necessary papers and agreed to wait a month. He included a gratuitous poem in the official paperwork. It said, “Drinking a bowl of green tea, I stop the war.”
The visa officer glanced through the paperwork to make sure it was complete and then told Reps to come back the next day. When Reps returned the next day, he was handed a fully approved visa– for five years!

“Drinking tea” (in this context) is a symbol for being fully present to the simplest activities of life. Drinking tea mindfully can stop the war in many ways. Let’s define “war” as “conflict attempting to be settled by violence with the intention to harm or destroy one’s adversary.” With this definition of war, we see that it is more than an armed conflict between two military powers. We are at war if there’s any part of our self that we want to suppress or annihilate. We are at war if we wish to suppress or destroy another person or anything that person stands for. We are at war if we judge, condemn, or slander another individual or group of individuals.
Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “There is no state of society or event in history to which there is not something corresponding in his [our] life. He should see that he can live all history in his own person.” [1]

From the psychoanalysis of his German patients in the 1920s, Dr. Carl Jung predicted Hitler’s rise to power a full decade before it happened. The poet Khalil Gibran writes, “And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.” [2]

Usually, we can distract ourselves to the point where we are unaware of our internal warfare. Our culture supplies virtually infinite ways for distraction. If we cannot manage to amuse ourselves, then we become anxious and fidgety. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from (our) man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone for half an hour.” [3]

Because of the unwillingness to face our internal wars, we have created many external wars. Denial and suppression push violence into the unconscious, where it inevitably expresses itself in our life and the world.

Living mindfully will make us conscious of our buried conflicts and hidden inner wars. Living fully in the present reveals how warfare originates within our own self.
Let’s imagine a future scenario:

Two longstanding enemies agree to sit down to drink tea together. X says, I hate you; I wish to destroy you. Y says, I hate you too, and I wish to destroy you as well!

Now what?

The Mediator chimes in, “Well, you both agree on one thing– you each feel hatred for one another. What if each of you explored your own experience of hatred?”

Okay. Okay.

As each party explores their experience of hatred, they see that it leads to rage, then to fear, then to helplessness, then to sadness, and then to grief. Each begins to cry. As they let their tears mingle, they each see that there is no essential difference between their tears—nor the source of their tears.

Perhaps if we could let our tears mingle over a cup of tea, we would have less need to have our blood mingle on a battleground.

[1]Emersons Essays, Essay on History. Thomas Y Crowell, NY. 1926., p5.
[2] The Prophet. On Freedom. Alfred Knopf, 1994.
[3] Pascal’s Pensées, Prabhat Books

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