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Drinking Tea, Living Life

Ven. Bhikkhu Visudhacara

Book Review: Drinking Tea, Living Life by Ven. Visuddhacarav

Reviewer: Mei Khing Ong.

"Do you know how to drink a cup of tea? Or coffee? Or for that matter any of your favourite drink?" This is the phrase used in the first line of the first chapter of this book. Please don't be confused, this book is not meant to only teach us how to drink a cup of tea, but rather to point out that the simple act of drinking a cup of tea can teach us a whole lot on the practise of mindfulness.

This whole book touches on the subject of mindfulness, which is one of the core teachings of the Buddha. The author points out that mindfulness is not to be limited to the time when we do our formal meditation sitting, but rather to be practised throughout our daily activities, like brushing our teeth, eating, walking, driving, opening the door, etc.

With chapters entitled "How to drink tea", "Living in the present", "Living with pain", "Living Life", we can see that the author stresses on the importance of being mindful at all times, and how we can benefit from this practice. Perhaps I was most inspired when reading through the chapter "Living with pain".One of the stories (amongst many mentioned) that touched my heart was that of Howard Nudelman, a Vipassana meditator and surgeon who died of cancer on July 1 1991.

Howard was the president of the Insight Meditation West, a 400-acre Meditation Centre in California. Everyone who knew him was amazed at his kind, gentle and caring personality. One meditator, Jane Baraz, wrote on her opinion of Howard, which probably summed up Howard's view on life: "The greatest lesson I learned from Howard was the way he handled his own dying. First, as one who truly enjoyed life, he tried to save his own life. When that didn't seem to be working, he appeared to gracefully accept the process, openly sharing with others, completing his relationships and supporting his family in letting go of the husband and father they deeply loved. I'm told that several weeks before he died he got out of a hospital bed to be at his daughter's wedding, and that he even danced."

The one thing that I learnt from reading this book was that by just being mindful, and always living in the present moment, we would not be so troubled with all our problems and worries in life, i.e. this is the path to overcome suffering. I would like to finish this book review by including here a poem written by the author, which pretty much sums up the whole theme of the book.

Living in the moment

Live in the moment
savour it
feel it
its texture
its experience
its presence
know it.

This moment counts
it is what is real
it's happening
right now
and you ought to be present
not far away
with your thoughts and imaginations.

This moment is important
If you can live in it
stay with it
be content with it
there is little more
that needs to be done;
it's enough
and you'll delight
at the simplicity
and wonder of
In this moment
you can watch
what you are doing
feel the action,
the movements
and sensations;

you can watch
the stirrings in the mind
the intentions and desires,
fears and imaginations,
sorrows and heartaches,
joy and happiness
and everything else;

all can be watched
and known
in this moment.
And that is enough.

For in this moment
you can be calm,
and content,
quiet and still,
and on their own
without your beckoning,
wisdom and understanding come
together with love and compassion
and they grow
and they stay
and you
know there's little else
that needs to be done
'cept to stay in the moment
in the present.

This was taken from
Buddhist Studies Society Melbourne University


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