Wisdom Story: Lessons from a Tea Cup
Author: Sachinandan Swami
Once there was a young man, rather immature in his life, but ready to learn. He had a strong liking for antiques and was always eager to visit the different antique stores during his holidays in Europe. Over time he developed a strong interest in antique pottery and especially in tea cups. He felt that they all had their unique stories to tell.
Once in a dusky antique store in Serbia, he spotted an exceptional tea cup which clearly had Turkish influences. He asked the bespectacled seller, „May I see that exceptionally beautiful tea cup over there? It seems to come from Turkey.” As the seller handed him the tea cup, our young man suddenly heard the tea cup speak.
„You don’t understand,“ it said, „I have not always been a tea cup. There was a time when I had no idea what service meant. I was just a dumb lump of red clay on the ground. Let me tell you my story, you will learn from it. I’ve lived for many, many thousands of years. I’ve witnessed wars and peace come and go. Entire civilizations rolled over me as I sat there waiting… for what, I don’t know. Then one day my master came. He took me to his home, rolled and pounded me on a wooden table. Again and again, he poked his fingers into me until finally I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that! Leave me alone!’ But he only smiled and gently said. ‘Not yet!’”
The tea cup became more and more alive as he spoke to the shocked young man. “Then, whoommmm! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly spun around repeatedly until I lost all my sense of direction. ‘Stop it! Can’t you see that I’m getting sick? Take me off the spinning wheel!’ But the master only nodded in understanding and quietly said, ‘Not yet!’ He continued to bend me in and out of shape and then he… he placed me carefully into an oven. I never felt such heat before. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘It is hotter than hell; I’m burning to ashes. Please get me out of here before it is too late.’ I could see him through a tiny hole but could only read his lips as he shook his head from side to side and silently pronounced, ‘Not yet!’
When I thought I could not bear the heat anymore, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on a shelf where I began to cool. It felt so good to be left alone.
But more was to come. After I had cooled down he carefully picked me up, looked at me and brushed some dust away. Then, he brought colors along with something transparent: the glaze. The fumes were horrible! I thought I would gag! ‘Please… you have no mercy! Don’t you understand my misery? Please, please give up on me! Please! Stop it!’ But he only shook his head and said, ‘Not yet, you’re not yet ready!’
Unexpectedly and very quickly he put me back into the oven. Only it was about twice or thrice as hot as the first time. This was most intense. From the beginning I felt… this is my death! I begged. I pleaded. I threatened. I screamed. Finally, I cried without tears. Not even hot tears. I was convinced I will never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then—as I was fainting, the door opened and he took me out. Again he placed me on the shelf where I was left to cool. I waited… and waited… and waited. What was going to be next?
About an hour later he came back and placed a mirror before me and said, ‘Look at yourself!’ And I did. What I saw amazed me. It is what you see now. ‘That’s not me!’ I said. ‘That cannot be me. It is too beautiful.’
In a very compassionate voice he spoke. ‘This is what you are meant to be.’ And then he explained, ‘I know it hurt you when I rolled and kneaded you on the table. But if I had not gotten the air out of you, you would have broken. I knew you must have lost all your sense of orientation when I was spinning you. But without this you would never have come into this form. I know the fumes of the colors in the glaze were intolerable when I painted you all over. But if I had not done that, you would not have had any color in your life and you wouldn’t have hardened. And when I placed you in the second oven I knew that this would be the most severe part. But without it you would have broken very easily when the realities of life would come. Believe me; all I did was for your good. Now you are what I had in mind when I first saw you on the ground. Now you are a finished product.’”
With this the tea cup stopped speaking—but there was a tear of gratefulness coming from its beautiful rim.
The young man purchased the tea cup and used it only when he offered something to God. He never forgot the lesson he received from it. And whenever he was in a difficult situation and felt like calling out ‘Stop it! Leave me alone!’ he remembered the words of the tea cup maker: ‘Not yet…!’ However, he also became grateful, for he knew that everything that happened was designed by the Lord to make him what he was meant to become: a pleasing servant.
God knows what He is doing for each of us. He is the potter and we are the clay. He will mold us and expose us to enough pressures of just the right kind so that we become a perfect piece to His liking.
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