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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

CHAPTER  EIGHTEEN
The Delights of Tea-drinking—How the Monsoon Storms Break Out.

So often during these last twenty years have I sat down to imbibe
the good cheer which tea-drinking invariably affords me, so com-
forting has this habit been to me now that I have carried it into the
comfortless Himalayas, that my mind muses in its long leisure upon
the philosophy which lies behind it.

No sound is so musical to me as the song of the bubbling kettle,
whose contents are destined to be transferred to the round capacious
pot which rests companionably upon the white tablecloth so often
wherever I wander. I watch with the recurrent reaction of pleasant
anticipation the hot vapour flutter out of the elegantly curved spout

It seems strange that the Western world was bereft of one of
the minor pleasures and major necessities of civilized existence for
so many centuries. A thousand years before Europe knew of the
existence of this fragrant herb the Chinese were sipping its golden
extract and gossiping with each other under its gentle stimulus.

It seems stranger still, however, that the land which produces
such a huge quantity of the world's tea supply today should have
had to wait for the advent of the British before the first roots were
transplanted into its soil. Not till last century was tea grown in
India, and then only by enterprising British agriculturists. Even now
many Indians have never tasted tea, whilst few know how to make
it properly. A Chinese poet has sorrowed in verse over the deplorable
waste of fine tea through incompetent preparation. No doubt this
ignorance will vanish with the new habits \vhich are rapidly being
introduced here.

The Buddhist priest who taught me what I know of Buddhism
told me that it was the custom in many Buddhist monasteries of
Burma, China and Japan to keep the monks frequently supplied
with little bowls of fresh tea during their long night vigils of medita-
tion, in order to drive away sleep and thus enable them to extend
their spiritual practices to the utmost limits. In that way they hoped
to make more rapid progress. He also recounted to me the curious,
attractive yet incredible legend of the origin of tea.

He said that a South Indian sage named Bodhidharma jour-
neyed to China about the sixth century and used to sit in meditation
before a blank wall. During one of his prolonged periods of mental
abstraction he found to his annoyance that he was becoming drowsy,

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