They met at a tea shop. There, the three apprentices emptied their cups to learn about the secrets of the elixir. Its key ingredient was the power to create, hidden deep within the seed they each carried.
From the tea shop, they left their cups on the table and set out with their seeds in search of the elixir. The first apprentice, named Datta, was a monk. He climbed to a monastary in the mountains and planted his seed in prayer. The second apprentice, named Mark, was a Renaissance man. He locked himself in a studio and planted his seed in art. The third apprentice was a non-believer. He doubted whatever he saw. Still, he went through the motions, planting his seed with a sense of wonder he lost over time.
No matter how far they went, they ended up back at the tea shop, seeds in hand. The secret of the elixir was beyond their grasp.
Tea cups emptied, they asked Manu the teamaster for directions.
“Where do we start: point A, B, or C?”
“And which way do we go from there: left or right?”
The teamaster said nothing. He knew what was on their minds.
He picked up the stick he used to stir tea with and pointed the way.
Somehow, one seed moved.
It didn’t matter which path they chose.
The opposite direction would have worked just as well.
The teamaster’s lesson was there was more than one way up the mountain.
Knowing this, the apprentices each took their seeds and set out once again from the tea shop.
The monk escaped to his temple, the Renaissance man to his studio, and the non-believer to the shadows of his doubts.
Because they never left their comfort zones, they all ended up back at the tea shop empty-handed, their paths intertwined.
They asked the tea master to just show them how to brew the elixir, so they didn't have to keep searching.
The tea master put down the stick he used to stir tea with and told them to empty their cups.
The lesson was about the illusion of separation: what the apprentices saw as separate and different paths were really one and the same.
The teamaster took one seed and threw it away. He took the other seed and threw it away. He told them to focus only on the seed in the middle, for they were all searching for the same thing.
Still, the three apprentices got nowhere and ended up back at the teashop.
The tea master saw that his lesson wasn’t getting through.
So he taught them a secret:
even if you take the seed and throw it away, it stays with you.
When you empty your teacup, you let the seed fall from your hand.
It was a lesson in letting go.
With the seeds gone, how many are left in the middle, they wondered.
All of them. The tea master pointed to the center cup.
The apprentices finally understood. They threw their seeds away and left the tea shop.
There was no elixir at the top of the mountain. It was just water.
And when you add water to seeds, they grow.
Years later, the three returned to the tea shop with the wisdom of a mountain forest and a plant sprouting from each of their cups.