The teacher welcomed the student and offered him a cup of tea, which the student greatly enjoyed. When he finished the tea the student pleaded with the teacher.
A Zen student begged his teacher, "Please teach me the truth of this life and how to find happiness."
The teacher smiled. "Did you just drink your tea?" he responded.
"Of course," said the student.
"Then go wash your cup," the teacher replied.
The simple instruction, go wash your cup, is actually a great teaching. And it was delivered by the teacher in a wonderful way. He used the activity of the moment, the condition life presented to him, instead of preaching a sermon derived from somewhere else.
The tea itself was the sermon and also the student drinking it. Happiness is right here under your nose, the teacher was saying, in whatever condition life presents. Be fully aware of it. Drink your tea, enjoy it, and then take care of the cup. (Take care of whatever surrounds you).
Don't leave your teacup for someone else to clean. See what has to be done right now and do it. Honor the cup for offering the tea and wash it carefully. Nothing is too simple or ordinary to be overlooked in Zen. By seeing what is needed and doing it immediately and full heartedly, happiness is right here.
In fact, happiness is both drinking the tea and washing the cup. It is the gratitude that accompanies it. Happiness resides in the very action itself. No need to look somewhere else for it. Happiness exists in the simplest actions of your life, when done without complaint or resistance. When you stop wanting to hand over the tasks of your life to someone else, stop refusing them and just do what is here before you now.
Happiness is not some state of euphoria we achieve that hits for a little while and then passes. That can be like a drug. If we chase that kind of happiness, we'll always be going up and down on the merry go round looking for the next thrill or delight. However, when we both drink our tea and then wash our cups carefully, a life of completion and fulfillment is right here at hand.