Soen even made up a new koan in response to the Apollo missions: “Without getting in a spaceship, bring me a rock from the moon.” It is not known if any of his students ever managed to pass it.
Despite being the abbot of a major temple, Soen Roshi had an uneasy relationship with traditional forms, and had earned a reputation as an eccentric even in Japan. Soen was also known for his love of green tea, powdered and whisked in the traditional fashion, and he would sit down anywhere, if the mood struck him, to conduct an impromptu tea ceremony. He claimed that once, on a visit to Israel, he’d floated, unsinkable, on the surface of the Dead Sea, serving tea to a group of friends. In an airport one of his students asked if Roshi might conduct a tea ceremony; in answer he extracted a tin from his sleeve, dipped his finger into it, and instructed the student to open her mouth.
“There,” he announced, dabbing a fingertip of powdered green tea onto her tongue. “Now you make the water!”
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