Can You Empty Your Cup?
Meiji era (September 1868 through July 1912) represented the period during, which Japanese society moved from being an isolated feudalism to its modern form. During this period fundamental changes affected its social structure, internal politics, economy, military and foreign relations.
During this era, there was an enlightened Zen Master, Nan-in. He was widely known for his wisdom and teachings. One day a professor of philosophy from a university went to him and asked about God, Nirvana, Self-realization and a number of other things. The Master listened silently to all his questions and said, “ You have travelled a long distance to reach this place and you must have been tired. Let me first serve you some tea.” And he started making tea at a leisurely pace. The professor in the meantime was boiling with questions. Sensing the restless of the professor, the Master gently said,” Wait. Relax. Don’t be in such a hurry. Who knows? Even by drinking tea your questions may be answered … or even before that.”
The professor, far from being relaxed started thinking whether his journey to the Master was worthwhile. How can my questions about philosophy, God and Nirvana be answered by drinking tea?
The Master brought the kettle, and started pouring tea in the cup. Even after the cup was full, he went on pouring the tea unmindful of the fullness. The professor, who was watching all this quietly could no longer restrain himself. He blurted out,” Master! What are you doing? The cup is full and overflowing. Stop pouring. No more will go in.”
“Exactly! No more will go in.” Nan-in said. He continued, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions, assumptions, and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
- Unknown Author
Our cups are usually filled to the brim with the ‘obvious,’ ‘common sense,’ and the ‘self-evident.’ Unless we empty them we cannot take-in new knowledge, new awareness, and realize ourselves.
Do we know what we need to empty first? Can we empty them, now?