Here’s old Zen story from the little book, “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones” entitled “A Cup of Tea”:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to
inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. ”It is overfull. No more will go in.”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
We all have ideas and behaviors we are attached to. Mostly, they work for us, but sometimes we find that they get in our way and occupy space needed to change our thinking. We cannot learn anything new if we think we know, so the process of change requires that we empty out, “get out of our own way”, and be receptive to new information.
Another word for this process would be humility. Realizing one’s own emptiness is a powerful thing, and when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
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