Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Cup is Full

There is an old parable about a man that wanted to learn Zen. Translated to modern language and concepts, the story goes like this.

There was a rich and famous man that always got what he wanted. The man was not very well-educated about anything, and he especially didn't know much about Zen. He read a little bit about Zen and decided that he should learn more. Since he was rich and famous, he wanted to learn from a famous Zen master. He approached the master and inquired about learning Zen from him.

The master asked the man to sit while he prepared tea for them to share. While the master was preparing the tea, the man talked at great length about how rich and famous he was. He talked about many things of which he knew little.

When the tea was ready, the master gave an empty cup to the man. The master began to pour the tea slowly into the cup. The man kept talking. The master kept pouring. The man kept talking. Eventually, the cup overflowed and the tea spilled all over. The man exclaimed, "Stop! The cup is full."

The master explained, "Like this cup full of tea, you are already full of your own ideas. There is no more room. When you have emptied your cup, come back and we can discuss Zen."

I first heard this story years ago. I still love it. I hope I haven't been like this too often in my own life. I know that I have had students like this. They are difficult to teach because they already know everything. How about you? Do you approach opportunities to learn with an open mind or do you already know it all?

© 2012 Eric Borreson

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