Posted in Life, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Fill the Cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, 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?

Although there are many versions of the above story, the common thread running through all of them is that a full cup can’t hold anything more. While most of us may think it doesn’t apply to us, the reality may be the opposite. Do we hold any mental framework of how things should happen ? Do we use our knowledge to define guidelines for others without viewing the entire situation ? Many a time we dealt with situations and events based on what we already know or what we assume is right, without listening and learning to see what is actually happening.

To quote Nyogen Senzaki,”Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?” When we interact with people across the walks of our life, the reality of being educated arises. Illiteracy today is not just limited to the inability to read and write, but also encompasses the inability to keep a fresh mind in each situation.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few. – Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

As we grow in life we improvise and learn a lot, always staying as beginners mayn’t be possible. Keeping a mind open to learning will help us improve our level of understanding of the various gifts of life. For keeping the same liquid or brew in a single place makes it stagnant and tasteless in the long run. The beauty lies when the liquid flows or when a cup is refilled with something refreshing, may it be new or old.

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. Ray Bradbury

In the world of today, real progress is made when we learn when to unlearn what we thought we knew and when to learn anew about the things we didn’t know or assumed. While knowledge is to learn and fill our minds with something new, wisdom is what or when we know to learn, let go what we thought we knew or when to throw the light of what we have learnt to others.



Step back and look at the bigger picture.

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