Sometimes a story can teach you more than entire books of philosophy or world renowned religious scriptures. Some of the most memorable lessons in life come from stories. In our inspirational and motivational short story series, today we will cover a classic Zen story – Empty your Cup.
Once there was a university professor who was known as an extremely knowledgeable person. There were many research named to him in the field of philosophy. The professor had keen interest in Zen Buddhism practices and wanted to learn more about it. He visited a famous Japanese Zen master to learn the pearls of Zen wisdom.
When he reached the Zen masters place. His disciples took him to the room of Zen Master. Zen master’s physical appearance was affable and his spirit was lofty. His face was shimmering and lot of positive energy could be felt around him. After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked the professor the reason of his visit. The professor told him the motive of visit “I have come to ask you to teach me about Zen.” The Zen master asked the professor, “You are known for your knowledge everywhere, please share something with me.” The Professors started telling about his research in different fields one by one. After some time, he started sharing his knowledge about Zen. The Zen master listen him silently for an hour. Zen master interrupted and asked the professor if he would like to enjoy some tea.
Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.
One of the Zen master’s disciple disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea.
The master started pouring the tea into the cup and smiled towards professor. The professor kept continuing sharing his knowledge on Zen to the master. The Zen master was pouring the tea slowly – slowly and the cup got filled fully. But he did not stop and kept pouring the tea in the cup. The tea started overflowing on the table. The professor noticed it and continued to watch as it overflowed. Soon the tea started falling on the robes of professor and he could no longer restrain himself.
The professor put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop! Can’t you see? The cup is full already. It’s overflowing. No more will go in!” The Zen master did not stop and still he kept pouring tea. The professors got angry and rushed towards the gate. The Zen master called him, “Professor, please listen.” The professor did not stop. The master ran behind him and stopped him.
The Zen master calmly explained him the reason behind kept pouring the tea in the cup; even after it overflowed. Zen master said, “You are here to ask questions. Yet you come full. You have your own ideas and have no space. Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information. You are like that cup of tea. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Lessons from the Empty your Cup Story
This classic Zen story communicate few very strong messages that you need to stay humble, open ourselves to new ideas, be willing to change your preconceptions, and be receptive to new learning. Even though you may be full of knowledge, you should always be open to the fact that there is still more to learn. You need to learn the art of unlearning (empty your cup) so that you can learn new things. Preconceived ideas and prejudices always prevent us from seeing the truth.
“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” ~ Bruce Lee
This story also shows the approach we should have in conflict resolution and communication. We should allow other person to speak and express his/her grievances or point of view. If you will start telling your concerns, the person at other end will never listen what you have to say. First empty his cup and listen his/her concerns. Once it’s done, it will only help you understand his/her view but also help you to make him/her listen what you want to communicate. It emphasizes the importance of listening in communication.
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