Your Teacup is Full – A Zen Story


Once, a long time ago, during the Meiji era, there was a wise Zen master named Nan-in,  People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them and enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a university professor, a man used to command, and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally, the professor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

Teacup picture by Mori Masahiro Design Studio, LLC.

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