Many years ago, a professor from one of the western world’s great universities went to visit the Japanese master Nan-in to learn about Zen. Nan-in invited the professor to sit and offered him tea. As Nan-in prepared the tea, the professor talked. And talked. And talked some more. Nan-in served the tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the tea pouring onto the table and floor until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overfull,” he said. “No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in replied, “you are full of ideas and opinions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
 Adapted from 101 Zen Stories, by Nyogen Senzaki, 1919, a compilation of Zen anecdotes. Senzaki’s compilation also includes a translation of Sassekishu, or Sand and Pebbles, a collection of Buddhist parables by the Japanese monk Muju, written in 1283.
Copyright 2014, Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved. This file may be freely distributed as long as this copyright notice is retained.