Once, a renowned professor visited Nan-in, a wise Japanese Zen Master, to ask him questions and learn about Zen.
As the Zen Master served tea, the professor carried on talking about his own theories and ideas of Zen. The Zen Master remained silent as he poured tea into his guest’s teacup and even after it was full, the Zen Master continued pouring!
The professor watched the tea overflow and spill onto the table. He could no longer hold it in and burst out, “Stop! Can’t you see that it is full? No more tea can go in!”
“Exactly.” The Zen Master agreed. “You are like this teacup, full of your own opinions, assumptions and theories. You have come for teaching but how can I show you Zen if you don’t first empty your cup?”
“You cannot learn anything if you already feel that you know.”
“You should open your mind before you open your mouth.”
“Preconceived ideas and prejudices always prevent us from seeing the truth.”
“The master is trying to tell him to ease back and relax. The professor is too anxious about the whole thing.”
“Some people want to be taught everything in one sitting. It’s not possible.”