Friday, August 31, 2007

A Cup of Tea

I am going to try something a little different here and see how it is received. Each day that I can I will post ( in order) one of the one hundred and one Zen koans from the Shaseki-shu. These koans, or parables, were translated into English from a book called the Shaseki-shu (Collection of Stone and Sand), written late in the 13th century by the Japanese Zen teacher Muju (the "non-dweller"), and from anecdotes of Zen monks taken from various books published in Japan around the turn of the 20th century. Some are simple stories and some are parables and some are questions but all illustrate some fundamental principle of Zen. Some may seem senseless or useless but a time contemplating them will usually enlighten. As you will see many of the Zen teachers and masters had what appears to be rather weird senses of humor but in reality they were very serious and every thing had its purpose. I think it might be fun to have a daily whack up side the head so we shall see. Here is the first.

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), 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?"

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