Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Empty your cup

Bamboo Startup Painting by Drue Kataoka
A friend of mine asked me for help on the computer and I tried to help them. I did not know the answer to the problem, but I decided to try my best to help. I felt I might have found a solution, but as I was making an attempt to resolve the problem and explain what I was doing, my friend kept interrupting me and telling me that I should look at other settings. He told me that this setting means this, and that setting means that, and that he knows a lot about computers. Sometimes those settings had no relevance to the problem at hand. I listened to him, and then tried to resume my attempt at the solution before looking elsewhere. However, my friend persisted, constantly interrupting me. I was staring to get very irritated, but my solution thankfully fixed the problem. Despite this, my friend was clearly perturbed.

The experience reminded me of a Zen story I read just a couple of weeks ago in the book “Striking Thoughts”.

A very learned man traveled great distances to inquire about Zen from a respected Zen Master. As the Zen master spoke about Zen, the learned man would frequently interrupt him to discourse his opinions on this or that. Finally, the Zen master stopped speaking, and went to serve tea. The Zen master poured tea for the man full, then continued to pour, and the tea began to overflow.
“Stop,” said the learned man. The cup is full and no more can be poured in.”
“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” replied the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?”


  1. Reminds me of a quote - “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

  2. ooh, interesting. A quick google search and I see it is classified as a cynical quotation :P How unsurprisinggg :)

  3. Douglas Adams = Genius.