Empty Your Cup

photo courtesy of patrick_george86, flickr
photo courtesy of patrick_george86, flickr

One day, a philosopher went to visit Master Nan-in to discuss zen with him. During the discussion, the philosopher would ask questions and as Nan-in began to answer, the philosopher would butt in with another question or would start sharing his own insights.

After this happened for two or three times, Nan-in took the teapot and started pouring tea into the philosopher’s cup (which was still full because he had kept talking).

The cup overflowed and the tea started spilling on the table and onto the floor.

The philosopher jumped up and said, “Stop it! The cup can take no more tea.”

Nan-in promptly stopped pouring and looked at the philosopher squarely. “The cup can take no more tea because it is full. Your head can take nothing from me because it is full of your own ideas.”

“If you would learn from me, sir, please empty your cup first.”

A Finger Pointing to the Moon

photo courtesy of scol22, sxc.hu
photo courtesy of scol22, sxc.hu

When the sage points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

Experts come and study the nature of the finger. They form theories and doctrines around it. They organize the Church of the Finger and create rules and laws about how the finger should point, when it should point and in what angle it should point.

Amidst all this, they do not see the moon.

Scriptures and religions are all pointers. The Bible is not God, and the Koran is not God. People have built entire belief systems and organizations, have fought wars and endured torture and hardships, for the sake of furthering their beliefs.

But they have missed God.

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