There is a Zen story that tells of a university professor who comes to visit a famous Zen master. While the master is serving tea, the professor begins talking about all the things he knows of Zen and its principles. The master, who remains quiet throughout the time that the professor is speaking, keeps pouring tea until it overflows the cup. Even then, he keeps on pouring. Seeing this strange, irrational act, the professor asks the master to stop pouring, as the cup is unable to hold any more and the overflowing tea is just wasted. Only then the master replies, “You are like this cup. How can I teach you Zen if you do not empty your cup?”
The tea represents knowledge, and what is already in the cup is our ego. The fuller our cup, the bigger our ego is. A full cup means that we feel we know everything, and thus would refuse to learn.
To empty the cup is to empty ourselves of our ego, which is necessary in order for us to learn more. To learn is to open our eyes to the wonders of the world around us, and to open our hearts to all the magnificence of humanity. The more you learn, the more you know. But one fact remains: you can never know all.
Socrates, a renowned classical Greek philosopher and the teacher of Plato, once humbly remarked, “I know that I know nothing.” Had he thought he knew everything, his life probably would have taken him in another direction and he would not have become one of the best known, most respected philosophers for over 2,000 years.
Look inside yourself and see if your cup is full. If it is, empty it and embrace all the new knowledge and experiences that are ready to flow in. Remember, we are never too young or too old to learn.