Zen tea ceremony

This post was written by admin on July 4, 2009
Posted Under: Zen story

A professor who was full of himself and his knowledge once visited a Zen monastery to learn all about Zen. He asked the master, “Tell me about the Koans,” and, “How do you feel when you have a Satori?” and “How does the Zen theory of the nomind compare with Cartesian dualism?” and, and, and….

After listening for more than half an hour the master invited the professor to a Zen tea ceremony. He said, “You have to remain silent and then you’ll have your answers.” They walked through the garden without a word and the master started to serve the tea in a gazebo overlooking the surrounding verdant countryside.

The Zen master poured a little tea, and the then poured more and more and did not stop. The tea went over the table and a few drops fell on the professor’s trousers.

The professor could not bare to remain silent any more. He screamed, “What are you doing? Are you crazy? It’s overfull!”

The Zen master stopped pouring the tea and said gently, “So are you. Before you can learn about Zen you have to empty yourself of preconceptions and then I can teach you about Zen.”

The above story is good to remember in any learning situation. When I give (or go to) seminars I notice three groups of people:

  1. Those who like the professor wish to show off. They ask questions not because they wish to learn but because the wish to be giving the seminar or prove their knowledge to the rest of us.
  2. Those who have to look at the new information in light of the old. These are the majority of the people. We learn best through associating new information with our stored information.
  3. Those few who are ready to listen from the point of view of a blank slate or are like the children of whom Jesus said that theirs is the kingdom of God. Your unconscious will automatically do the needed associations. When you empty yourself you may notice things that you would not notice when you learn with your preconceived ideas.

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