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Chapter 1: Empty Your Cup

Nan-in boiled the water and started preparing the tea. But he must have been watching the professor. Not only was the water boiling, the professor was also boiling within. Not only was the tea kettle making sounds, the professor was making more sounds within, chattering, continuously talking. The professor must have been getting ready - what to ask, how to ask, from where to begin. He must have been in a deep monologue. Nan-in must have been smiling and watching: This man is too full, so much so that nothing can penetrate into him. The answer cannot be given because there is no one to receive it. The guest cannot enter into the house - there is no room. Nan-in must have wanted to become a guest in this professor.

Out of compassion, a buddha always wants to become a guest within you. He knocks from everywhere but there is no door. And even if he breaks a door, which is very difficult, there is no room. You are so full with yourself and with rubbish and all types of furniture which you have gathered in many, many lives, you cannot even enter into yourself; there is no room, no space. You live just outside of your own being, just on the steps. You cannot enter within yourself, everything is blocked.

Then Nan-in poured tea into the cup. The professor became uneasy, because Nan-in was continuously pouring tea. It was overflowing; soon it would be going onto the floor. Then the professor said, “Stop! What are you doing? Now this cup cannot hold any more tea, not even a single drop. Are you mad? What are you doing?”

Nan-in said, “The same is the case with you. You are so alert to observe and become aware that the cup is full and cannot hold any more, why are you not so aware about your own self? You are overflowing with opinions, philosophies, doctrines, scriptures. You know too much already; I cannot give you anything. You have traveled in vain. Before coming to me you should have emptied your cup, then I could pour something into it.”

But I tell you, you have come to a more dangerous person. No, an empty cup I won’t allow, because if the cup is there you will fill it. You are so addicted and you have become so habituated that you cannot allow the cup to be empty even for a single moment. The moment you see emptiness anywhere you start filling it. You are so scared of emptiness, you are so afraid: emptiness appears like death. You will fill it with anything, but you will fill it. No, I have invited you to be here to break down this cup completely, so that even if you want to you cannot fill it.

Emptiness means there is no cup left. All the walls have disappeared, the bottom has fallen down; you have become an abyss. Then I can pour myself into you. Much is possible, if you allow. But to allow is arduous, because to allow you will have to surrender. Emptiness means surrender.

Nan-in was saying to that professor: Bow down, surrender, empty your head. I am ready to pour. That professor had not even asked the question and Nan-in had given the answer, because really there is no need to ask the question. The question remains the same.

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