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Chapter 1: Empty Your Cup

The Japanese master Nan-in gave audience
to a professor of philosophy.
Serving tea, Nan-in filled his visitor’s cup,
and kept pouring.
The professor watched the overflow
until he could restrain himself no longer:
The cup is overfull, no more will go in.”
Nan-in said,
“Like this cup,
you are full of your own opinions and speculations.
How can I show you Zen
unless you first empty your cup?”

You have come to an even more dangerous person than Nan-in, because an empty cup won’t do; the cup has to be broken completely. Even empty, if you are there, then you are full. Even emptiness fills you. If you feel that you are empty you are not empty at all, you are there. Only the name has changed: now you call yourself emptiness. The cup won’t do at all; it has to be broken completely. Only when you are not can the tea be poured into you, only when you are not is there no need really to pour the tea into you. When you are not the whole existence begins pouring, the whole existence becomes a shower from every dimension, from every direction. When you are not, the divine is.

The story is beautiful. It was bound to happen to a professor of philosophy. The story says a professor of philosophy came to Nan-in. He must have come for the wrong reasons because a professor of philosophy, as such, is always wrong. Philosophy means intellect, reasoning, thinking, argumentativeness. And this is the way to be wrong, because you cannot be in love with existence if you are argumentative. Argument is the barrier. If you argue, you are closed; the whole existence closes to you. Then you are not open and existence is not open to you.

When you argue, you assert. Assertion is violence, aggression, and the truth cannot be known by an aggressive mind, the truth cannot be discovered by violence. You can come to know the truth only when you are in love. But love never argues. There is no argument in love, because there is no aggression. And remember, not only was that man a professor of philosophy, you are also the same. Every man carries his own philosophy, and every man in his own way is a professor, because you profess your ideas, you believe in them. You have opinions, concepts, and because of opinions and concepts your eyes are dull, they cannot see; your mind is stupid, it cannot know.

Ideas create stupidity, because the more the ideas are there the more the mind is burdened. And how can a burdened mind know? The more ideas there are the more it is just like dust which has gathered on a mirror. How can the mirror mirror? How can the mirror reflect? Your intelligence is just covered by opinions - the dust - and everyone who is opinionated is bound to be stupid and dull. That’s why professors of philosophy are almost always stupid. They know too much to know at all. They are burdened too much. They cannot fly in the sky, they can’t have wings. And they are so much in the mind, they can’t have roots in the earth. They are not grounded in the earth and they are not free to fly into the sky.

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