The overflowing cup of tea

1001 Tales told by the Master

The Japanese Master Nan-In (1868-1912) gave audience to a professor of philosophy. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.


Serving tea, Nan-In filled his visitor’s cup … and kept pouring.

The professor watched the overflow, until he could restrain himself no longer:

“Stop! 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?”

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 are there, the more it becomes 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.

And remember, you are all the same. There may be differences of quantity, but every mind is qualitatively the same, because mind thinks, argues, collects and gathers knowledge and becomes dull. Only children are intelligent. And if you can retain your childhood, if you continuously reclaim your childhood, you will remain innocent and intelligent. If you gather dust, childhood is lost, innocence is no more; the mind has become dull and stupid. Now you can have philosophies. The more philosophies you have, the more you are far away from the divine.

Quote from Osho, A Bird on the Wing – Talks on Zen, Ch 1

ShantiShanti is a regular contributor
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales
All articles by this author on Osho News

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