Friday, June 27, 2014

Let me pour you a cup of tea

Here is another well-known Buddhist story.  The master says to the student, "Let me pour you a cup of tea" but he pours and pours, while the cup overflows.  The student asks what he is doing and the master says that the cup is like the student's mind, which cannot contain anything new if it is already full.

When I first read that story, I thought immediately of some girls I wanted to date.  But they were so virtuous and so busy doing good things and things that good girls do (bake cakes for the sorority or the troop or the church, knit mittens for the poor, etc.,they had no time in their day for trivia like a guy).   I am also reminded of the thrust in fencing.  Once the fencer thrusts all out, his single shot has been fired and he must retract himself to be able to do anything more.  If you have completely used up your mind space, given all your attention and allegiance to something, you don't have anything further to give.


When I wrote about this Zen story before, I included comments from two friends.  One had been reminded of Jesus's comment that we need to become "as little children", which was similar to Montaigne's advice to try to be slow-witted.  Zen often speaks of 'beginner's mind', the mind of someone who is just beginning and does not know it all already.  Montaigne recommended forgetting everything you read and just let anything you got from reading to sit in the back of your mind where you might use it sometime.

I can see that anyone might have a closed mind and not even be aware of it.  If you have concluded that anything you read in this blog is nonsense, you probably won't pick up much from it.  I heard a woman dismiss "self-help books" at a book sale and she sounded like she had made up her mind to avoid or dismiss the entire category.  She might have some good reasons and might have had some poor experiences but some books I would call self-help have been extremely helpful for me.

I know it can be tiring.  If you don't like Democrats and you feel ok with dismissing anything a Democrat says or writes, it saves time and effort.  You don't have to consider that was said, evaluate the evidence, consider if maybe the message is useful. You can just see "Democrat" and forget it.

Mark Epstein writes in "Open to Desire" of the common strategy people use to try to protect themselves from pain.  Many adults close their minds to as much of the world as they can as protection.  If I don't think anything good can happen, then when nothing good happens, maybe I won't be disappointed.  Freud and Epstein both invite people to live like little children, who find just about everything exciting and full of wonder.  Despite the fact of my being older than a little child, my car, my tv, and my body are indeed wonders and miracles. I can afford to take a moment, let down my guard and stand in awe of this life and all of its wonders.

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