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A Cup of Zen

Posted by tinako on May 11, 2009

Following is an excerpt from the marvelous book Zen Speaks, by Tsai Chih Chung.  It’s a zen comic book and is fun to read over and over.  It was a $13 paperback, and I see it overpriced on the Amazon used marketplace, so don’t get ripped off, but it is worth having.  I’m not religious, and I don’t really think anything you see in the book will offend your religion.  It works on many levels, and I use it as a philosophy.  It meshes very well with science, especially physics.

Here is one of the first strips in the book:

A scholar went to see a zen monk named Nanin to inquire about zen.  Nanin treated his guest to a cup of tea.

He poured the tea into a cup, and kept pouring even when the cup was full.

“Master, that’s enough!  It’s full!”

“You are just like this cup – full of your own thoughts and ideas.  If you don’t first empty yourself, how can I teach you about zen?”

If your mind is filled with your own prejudices, the truth that others speak can’t be heard. When engaging in conversation, most people are in a hurry to express their own opinion, and as a result, they don’t hear anything but the sound of their own voices.

Do you know anyone like that?  I know I am sometimes like that, but my best self is humble and open.  I position myself as a know-it-all on this site, but I learn new things every day.  One of the reasons I tell you when I burn stuff is so you know my cup is not full.

So you wonder what this has to do with food?  Everything.  I actually find the model here, a full cup, a little limiting.  I understand that the idea is to set aside our thoughts and be open to new ones, but it also sounds like I should not put much in my cup so as to keep it from overflowing.  Instead, I named this site The Expanding Circle.  If we expand our circle, there’s always room for more.  More knowledge, more variety of foods, more compassion.



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