A Cup of Tea (Japanese Zen Koan)

Nan-in, a Japanese Zen master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), was visited by a university professor who came to ask him about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured tea into his visitor's cup until it was completely full, and then continued to pour tea into it.

The professor watched the tea spill until he couldn't contain himself anymore. “It is already full. It doesn't fit anymore! "

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you have filled yourself with your own opinions and speculations. How could I show you zen without you first emptying yourself of your tea? "

There are new students to the spiritual path who come full of opinions, ideas, judgments, and knowledge (mental information) and full of being right about everything, and it takes much work to put all that aside to be able to absorb the Dharma. I was one of those students and as an “advanced” student I often got on my own way by knowing too much, interrupting the teacher and offering my immature ideas to get attention.

As a therapist I have also seen some clients full of too many stories, opinions and mainly, too full of being right about everything. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done for them in one session and you have to help them little by little. They are also usually the types of clients who progress slowly and their improvement is limited since they also often leave therapy early.

Being right is a source of suffering. Within your practices in Mahajrya Buddhism, it is of utmost importance to become aware of how much you love being right about everything and then you must begin to sacrifice being right to acquire flexibility and clarity of mind and to begin to soften the heart.

It is easily said but in truth it takes time and dedication because being right is part of our identity and therefore one of the areas that takes more work to let go. It is a step by step process.

We tend to hold onto stress, pain, and physical, mental, and emotional suffering because we hold on so strongly to being right. If your head ached after an argument, it's because you're holding on to being right. If you remain upset about a situation that just doesn't make "sense" to you, it's because you hold on to being right. For example, if you refuse to forgive because the other doesn’t deserves it or because the other hurt you too much and you prefer to stay in resentment, it is because you cling to being right. If they did it to you and you paid them back (you took revenge), it was for holding on to being right. If you keep getting angry that your partner puts the roll of paper in the bathroom with the paper coming out from the top instead of from the bottom as it "makes sense" to you, it is because you hold on to being right. There are so many ways we keep hurting ourselves in our lives simply because we love being right.

Of course, you have to be prudent and make someone else responsible for their actions when that is the wisest thing to do and sometimes to keep them at a distance. But there are so many situations that can be solved so easily just by sacrificing being right.

I leave you an simple example from my own experience.

Last year in the spring I participated in a Maha Vajra spiritual bootcamp in Cuernavaca, Mexico. One evening some of us went in a group to the city center, we stopped at a place that sells fresh-squeezed juices and water made from fresh fruit. We continued walking and when I finished my water I realized that there was simply no trash anywhere to be found. After a few moments of walking with my empty cup in hand and not being able to get rid of it, I started to feel annoyed.

How was it possible they did not make trans cans available? How was it possible that we were forced to carry our trash in our hands? It just didn't... make... any... sense... to me and I started to feel annoyed to the degree that I couldn't keep it inside me anymore and had to complain aloud to others. A student simply replied, "It is simply possible, don't you see it?" It felt like a bucket full of cold water in my face. I was in a reaction and I was projecting it. There was nothing more to do but sacrifice being right.

I started to say to myself, "It doesn't make sense to me and it doesn't have to make sense to me." "I let go of being right." "I sacrifice being right." After a few moments I started to relax and continued to enjoy the group. Some others were still commenting that they couldn't get rid of their trash, still unaware that they were holding onto being right.

Being right is a great source of suffering in life.

Are you willing to continue suffering in your life or are you willing to become aware when you still hold on to being right?

May you be free of all your suffering.

May you find the wisdom to sacrifice being right.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

-Maha Raja




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