A Cup of Tea and other Zen stories

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By Rene Lizada

Papa's table

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


A Cup of Tea

"Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Nice story. But true story, sadly all too true. You see them every day. You meet them daily. People who are so full of themselves, people who think they are the saviors of the world. You ask them anything and they have opinions of everything. They act arrogant, speak loud and drown you with their despair.

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The truly wise are quiet, the rest are just noisy.

If You Love, Love Openly

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master. Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting. Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written her, she said: "If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now."

Talk is cheap. Talk is easy. It is one thing to utter the words but to stand by them, to fight for them, to show the meaning of the words is another thing. There are so many who talk and talk and talk and yet when it comes to standing up to what was said, they fall into the shadows. Their anonymity hides their cowardice and their invisibility cloaks their fear. Madali mag salita.

The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

What possessions possess you that you cannot see the obvious? What blinds you that you cannot see the moon? So many people are so blinded by so many things that they cannot see what is in front of them. Sometimes they obvious things are the hardest things to see. What possessions possess you?

A Parable

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

The present is the only thing we have. The past is gone and the future is still undetermined. The now is only the real thing. Eat your strawberries while you still can. The tigers may or may not eat you! (haha)

Open Your Own Treasure House

Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: "What do you seek?" "Enlightenment," replied Daiju. "You have your own treasure house.

Why do you search outside?" Baso asked. Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure house?" Baso answered: "What you are asking is your treasure house." Daiju was delighted! Ever after he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those treasures."

Your interpretation here:

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 12, 2014.

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