1. A Cup of Tea

   Nan-In1, a master during the Meiji2 era, 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?”


1. Nan-In may have been a reference to Nan-in Zengu (1834-1904) who was from the Hakuin branch of Rinzai Zen.

2. The Meiji era is an era of Japanese history which extended from October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912. This era represents the first half of the Empire of Japan, during which period the Japanese people moved from being an isolated feudal society at risk of colonization by European powers to the new paradigm of a modern, industrialized nation state and emergent great power, influenced by Western scientific, technological, philosophical, political, legal, and aesthetic ideas. As a result of such wholesale adoption of radically-different ideas, the changes to Japan were profound, and affected its social structure, internal politics, economy, military, and foreign relations. The period corresponded to the reign of Emperor Meiji. It was preceded by the Keiō era and was succeeded by the Taishō era, upon the accession of Emperor Taishō.