Empty Your Cup… Be Receptive


Empty your cup to create space to receive what the Divine has to pour.


Modern life is full of stress and anxiety — this might sound like a cliché but it’s true. We mortals are accumulating more negative baggage every day without realizing that in the process, we are losing among many other beautiful things — receptiveness to life.


Our mind is so full of thoughts that it is impossible to be receptive unless we drop those bags of thoughts. In other words, we are so full with useless, negative, toxic or mundane thoughts that there is no space left and no time to create one — thoughts are overflowing and overwhelming.


Make that Effort


There is an oft-quoted Indian proverb which says that we can be thirsty even on the bank of a river. Our being close to the river is no guarantee that its water will satiate our thirst. We will have to quench our thirst ourselves. We will have to go down to the river and cup our hands to drink from it. The river is there, but we will have to be receptive, we will have to become compassionate to fill the water in our hand. Our hands need to be empty to receive the water.


According to ancient Indian scriptures, we human beings have to be like a valley; we need to be receptive. We require deep humbleness in order to receive. A river can flow smoothly only in the valley; similarly, we need a similar space if we want to receive and be blessed. 


The Cup Overflows


In the 19th century, a learned and well-known university professor went to see Zen Master Nan-In, to inquire about God, Zen meditation and the philosophy of life. He was in a hurry and wanted the Master to quench his thirst for knowledge quickly. Nan-In could anticipate his thoughts and questions. He listened to the professor patiently and then said: “Since you have come all this way and climbed the mountain to reach me, you must be tired; I should serve you some refreshments first.”


The professor was shocked. He did not come here to have a cup of tea. He wanted immediate answers and seeing the Master smile gently, he started doubting his decision to travel far to seek answers from the Zen Master. Nan-In, who scanned his thoughts, smiled and asked him to be patient. “Who knows, your questions may be answered, just by drinking tea.”


Now, the professor was sure that the person who referred him to the Zen Master had played mischief with him. If a cup of tea was the answer, there was no need to come all this way to meet him. The professor was getting more impatient.


A disciple of Nan-In brought a tray with a teapot and two cups. The Zen Master started pouring tea in the cup. Soon the cup started overflowing but he kept on pouring. Now, even the saucer was full. One more drop and the tea would have started spilling on the floor.


The professor who was watching it all curiously, yelled, “Master, Stop! What are you trying to do? Can’t you see the cup is full and even the saucer is overflowing with tea? If you pour more, it will spill on to the floor.”


Zen Master Nan-In looked at the professor, smiled and said, “That’s the condition you are in at the moment, professor. Your mind is bursting with questions and even if I answer all your questions, you don’t have any room left in your mind to keep them.


Be Receptive


“The moment you came here and sat with me; I could feel the entire place fill up with your questions. Your queries are flowing all over the monastery. Professor, go back, empty your cup and then come here. You will first have to create the space to receive what I have to give you.


The story is more relevant today, than ever before. It emphasizes the need for ‘Receptiveness’. When one is empty of all thoughts, one becomes like an empty container, an open mind that situation is receptivity. It is the only door available for us to welcome the Divine. To become receptive, we will have to drop the baggage of the mind we have been carrying all this whilebaggage of past regrets, failures and miserable and negative experiences as well as that of anxieties and worries regarding the future.


Drop the Garbage


Our sages called it the garbage of the mind. They said this ‘toxic garbage’, full of negativity, needs to be dropped for us to become receptive to what the Divine is offering us.


Just empty the mind of all negativity

And see it fill up with all positivity. 


One way to empty the mind is to start living exclusively in the present moment, by having hundred percent presence in the present moment.

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1 Comment

  1. Prakash abhyankar

    Hari Om,
    It is true, we often forget to live in the present. Thanks for your guidance through such wonderful articles.

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