101 Zen Stories: A Cup of Tea

Photo credit: Amanda Jones

The story dates back to the Meiji era (1868-1912) when Nan-in, a Japanese zen master, was visited by a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
In the traditional way, Nan-in served tea (お茶, ocha) to the visitor. He poured his cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.

‘It is overflowing. 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?”


Letter to the readers:
This forms a part of the ‘Zen Philosophy’ category, which I would be curating for the non-legal readers. It would include 101 Zen Stories, Koans, popular folklore & preachings of the Buddha.
101 Zen Stories is a compilation of stories from a book called Shaseki-shu (Collection of Sand and Stone, 沙石集), written by Japanese Zen teacher Mujū in 1283. It has been, since then, transcribed by number of authors across the world, most famously by Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki in the iconic book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. I reckon that this remains one of the most iconic book for mental conditioning alongside Bhagavad-Gita, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditation & Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. The readers can now read & interprete those 101 Zen Stories in the Zen category of this blog.

Happy reading!

12 thoughts on “101 Zen Stories: A Cup of Tea

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      1. Zen Buddhism and philosophical Taoism are closely linked together. The Tao Te Ching is one of the most read and translated works out there. It’s very short and could be read in a day (or less.) The Chuang Tzu is longer and is considered a transformative text.

        Liked by 2 people

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