There is an old Chinese story about a boy who visits a Kung Fu master in hopes of becoming his student.
Back in those days, you would sit in front of the master’s house for days, waiting for him to come out.
So the boy sits, waiting patiently.
Finally, the master comes out.
What do you want?
I have been practicing Kung Fu for 10 years. I would like to become your student and practice kung fu with you.
The master invites him into the house to sit down.
How much Kung Fu do you know?
The boy gives him an exhaustive description of all of the moves and forms that he’s devoted his life to.
The master listens attentively, nodding his head.
Ok, I will teach you Kung Fu. But first, you have to pass one test.
The boy is nervous. He has been waiting for this moment for years and starts mentally preparing himself to demonstrate his leopard-kung fu style in hopes of appeasing the master.
Then the master fills up a cup of tea for the boy. Once the cup is full, the master keeps pouring the tea until the cup is absolutely full to the brim.
If you can pour more tea into this cup without letting it flow over, then you pass the test.
The boy’s eyes widened and his shoulders tensed. He thought he would have to show off his moves, not pour tea. What was this crazy test?!
He knew there was no way to add more tea to the cup…even one more drop would be too much. He was devastated.
Master, it’s impossible. I cannot add more tea to the cup.
The Master replied:
Your mind is like this cup, full of ideas and “knowledge.” I can’t teach you anything because your mind is already full.
Go, empty your cup and then come back to me. Then and only then I can teach you.
Moral of the story: Regardless of how “advanced” our level is, in order to learn we must often relinquish ourselves of what we think we know and approach situations with a beginner’s mind.