The Meaning of “Sharing the Empty Cup”

A loud, impatient knocking interrupted the old man’s afternoon mediation.  At the door stood a young adult clearly in a hurry to have his needs met.  “I have traveled this land to share my Zen wisdom,” said the young man.  “Everywhere I go I am thanked but told my teachings seem incomplete and that I should seek out you, the old man on the hill.  I believe my understanding of Zen philosophy to be complete, so I have come to see what possibly I have not yet learned.”


“I am about to pour my afternoon tea,” said the old man.  “Please come in and join me and we can discuss your teachings.”   With great focus, the old man began to fill his young visitor’s cup.  As the tea reached the brim of the cup, the old man continued to pour, allowing the tea to spill onto the table and flow into the young man’s lap.  “You foolish old man,” screamed the visitor.  “What could I possibly learn from you?  You cannot even pour a simple cup of tea correctly.”


The old man calmly replied, “You are correct young man.  There is nothing you can learn from me.  Much like the cup, your mind is so full with your own ideas, it cannot accept any more.  Return to me after emptying your cup and perhaps we can learn something together.”


The “Sharing the Empty Cup” Blog presents my thoughts on various martial-arts related topics.  Unlike the young man, I make no claims of being an expert in anything.  My goal here is to share a topic with the hope that others will come and share their wisdom, thoughts, questions, and life experiences.  It matters not if you are a Matsumora Seito karateka, practitioner of another martial arts system, parent, family member, friend, or complete stranger.  The cup offered at my table is nearly or completely empty.  I invite participation from any who wish to help fill it.  I have one requirement for participation: be respectful of each other’s viewpoints.  Divergent opinions are welcome and encouraged, but weaving the common thread of respect into all postings ensures a healthy opportunity to learn from one another.


Yours in karate-do,

Shawn Roberts

Karateka of Sensei Steve Apsega

Maine Traditional Karate

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