Sunday, February 17, 2008

Self-will... and a Cup of Tea

From 101 Zen Stories

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), 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?"


From The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

The Inner Law

He whose law is within himself
Walks in hiddenness.
His acts are not influenced
By approval or disapproval.
He whose law is outside himself
Directs his will to what is
Beyond his control
And seeks
To extend his power
Over objects.

He who walks in hiddenness
Has light to guide him
In all his acts.
He who seeks to extend his control
Is nothing but an operator.
While he thinks he is
Surpassing others,
Others see him merely
Straining, stretching,
To stand on tiptoe.

When he tries to extend his power
Over objects,
Those objects gain control
Of him.

He who is controlled by objects
Loses possession of his inner self:
If he no longer values himself,
How can he value others?
If he no longer values others,
He is abandoned.
He has nothing left!

There is no deadlier weapon than the will!
The sharpest sword
Is not equal to it!
There is no robber so dangerous
As Nature (Yang and Yin).
Yet it is not nature
That does the damage:
It is man's own will!


From Tao Te Ching chapter #24 translated by Charles Muller

Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady...

Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady.
Straddle-legged, you cannot go.
If you show yourself, you will not be seen.
If you affirm yourself, you will not shine.
If you boast, you will have no merit.
If you promote yourself, you will have no success.

Those who abide in the Way call these
Leftover food and wasted action
And all things dislike them.

Therefore the person of the Way does not act like this.


From the book Alcoholics Anonymous

Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish ad dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him....

Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves... an extreme example of self-will run riot....

We are now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him:

"God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"

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