Category Archives: Quotes

My Cup Runneth Over (It’s not what you think)

“The minute I stopped arguing, I could begin to see and feel.”
Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions, AA World Services

A student went to visit a Zen master. As the student talked on about all the things he knew about Zen, the master served the tea. Naturally he served the guest first, as is the custom. He poured until the cup was full, and then continued pouring. The student watched the cup begin to overflow and  blurted, “It’s full! It’s overflowing!”

“This is you,” the master replied. “How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?”

Many of us are afraid to admit that we don’t know. To us, it’s like a little piece of death, as if someone were taking away a bit of who we are. For those of us whose self-image is based on our intellect, rather than a steady belief that we have an innate value that can’t be taken from us, to admit that we are wrong is to admit that we are of no value.

It’s a terrible way to live, constantly having to argue, to show others how we really are on top of our game, that we’ve got it together, that we know it all. It’s like being in a constant battle for intellectual — and, often, moral — superiority, and it prevents us from learning things that can eventually lead to truly clear, unfettered thinking and the ability to appreciate ourselves and others for who we really are.

Another pertinent aphorism reads, “You can’t teach a man what he thinks he already knows.” How true, in all but a very few cases.

I used to teach remedial driving to police officers who had exceeded their department’s quota of auto crashes. Most police departments accept that officers will occasionally have a “bit of a shunt” as the British say. It’s the nature of a profession that involves a lot of unavoidable distracted driving, often augmented by adrenaline and a certain amount of fear (and maybe a teensy bit of testosterone, but let’s not go there).

Almost to a man — and I use “man” intentionally, because women are, generally speaking, far easier to teach — they’d sit in the classroom session on the first day and look totally bored, ask smartass questions, and generally act like a bunch of macho guys in a place that they find embarrassing. “Me? Need driving school! Hell, I write tickets for people who don’t know how to drive right!”

We’d tell them specifically what the driving exercises were going to be and the technical details of what it would take to complete them. In the afternoon session, we’d take them out on the track and put them in situations that required pretty sophisticated driving skills. Invariably, they’d quickly become teachable as they discovered that the instructors actually knew stuff that they didn’t, and that they were willing to impart it to those who would listen. By the end of the 3-day course, some of them were asking if they could come back and repeat it.

That’s sort of like hitting a bottom. We find we can’t do it, whatever it is, and we then become teachable. But we still have to overcome the automatic defenses that we’ve built up over our lives: the inability to admit that there’s something we don’t know. We have to empty our cup in order to accept more tea. And then keep our mouths shut until it’s our time to serve the tea.

Any of that sound at all familiar?

Thought for the day — 8/3/18

Most mistakes in philosophy and logic occur because the
human mind is apt to take the symbol for the reality.
~Albert Einstein

How does this apply to my recovery?

NOTE: This is a direct quote from one of Einstein’s books. This is how he wrote. If it sounds sweet and New Agey, it wasn’t him. Just sayin’.

A Real Buddha Quote (with commentary)

Said this, though (or something pretty close):

“Pay no attention to the faults of others, things said or left unsaid by others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what is by oneself said or left unsaid, done or left undone.”
~ Shakyamuni Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, died in approximately 483 BCE (B.C.). For about 454 years his teachings were transmitted orally from one generation to another, much as were the books of the Old Testament. They were codified for the first time by the 4th Buddhist Council in 29 BCE. Several portions of the early documents have survived in Pali, Sanskrit and various other dialects. While it’s quite unlikely that the teachings were passed down with no changes at all (given the four-and-a-half centuries of being passed from teacher to student and so forth), we’re pretty sure that the basic ideas came through with reasonable accuracy.

Siddhartha spoke of serious things, not religious dogma but practical matters. His teaching tended toward repetition, as do most oral transmissions, in order for one thought to flow into the next so that they were more easily memorized. This is true even today in the few cultures that still pass on histories orally. Some of Siddhartha’s were far more repetitious than the example above. Generally speaking, the teachings are notable for precision and dealing with issues of the mind and human behavior in a serious way.

“Quotes” attributed to The Buddha that sound like catchy ideas and fit nicely on memes are not usually actual quotes. Many people over the years have apparently decided that their own thoughts don’t carry enough weight, so they attributed them to well-known thinkers to give them them substance — an issue with some historical documents as well. This is true not only of The Buddha, Lao Tse and other historical figures, but also people as diverse as the current Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein and George Carlin.

Bottom line: when it comes to quotes from Siddhartha and his disciples, if they sound cute and catchy or particularly saccharine the chances are they’re bogus.

There. I said it and I’m glad!