The “cup” portion of our name and logo refers to being an Empty Cup. This image comes from the ancient story about a martial arts master teaching a student that they must empty themselves to truly learn. There are many versions of this story, and many more deeper meanings to find. But here is one version of that story:
…. Some weeks later a friend arranged for me to meet Bruce [Lee], from whom I hoped to take private lessons. Bruce was highly selective about the students he chose to teach, and this morning was to be a kind of audition for me.
Since he gave only private lessons and had no formal studio, the meeting was at my home. He arrived promptly and I went out into the front yard to meet him. At first glance he appeared even smaller than he looked on stage. He was wearing snug-fitting, full length athletic pants and a green tank top shirt that revealed rippling muscles. He was smiling as we shook hands, but he quickly got to the point. “why do you want to study we me?” he asked. “Because I was impressed with your demonstration and because I’ve heard you are the best.” You’ve studied other martial arts?” he asked. “For a long time,” I answered, “but I stopped some time ago and now I want to start over again.”
Bruce nodded and asked me to demonstrate some of the techniques I already knew. We went out to my driveway and he watched intently as I went through the various katas [forms], or exercises, from other disciplines. Then he asked me to execute some basic kicks, blocks, and punches on a bag hanging from a rafter of the garage. “Do you realize you will have to unlearn all you have learned and start over again?” he asked. “No.” I said.
Bruce smiled and placed his hang lightly on my shoulder. “Let me tell you a story my sifu [teacher] told me,” he said. “It is about the Japanese Zen master who received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning about Zen as he was in impressing the master with his own opinions and knowledge. The master listened patiently and finally suggested they have tea. The master poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept pouring. The professor watched the cup overflowing until he could no longer restrain himself. ‘The cup is overfull, no more will go in.’ ‘Like this cup,’ the master said, ‘you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?'”
Bruce studied my face. “You understand the point?” “Yes,” I said, “you want me to empty my mind of past knowledge and old habits so that i will be open to new learning.” “Precisely,” said Bruce. “And now we are ready to begin your first lesson.”
This does not mean that Bruce prevented me from applying a critical mind to his teaching. In fact, he welcomed discussion, even argument. But when challenged too long on a point his reply was always, “At least empty your cup and try.”
Later I learned that Bruce practiced what he taught…. He also studied other styles of martial arts, taking from all of them whatever he thought useful. Although considered one of the best martial artists of his time, he was always learning, always in a constant process of change and improvement. He truly kept his cup empty.
With half a century of life experiences behind me, I sometimes get impatient with a new idea or technique. But when I feel impatient or act dogmatically self-assured, I remind myself of the lesson Bruce taught me, and I try to empty my cup to make room for new methods and ideas.
(Joe Hyams, Zen In The Martial Arts, Bantam Books: New York, NY, 1979, pages 8-12)
You may go to Earth And Cup YouTube channel to view a visual representation of the same story titled THE ZEN MASTER AND THE SCHOLAR – THE OVERFLOWING TEA CUP.
We realize that we journey through life like fragile cups, susceptible to cracks, missing pieces and breaking entirely. We acknowledge our frailty. We also understand transformation happens when we empty our cups, to be re-filled with a different approach. All humanity shares a common journey that unites us as inhabitants on this earth. We hold much more in common than we do in difference. We ask others to journey with us, as we constantly empty our cups, to find transforming directions to daily life.