Monday, August 19, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance and a Cup of Zen

Somewhere in the middle of my day I met a man who reminded me of the term 'cognitive dissonance' and the story of a Zen Master and a cup of tea.

Cognitive dissonance is a term taken from social psychology and it is characterized by incongruent positions.  These positions may be about talking one way and acting another.  Or, believing strongly in an idea but negating it with another set of ideas.

My meeting was not so profound as to press any need to understand the incongruity on display.

Nonetheless, what I experienced over an hour may be the worse case of idiocy, vacuousness and delusions of grandeur.

Inside of this triad of madness I wondered what lesson I might take from the encounter.

In front of me was a man who ridiculed my presence and profession, told me he was Marxist but also emphatically mentioned that he drove an expensive German automobile and lived uptown, and before we bid our farewells he asked me for a job.

It was at this point of imbalance that I recalled this popular Zen story and I knew what to take with me from the encounter:
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?”
The truth and the moral is that to have tea you need an empty cup.  To have thoughts you need an empty mind.  To know you must not know.

And so just like water alone is not tea, a lot of words alone is not wisdom.

If the past decade has taught me one overarching lesson it would have to be that an empty mind is a peaceful mind.

There can be no meaning and there can be no peace until we empty our minds. 

Be weary of being full.  And be weary of those who talk so much that even they do not hear what they are saying.

Image Credit


Margaret Banyan said...

Oh, how I miss talking with you!

Ridwan said...

Hi Margaret!

What a wonderful surprise. I trust you are well.

Around this time last year I drove past the university where I last heard you were teaching in Florida.

I wondered how in the world you were doing.

OK, I am going to holla to your email address.


Margaret Banyan said...

Do that (email ). :-)

Ridwan said...

I have sent you an email :0)

I hope it gets through.

If not please send me a note here:

Look forward to hearing from you Margaret.