‘Humility is the Key to Continuous Growth’

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15th July, 2022

To conclude the ‘Shoshin’ or the ‘Beginners mind’ series on learning in this ‘Guru Purnima’ week, Let me start by sharing a Zen Buddhist story.

There once existed a scholar named Tokusan, who was full of opinions on philosophy.

One day, in search for debate, the scholar Tokusan knocked on the door of a famous Zen Master. The master’s name was Ryutan, and he bid the scholar welcome.

As per tradition, Ryutan served Tokusan tea before the conversation began. However, Ryutan did not stop pouring even when the cup was full. Piping hot tea begun to spill over its brim, falling on the saucer, the low desk and finally coming to rest on the robes of the scholar Tokusan himself.

In a panic, Tokusan yelled, “Stop! What are you doing? Can’t you see that the teacup is full?”


Master Ryutan replied.

“You are like this cup; filled to the brim with ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”

The man who thinks he knows everything can learn nothing.

Much like how a soaked sponge is no longer absorbent, the mind of the know-it-all is filled to the brim with preconceived notions and impractical knowledge.

This not only makes you unlikeable (making even Zen masters want to pour hot tea on you), it also shuts your mind off to new ideas.

To grow, it is far better to be humble and adopt a beginner’s mind.

As Shunryu Suzuki said,

“Be humble:In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Research shows there are three key actions that reveal humility:

*Recognizing your own shortcomings and limitations.

*Appreciating others’ strengths, giving credit where it’s due, and highlighting the team’s success over your individual achievements.

*Showing openness to learning from others.

Be humble, develop a beginner’s mind & stay blessed forever.