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A man named Sauka once wanted to test the wisdom of a Zen master

So he asked the Zen master

“Who can learn better?”

“A five year old child in kindergarten”

“OR..”

“A sixty five year old professor with several advanced degrees in engineering from top universities across the world”

The Zen Master smiled and said, “The five year old child”

The man asked, “Why?”. And the Zen Master said

“Let me tell you a story”

There was a young man who wanted to learn the Ultimate Truth. After searching for a long time he learned about a Wise Old Master who lived on top of a mountain in a cave.

Everyone he met said that the Wise Old Master was the smartest person they knew and so he would be able to help him learn the Ultimate Truth. So the man traveled for many months through deep and dangerous forests and finally reached the foot of the mountain on which the Wise Old Master lived.

He then started the long and difficult climb to the top of the mountain.

After several days of climbing he finally reached the top of the mountain. There he saw the Wise Old Master sitting in his cave meditating with his eyes closed.

He patiently waited by the entrance of the cave because he did not want to disturb the Wise Old Master.

As he waited there, he thought to himself, “What if the Wise Old Master thinks that I am a fool? What if thinks I am not smart enough to learn everything there is to learn in this world?”

“I must prove to him how smart I am.”

And he started making a list of all the things he already knew about. One by one he counted them all in his head.

Mathematics, Archery, Carpentry, Architecture and more.

As he was busy making the list of all the things he already knew about the Wise Old Master suddenly opened his eyes.

He noticed the young man standing at the entrance of the cave, lost deep in thought. He realized the man must have come to meet him and decided to invite the man inside. “Hello”, he called out to the young man.

The young man suddenly woke up from his thoughts and realized that the Wise Old Master was looking at him.

“You look tired. Why don’t you come in and take some rest.” said the Wise Old Master.

And so the young man entered the cave and sat near the Wise Old Master.

The Wise Old Master smiled and said, “You must be thirsty after your long journey. Let me give you some cool water.”

The Wise Old Master reached for the pot filled with water near him and started pouring the water slowly into the bowl sitting next to the pot.

“So young man” said the Wise Old Master, “Why did you climb all the way till the top of this mountain to come here and see me?”

The young man felt this was the right opportunity to impress the Wise Old Master with his knowledge and show him how smart he is.

So he started eagerly, “I want to learn the Ultimate Truth. So I asked everyone who would be a good master to teach me.”

“Everyone I met said that you are the smartest person. So I have come here with hope that you will accept me as your student. I already know many things and would be a great disciple.”

The young man was now beaming with excitement. He started reciting the list of subjects he had made in his mind about topics which he was already familiar with.

As he was talking to the Wise Old Master about the subjects he was already familiar with he noticed that the bowl the Wise Old Master was pouring water into was becoming full. Soon the bowl filled up and water started overflowing from the bowl.

“Master” exclaimed the young man, “The bowl is full, it can hold no more.”

The Wise Old Master smiled and said, “Your mind is just like this bowl. It is overflowing with ideas, opinions, speculations about knowledge you think you possess. Your mind can hold no more. If you wish to learn the Ultimate Truth. You must first empty your mind. The more you think you know the lesser you can learn. And the lesser you think you know, the more you will learn.”

“And that’s why” said the Zen Master concluding his story, “The five year old child is a better learner than the sixty five year old professor. The five year old knows that he doesn’t know much so is eager and curious to learn new things but the old professor things he already knows a lot and so judges all new information based on what he thinks he already knows. The child’s cup is empty. The professor’s cup is full.”

Sauka bowed his head to Zen Master and said, “Master you are truly wise.”

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