Only by Emptying Ourselves Can We Gain New Life

By Wu Han

Once, I read a story online: Years ago, there was a scholar who thought himself brilliant. Every time he heard someone praise others for their remarkable insights, he would turn up his nose. Once when he heard people keep praising a Buddhist monk’s great self-cultivation, he decided to visit the monk and see if he was as cultivated as they say. After he got to the temple, he was treated with the best tea by the monk. He declared his intention to the monk and began to talk at length about his intelligent opinions. At last he hit the monk with the question. However, the monk didn’t answer right away but pointed at the teapot on the table and ask him to taste the tea. And the monk picked up the teapot and kept pouring tea into the cup until it was full to overflowing, yet he still didn’t stop.

pick up the teapot and keep pouring tea into the cup

At the sight of this, unable to hold his silence, the scholar interrupted the monk. “The cup is full to the brim, but why do you still pour into it?”

The monk replied, “The teacup is just your mirror. Like the cup, you are full of your own views and can’t accept new things. Thus, how could others talk to you? You’d better first learn to empty your cup.” Listening to these words, the scholar was suddenly wide awake. From then on, he traveled all over to learn from others. Finally, he cultivated his mind successfully.

In fact, we are always like this arrogant scholar in the real life, considering ourselves wise and competent and everyone our intellectual inferior. So we have no regard for anyone else, let alone empty ourselves and be a modest learner. The Bible says, “For whoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Only when learning to put ourselves aside, humble ourselves and empty ourselves can we have an inflow of new life and make progress. If we blindly hold on ourselves and are complacent, we can never progress and our life shall become a pool of stagnant water and drain away in the end.

Here, I am reminded of a recent incident.

Recently, our company recruited a group of employees, some of whom are masters, doctors or returnees. In comparison, I was their inferior in educational background. When seeing their work was brilliant, I, arrogant, was in defiant mood and tried to compete with them. Living in such a disposition, I felt God hid His face from me and I couldn’t see His guidance in my work. Subsequently, in much of my work, I was unable to find the deviations and so I couldn’t finish the work by myself. Then, I felt so panic that I immediately came before God to pray and seek.

After prayer, I saw God’s words saying, “You always worry that others will stand out more than you, that others will become greater than you. Is this not being jealous of worth and ability? Is this a behavior that is considerate of God’s intention? What kind of disposition is this? This is venomousness!” (“You Can Obtain Truth After Turning Your True Heart Over to God”). Thinking over God’s words, I began to examine myself: Why did I have such manifestations these days? Was it not because I was worried that once the new colleagues proved to be more capable than me, I would be surpassed and so I couldn’t stand out? God says this is venomousness and being jealous of worth and ability. Indeed. When other people become greater than me, it causes not the slightest harm to my interests. Moreover, with talents collaborate on our company’s work, the business will reach a higher level. Isn’t it a good thing? However, for the sake of my own interests, I was jealous of them. What is this, if not venomousness? But I was much more oppressed at the thought of this.

After knowing my situation, a sister sent me a passage of words, “If you always learn new things, you will make progress, do some practical things and achieve some results; if you are complacent and do not learn new things, but always think that you are proficient in everything and that you are a musician and a genius, then actually you are nothing. You can’t finish any products, but persist in thinking you are capable. Are you not deceiving others? You should learn some real things and some real skills and then you will be capable of doing some practical things. This is meaningful and practical” (“To Fulfill Our Duty Well, We Need to Improve Ourselves Constantly”). Then she communicated with me, “It is a good opportunity to learn new things when somebody better than us appears. As the saying goes, ‘Never too old to learn.’ It won’t do not to learn new things. If the people around are less talented than us, we will become self-satisfied and make no progress. But when we are surrounded by some people who are better and more talented than us, we will find many of our deficiencies and inadequacies. At this point, if we can put ourselves aside, humble ourselves and empty ourselves and learn their strengths to make up for our shortcomings, we will make much progress.” Having listened to what my sister fellowshiped, I was much clear. The reason why I lived in pain recently was that I’d been struggling against the new colleagues for fame and gain. The words sent by my sister showed me the way of practice—to learn the strengths and advantages from my colleagues to make up for my deficiencies. This was what I should do.

I think of in our company, there is a venerable elder with much life experience and high virtue and abilities. We, younger generation, often get provision and help from his words. Even so, he still lowers himself to ask our opinions every time when talking about questions with us, which makes me admire him very much. Looking at myself, I, a nobody, am arrogant and proud and disobey anyone. However, the elder can confess to his deficiencies and when we offer some reasonable suggestions, he will adopt them. How precious this virtue is!

Thinking of these, I suddenly feel my mind much broader. Just as the thoughts conveyed through this story: If we don’t empty ourselves, how can we take in new things? I am so arrogant and always think I am better than others. How can I absorb their strengths and get real ability and learning in this way? Only by learning to empty myself can I make deeper progress.

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