Empty Your Cup

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore (Taken on March 23, 2010)

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore
(Taken on March 23, 2010)

19 August 2013
10:11 AM


Yesterday was a good day for me. It was quiet and reflective. During meals, it was all laughter though, and that was beautiful, too. I want more days like these. I want that kind of peace.

I’ve been thinking constantly of travel, ever since I wrote that letter about wanting to visit you in Edinburgh. This morning, I’ve also been thinking about going back to Singapore, but especially to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It is a humbling place, a special place. It made me feel that I could shape my life, that I could be a good person, that I could take everything that the world has to offer. That everything I wanted is achievable, but I must learn how to be receptive. I also understood that this learning is constant, and would take my whole life.

I woke up twice in the middle of the night because of bad dreams. I felt blindsided. I thought, but everything was fine, wasn’t it? How come the monsters still visited while I was asleep and defenseless?

My mantra yesterday, and today, too, from an old zen adage:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

At the temple, the walls are filled with Buddhas. There’s a section where the Zodiac Protectors are displayed:

According to Japanese Buddhist Culture, there is a Buddha or Bodhisattva to protect you upon birth. There is a corresponding Zodiac Protector for each Lunar Zodiac animal. The Zodiac Protectors engages in His vows that whoever prays to the respective Zodiac Protectors with faith would be blessed by Him. Each Zodiac Protector has a corresponding Zodiac General as guardian.

I was born in the year of the tiger, and it is said that my protector is the Ākāśagarbha Buddha:

Ākāśagarbha Buddha (Taken on March 23, 2010)

Ākāśagarbha at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore
(Taken on March 23, 2010)

I don’t know much about it, to tell you the truth, apart from what I’ve read:

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva is one of the eight great bodhisattvas. His name can be translated as “boundless space treasury” or “void store” as his Wisdom is said to be boundless as space itself.

The Mantra of Ākāśagarbha is popularly used by Shingon Buddhists, Chinese Esoteric Buddhists, and artists. It is believed to give rise to Wisdom and creativity, and dispel Ignorance.

In Japanese culture, the Ākāśagarbha is called the Kokūzō Bosatsu:

In Japan, believers pray to Kokūzō to grant them wisdom on their quest toward enlightenment. They also pray to Kokūzō to improve their memory, technical skills, and artistic talents.

English Translations for Kokūzō

  • Womb of the Sky
  • Treasure of Emptiness
  • Bodhisattva of Space (Wisdom of Emptiness)
  • Vast & Boundless Vessel of Buddha’s Wisdom
  • Bodhisattva of All-Encompassing Wisdom.
  • Space / Sky Repository (also Space / Sky Treasury)
  • Guardian of the Treasury of All Wisdom & Achievement

I don’t know where I am going now with this letter. I wanted to talk about wanting to travel, wanting to find peace. I wanted to talk about zen and Buddhism, and how interested I am in making it a part of my life in the future. I need more space to do it, and not only in the physical sense (although it is a valid concern). I want to talk about how much I want to be enlightened. I remember an old letter where you mentioned an awakened state.

I want–ah, most of all I want to stop wanting, and just be.

Here is a story:

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?”

Here is a poem:

Yes, I’m Truly A Dunce
Taigu Ryokan

Yes, I’m truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment —
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.
I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.

It is raining again.

Good morning,


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