Rudyard Kipling's "If"

A Zen koan re-imagined for our busy world. Well, for me!

Why this story?

It’s been a busy 12 months, filled with learning and reading and learning and reading and… I don’t know if anything else can go “in”! I’m an oral storyteller and so this tale popped into my head.

About Zen koans

A koan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the “great doubt” and to practice or test a student’s progress in Zen. They are often short, filled with meaning, and can result in rather helpful “ah hah” moments.

One version of the original tale (there are many)

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. “Stop! It is overflowing. 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?”

And that, dear reader, is the end of today’s Walk the Tortoise!