At Saturday Sangha this week, Chong Go Sunim mentioned a Korean Buddhist saying that I hadn’t listened to before. Our spiritual capacity is like a bowl, it can only hold so much. Once it’s full, it just spills out over the edge. Then, no matter how great the teaching, only so much of it can be retained.

Of course, the first question that crossed my mind was, “So, how do we increase the size of our bowls?”

13 thoughts on “bowls”

  1. Dear Joseph,

    I am intrigued by this image. Is there two bowls one inside the other? Is the big bowl full of water?


    – roy _/\_

    1. Hi Roy,
      It was just the one bowl, full of water.
      I believe it is a double walled bowl though.
      Other than that, just the wonders of light refracting!

      If you look really closely, you might be able to make out the Mireuk Buddha from last weeks post! ^^

    2. Isn’t that a wild image?! I’m with Jospeh in guessing that it’s a double-walled bowl, that was made this way for it’s insulation properties. Single-walled bowls are tough to carry when they’re full of really hot soup.

  2. {Of course, the first question that crossed my mind was, “So, how do we increase the size of our bowls?”}

    This could be an interesting discussion.

    A bowl (container of any kind) by definition, fulfills its purpose once it’s filled. Once it has reached its capacity, it must be emptied in order to once again fulfill its purpose.

    Perhaps the answer is to “empty” it by spreading its contents around, so that it can once again be filled?

    1. I like this point of view…
      It leans towards keeping a fresh mind, and once the contents are emptied, they are still there to be scooped up again if needed!

      Thank you, Doug!

  3. Joseph – I’m thinking not only emptying the contents (spirituality) to increase our own capacity, but spreading/spilling out the spirituality for the benefit of others.

    A win/win situation.

  4. win/win sounds good!

    my idea (for lack of an old Egyptian back of the head): what if it wasn’t a question of quantity (size) but of the subject matter’s (teaching) quality?
    in case i’m able to realize the content (the teaching) is ’emptiness’, there’ll be no probleme about size… lots of space even in the tiniest bowl…
    what do you think?

    and again, a really fascinating picture, Joseph!

  5. Joseph, in my comment to Chong Go Sunim’s recent post on “Virtuous Friends,” in included a passage about the great teacher, Kyong Ho, in which he said:

    “Desiring to become as a big tree or a great container of Wisdom prevents you from being a true teacher. Big trees have a big use; small trees have a small use. Good and bad bowls both have uses. Nothing is to be discarded. Keep both good and bad friends; this is your responsibility. You must not reject any element; this is Buddhism. My only wish is for you to free yourself from conceptions.”

    Perhaps the issue is not so much to become a bigger bowl, but to fully utilize the bowl that we have, to use it fully in the service of others.

    1. Thank you,
      I did read this, I thought it was wonderful!
      And of all the monks there, only the young boy had the courage to chase after him!

    2. I keep catching that desire to be “more” taking hold of me, only I catch it when it’s already fully sprouted intstead of at the early stage, closer to its roots.
      Thank you for, once again, helping me see it!

  6. Thanks for all the great comments.

    After sleeping on it a little, I’m now wondering if maybe it’s just about recognizing your your own capacity, and not grasping for more than you can hold. In the end, we are given what we need.

  7. There’s the story from the Gateless Gate…. but I never can get these things! LOL!

    A monk asked Zhaozhou to teach him.
    Zhaozhou asked, “Have you eaten your meal?”
    The monk replied, “Yes, I have.”
    “Then go wash your bowl”, said Zhaozhou.
    At that moment, the monk was enlightened.

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