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A Matter of Perspective
By: Deepika Thomas




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There lived an American University Prof.Paul Martin Meiji Era (1868-1912). It was during those times when the during the American community in general had a condescending attitude towards Oriental Philosophy more so with regard to the Zen Philosophy. Paul martin was no exception to this opinion and was quite skeptical in his approach towards it and felt that there was nothing great about it than he was already aware of.

Paul martin was a fun loving and gregarious person who lived life with a lot of exuberance. To him happiness depended upon the extent of wealth and riches that one could accumulate during one's lifetime. So when he came across the Zen Philosophy, which advocated the concept of, "This too shall pass" he was filled with a sense of skepticism. This was because it advocated the radical impermanence of life. It rudely reminded him that the comfort and grandeur of his life would one day be reduced to dust. It was also a reminder of his mortality.

It was during this phase of his life that he came to meet his long time friend Seung Saha who lived in Japan. Saha was an ardent believer in the philosophies advocated by Zen. Paul Martin expressed his disapproval of Zen quite vehemently when Saha tried to convince him. Saha, a little distraught at Paul's skepticism suggested that he meet Nan-in a brilliant Japanese master and preacher of Zen Philosophy.

Paul undertook a trip to Japan and confronted Nan-in with his ideologies. Nan-in being an embodiment of composure invited him for the tea ceremony. He poured his visitors cup full and then kept on pouring till it started overflowing into the saucer. Paul unable to restrain himself retorted, "The cup is full and no more will go in. When you are unable to pour tea properly how will you even be able to convince me on Zen?" Nan-in looked at him gently and smilingly answered, "You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you empty your cup first?" Paul was taken aback at Nan-in's reply and returned wiser with the quote, "A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month's study of books", repeatedly playing in his mind.