Of course at this point everyone—even those who may never have heard the story—can tell that the master will cleverly inform the guest that metaphorically he is like the teacup; he has come already full. And in the mythic world of enigmatic Zen masters, everyone will realize the truth at that moment and experience instant enlightenment…or else the disgruntled teacher will stalk angrily away in search of someone who knows what he knows and is willing to acknowledge him for it. Cynical but perhaps more realistic.
Now I know very few Zen masters, of course, but this same scenario, though slightly varied, happens with experienced martial artists too. Their expectations, however, produce a kind of tunnel vision so that they see only what they have been conditioned to see. Like the old adage about the carpenter who sees the solution to every problem in terms of a hammer and a nail, the karate practitioner who has spent endless hours pounding a punching post (makiwara) tends to interpret all kata in terms of punching, blocking, and kicking. How do we bring an open mind, a beginner’s mind, to the analysis of kata (bunkai)? How do we make sure that we are not bringing a cup that is already full to the table?
|Exercises with the Kongoken.|