Wednesday November 21, 2018

The key to new learning : Keep your cup empty

Relax, kick off our shoes, take a deep breath, shut up and listen...

Source: Wikimedia commons
By Parthak Prodhan, MD
A professor from the nearby university hears about Nan-in, a famous Japanese Zen master from the Meiji era. One day the professor finally decides to make a trip to Nan-in’s village and listen to his words on Zen.

As per tradition, Nan-in receives his guest and goes on to first serves tea. The master quietly pours tea into his visitors cup. However, Nan-in continues to pour tea to the brim, and much more. The professor watches the overflow and he just could no longer restrain himself. “It is full. No more will go in!” the professor blurts out. Nan-in relies “Ah- ha. That is the exact question! When you have come to learn, is your cup empty or full? Like this cup, you may be full of your own opinions and ideas. If full, unfortunately, I cannot teach you anything. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” This Zen story puts forth a simple but profound message.

It is always the perceptual limitations of our own mind that prevent us from seeing the truth. “All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.” -Swami Vivekananda, one of the most influential spiritual leader in Hinduism once said. One will have to unlearn all our preconceived notions and prejudices before one can learn anew.

Related: How Japan worships Goddess of Learning

This becomes ever so important in today’s world as we transition from the linear growth to an exponential growth of human knowledge. The “Knowledge Doubling Curve” indicates that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century and by the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. With this explosion in information  it is predicted that the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. The Internet is currently estimated to be 5 million terabytes of which Google has indexed roughly 200 TB or just 0.004% of its total size and several billion petabytes of data storage would be needed to index the entire human brain!! Unfortunately, much of the information one learns in college will be obsolete in just a few years.

So, as the story implies, the key to new learning is to open ourselves to the endless possibilities. Intellectual curiosity is the secret sauce and ingredient for this glorious future. “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. ” Albert Einstein advised the youth.

As Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher rightly said “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Furthermore, the fact that our optic nerve is 30 times thicker than our auditory nerve is an invitation for a multi-sensory mode of learning.

So, we may have to just relax, kick off our shoes, take a deep breath, shut up and listen, as we open our minds to the endless future possibilities.

Parthak is a board certified doctor (Pediatric critical care)  and teaches at University of Arkansas, Little Rock, USA.

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Why Do People Around The World Consider English Essential?

Primary Language of the Internet is English

Why Do People Around The World Consider English Essential?
Why Do People Around The World Consider English Essential? flickr

Learning English is considered to be vital in almost all the countries. People living in nations, whose first language is not English, definitely, make it a point to learn and study it as a second language, right from their childhood. In fact, many parents resort to hiring private English Tutors in order to give their kids the much needed extra edge in English to stay ahead in the competitive world. As globalization is rapidly making the world a small place to live in by forging an interconnection between, almost, every part of the world with each other, English has rapidly emerged as a common global language, virtually eliminating all international borders.

Following are some major points to help you understand the importance of learning English.

  • Primary Language of the Internet

We, definitely, go online, at least for some point in the day. A vast majority of the websites present on the Internet detail the needed information in the English language. Not only the websites, even all the major software packages, and operating systems, for your smart electronic devices including mobile, PC etc, use English as their primary language. Hence, it can be safely said that English is the primary language of the Internet and digital communication.

  • You Stand a Good Chance of Landing a Great Job

If you are looking to work in a multinational company or thinking of moving abroad; the prospects of getting a good job increase, if you can communicate well in English. Almost 54 countries of the world use English as their official language. Moreover, it is the official language of both NATO and UN.

  • Ability to Communicate with a Tremendous Amount of People

English holds the spot of being the second largest language in the world in terms of native speakers as well as persons who study, learn and communicate in English as their second language. Hence, if you are comfortable in English; it means you are convenient and comfy enough to communicate and interact with a huge amount of people in the world. Apart from this; even when it comes to using a common language in business; English comes on top in terms of usage and popularity.

some words of English language
some words of English language, pixabay
  • Quick & Simple to Learn

If you compare the English alphabets with other languages such as Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin, you will find English alphabets a lot easier to grasp. Hence, with proper efforts, you can learn English much quickly as compared to other languages.

  • Get Access to a Host of other Learning Opportunities

If you are looking to widen your knowledge base by taking up additional courses or programs; you will, undoubtedly, agree with the fact that majority of the universities and schools, worldwide, offer a plethora of study opportunities and courses which are taught and instructed, solely and entirely in English. So, in order to enjoy the benefits of studying different courses, you need to be well-versed in English.

Also read: Yogi accepts recommendations Hindi English teaching madrasas


Above were the major reasons indicating and highlighting the importance of learning the English language. Apart from these, numerous other reasons are available as well. Hence, right from befriending people internationally to following your career-oriented goals; you, undoubtedly, need the support of English language. (IANS)