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Inspirational Quotations for Adult Students, No. 2

Quotations About the Importance of an Open Mind


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. "It is overfull. 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?"

I don't know the origin of this story, but it is identical everywhere I search. It is a perfect example of the need to open your mind in order to keep learning.

1. "It is the mark of an educated mind..." — Aristotle

Aristotle - Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images
Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Aristotle said that. He lived 384BCE to 322BCE.

With an open mind, you can consider new ideas without making them your own. They flow in, are entertained, and they flow out. You decide whether or not the thought is worthy of acceptance.

As a writer, I am acutely aware that not everything in print is accurate or correct. Be discriminating as you learn.

2. "Education's purpose..." — Malcolm S. Forbes

Malcolm Forbes - Yvonne Hemsey - Hulton Archives - Getty Images
Yvonne Hemsey - Hulton Archives - Getty Images

"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."

Malcolm S. Forbes lived 1919-1990. He published Forbes Magazine from 1957 until his death. This quotation is said to have come from his magazine, but I do not have the specific issue.

I love the idea that the opposite of an empty mind is not a full one, but one that is open.

3. "Man's mind, once stretched..." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes - Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images
Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

This quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes is especially lovely because it creates the image that an open mind doesn't have anything to do with the size of a brain. An open mind is limitless.

4. "The highest result of education..." — Helen Keller

Helen Keller in 1904 - Topical Press Agency - Hulton Archives - Getty Images
Topical Press Agency - Hulton Archives - Getty Images

"The highest result of education is tolerance."

This is from Helen Keller's 1903 essay, Optimism. She continues:

"Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage, the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principal of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think."

The emphasis is mine. In my mind, Keller is saying that an open mind is a tolerant mind, a discriminating mind that can see the best in people, even when it is different.

Keller lived 1880 to 1968

5. "When the student is ready..." — Buddhist Proverb

Buddhist Monk - Shanna Baker - Photolibrary - Getty Images
Shanna Baker - Photolibrary - Getty Images

"When the student is ready, the master appears."

I put this ancient Buddhist proverb in the open mind category because being ready to learn implies that a student's mind is open to learning, is curious. Curiosity is the precursor to learning.

What are you curious about?

Related from the teacher's point of view: 5 Principles of Teaching Adults

6. "Always walk through life..." — Vernon Howard

Vernon Howard - New Life Foundation
Vernon Howard - New Life Foundation

"Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will."

Vernon Howard (1918-1992) was an American author and the founder of the New Life Foundation, a spiritual organization.

I include this quotation with the others about open minds because walking through the world ready for new learning indicates that your mind is open. Your teacher is sure to appear!

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