The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps.”
The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word,” he remarked. “You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.
“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth pupil.
A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He takes his boat out to the middle of the lake, moors it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation.
After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own.
With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared disturb his meditation. But when he opens his eyes, he sees it’s an empty boat that had probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.
At that moment, the monk achieves self-realisation, and understands that the anger is within him; it merely needs the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. From then on, whenever he comes across someone who irritates him or provokes him to anger, he reminds himself, “The other person is merely an empty boat. The anger is within me.”
Take time for introspection & search for answers: Empty boat is a famous & fabulous metaphor. Its value lies in its implementation.