A professor from some university had a few questions on Zen practices so he visited a Japanese Zen Master 'Nan-in'. Nan-in poured tea in the visitor's cup and kept pouring. The cup was full yet Nan-in would not stop. He kept pouring despite knowing that the tea was overflowing from the cup.
The professor could not resist this scene for long. He asked with surprise, "why are you pouring tea in a cup which is already full. No more will get into it now."
In most cases only then will an advice work without effort if you advise what that person wants.
Zen master replied, "similarly, you are also full of your opinions and speculations. Unless you free yourself from these opinions and speculations how can I fill you with anything about Zen."
Advice through Training Programs
In several organizations training programs are conducted for the employees. The intention is good but the fact is that the employees are so learned these days that they don't require the bookish knowledge of the trainer. No one understands that the employees are already full. They don't require the same advice anymore.
They have already gone through several books written by Dale Carnegie, Stephen R. Covey, Robin Sharma and many others. These employees can speak more than the trainer and this is what happens in such training sessions. Everyone tries to display his knowledge during the training sessions leaving the trainer miserable and the training program fruitless at times.
The cup of tea is so full (like in the story above) these days that it only overflows. People end up giving advise to the one they were looking for advice from. For example, some people who visit the astrologers are so full of emotions that they are happy if the astrologer just listens to what they want to say. They don't want any advice. All they want is someone who could listen to them.
What the Texts Suggest?
Most texts (at least those I have read) suggest that don't advise anyone or don't try to change anyone. For this reason perhaps the ancient Hindu teachers would often test the person before accepting as disciple.
If you remember, we had in our Sanskrit books a chapter called ‘Subhashitani’ (सुभाषितानि). This chapter was mainly a collection of selected verses from various religious texts. One of the verses (related to this topic) I remember was:
स्वभावो नोपदेशेन शक्यते कर्तुमन्यथा ।
सुतप्तमपि पानीयं पुनर्गच्छति शीतताम् ॥
The message here is - you cannot change the basic nature of an individual through advice. No matter how hot the water is, it will ultimately return to normal temperature.
May be this is why Chanakya Neeti has the following shloka,
दुष्टा भार्या शठम् मित्रं भृत्यश्चोत्तरदायकः।
ससर्पे च गृहे वासो मृत्युरेव न संशयः॥
The one who has a wicked wife, foolish friend, arguing servants and in whose house live the serpents; it is certain that the person will die anytime. Chanakya has not suggested to ‘try and change’ these people. Instead, he has warned to get away with such people.
Almost the same thing (but on a positive note) appears to be in this famous Doha by Raheem:
जो रहीम उत्तम प्रकृति का करि सकत कुसंग।
चन्दन विष व्यापत नहीं लिपटे रहत भुजंग॥
Raheem says that the person who is Uttam Prakrati does not get influenced by what is happening in the surroundings. He maintains his basic nature as it is in the same way as sandalwood tree does not get poisonous despite being surrounded by snakes.
But there is a condition applied. The person should be of “Uttam” nature. I don’t know an exact word to Uttam in English language as both “best” and “fine” seem (to me) as falling just short of the exact meaning. As an example we can consider people like "Prahlad", "Vibhishana" or "Buddha" as Uttam Prakrati.
For many people giving advice brings some kind of satisfaction. This is why there are quotes floating across all the social networking sites. Many people share motivational quotes, photographs, advice on daily basis. See this one for example:
Once I was discussing with a very senior person about a training program to be held somewhere on communication skills.
He said, “These training programs arranged by the companies on behavioral skills are just a waste of time and money. If it is my nature to get nervous, how can they heal this in their one day or two day training program?
And I have attended a few of them. Some of them teach behavior using some graphs, statistics and formulas. Is life limited to mathematics or what?”
He continued while I was listening, “By reading books you can get an injection and stay motivated for a day, a week or maximum for a month. Then; finally you will return to your original style. You will return to what you had been doing for years. Nothing will change.”
I thought, "Hot water will ultimately return to its original temperature. But it will remain hot if the heat is maintained. This heat can be provided by either the self-motivated self or the Guru."
लाभस्तेषां जयस्तेषां कुतस्तेषां पराजयः I येषामिन्दीवरश्यामो हृदयस्थो जनार्दनः II