The correct way to receive teachings is to avoid certain defects that would otherwise prevent us from understanding the teachings and putting them into practise. There are three defects to be avoided, and we can use the analogy of a bowl or empty vessel to explain them. The first defect is to be like a bowl that is turned upside down; no matter how much nectar is poured, not a single drop can go into it. We are like upside-down bowls when we do not pay attention to what the teacher is saying.
The second defect is to be like a bowl with holes pierced in the bottom: nectar passes through as fast as it goes in. We retain neither the words nor the meaning of the teachings when we do not listen attentively, letting everything go in one ear and out the other.
The third defect is to be like a bowl that contains poison. The poison will contaminate whatever liquid is poured into the bowl, and even a pure liquid will become poisonous because the bowl itself is poisoned. We are like this when we listen to the teachings with our mind filled with mental poisons or negative thoughts. In this situation, the teachings will not be of benefit.
— Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche