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Short Story: The Zen Master, who had thought that he was dying, died only to himself

The renowned Zen Master, Lokei Dounstoz, used to wear sandals, on his feet, like most Zen masters usually do. 

He had an old, worn pair, that he was particularly fond of.

One day, while he was walking in the monastery grounds, Lokei stepped on a snake, sunning itself on the stones around the lake.

The snake, was as surprised as Lokei was now, but it was quicker, than Lokei was, to react.

It bit him quickly on the left leg.

Now, Lokei, sat down, on a nearby rock, after moving a small distance away.

He was hoping that one of his students might come out to help him.

He knew that this type of snake was particularly venomous. He knew that he did not have long to live now.

Lokei grabbed out his notebook, and quickly he added his final koan for his students, thinking of them even now, as he was soon to die.

It was this simple question:

“Who was more aware, the snake, or me, here?”

       (The great master had really thought that his time was up. Thoughts can lead us down the wrong path, without the knowledge to refute, or validate them.)

A student then came out, and he immediately saw the distress of his master.

He looked over towards the pond, and he spotted the snake still there.

This was a harmless python, that looked very much like the deadly asp, that his master had obviously mistaken it for.

The master would not die then, unless the wound became infected at the bite, by the fifth of the snake’s saliva, and the bacteria in that saliva.

This student summoned another monk, and using a disinfecting balm, made of certain leaves and herbs, he washed the area first, and then applied the compress, with a string to hold it in its place.

(The master would live now, for another day, or more, or more.)

After doing all of this, this student looked at the master’s notepad.

He answered the master’s question like this:

“Awareness, is not in the speed of recognition or response, but in the love that is in the situation, and love is truth, so in my responding to you with this love, plus a degree of knowledge about snakes, you will not die now.”

The master laughed nervously,

“You are the real master here, my son, take my sandals, and wear them from now on.”

The old master had realised inwardly now, that to be alive, we must not fool ourselves, with outer appearances, but live inwardly for the truth, loving it into being through our actions, not our words.

He had to die as himself, to be reborn as a true master. He had not as yet done this, even though, he had been the master of this temple now for the best part of thirty years.

Photo Credit: The photos used in this article were all sourced from the free media site,


What do you think?


Written by The Dunce

Story MakerContent AuthorYears Of Membership


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    • Yes, these great masters usually know exactly what is going on, and play out the scene in a way to get the best learning experiences made available for all around him who are ready to learn from it to learn.

      So, perhaps, he did know, but then again, a master cannot know everything, so perhaps he didn’t also.

      This well-known Zen story illustrates this:

      The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju.

      After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. “I am getting old,” he said, “and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching.”

      “Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I have also added many points according to my understanding.”

      “The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship.”

      “If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it,” Shoju replied. “I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is.”

      “I know that,” said Mu-nan. “Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven
      generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here.”

      They happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions. Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled:

      “What are you doing!”

      Shoju shouted back: “What are you saying!”

      • What on earth did Shoju chuck the master’s book of zen masters into the furnace for? He had no sense of value for the ‘written word’. On second thought, he could be saying, 1. “Stop whining about getting old and faded. Write more insights, lessons and Zen-wisdom and philosophies… you are still alive and make the most of your remaining years– living and recording from memory.” 2. “Master, your words you have taught me are written in my heart and soul and they will keep me wise forever. And shall forever record the things you have taught me as I live them and disciple more who will come.
        Enjoyed the story. Thanks.

        • The “master” got angry, when he had never been angry before, but then again, why did the student have the gall, to anger his master like that.

          Destructive vandalism is not good, even if it does make a point by doing it.

          You cannot learn a good lesson in a bad way, I think.

          It does happen, but not from someone intentionally following a bad way to try to get a good lesson across. I do not think this approach is generally so good to follow.


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