Zen Koans Explained: "Zen in a Beggar's Life"

If the word "Zen" leaves you feeling lost and confused, try this: stop. That's right: stop. Look around. What are you stopping? Exactly. Or is it stopping you? Do you see now? You shouldn't—this was all in your mind. Think about it—but with what?

The koan: "Zen in a Beggar's Life"

Tosui was a well-known Zen teacher of his time. He had lived in several temples and taught in various provinces. The last temple he visited accumulated so many adherents that Tosui told them he was going to quit the lecture business entirely. He advised them to disperse and to go wherever they desired. After that no one could find any trace of him.

Three years later one of his disciples discovered him living with some beggars under a bridge in Kyoto. He at one implored Tosui to teach him.

"If you can do as I do for even a couple of days, I might," Tosui replied. So the former disciple dressed as a beggar and spent a day with Tosui. The following day one of the beggars died. Tosui and his pupil carried the body off at midnight and buried it on a mountainside. After that they returned to their shelter under the bridge.

Tosui slept soundly the remainder of the night, but the disciple could not sleep. When morning came Tosui said: "We do not have to beg food today. Our dead friend has left some over there." But the disciple was unable to eat a single bite of it.

"I have said you could not do as I," concluded Tosui. "Get out of here and do not bother me again."

The enlightenment: Tosui had gone stone cold crazy living under that god damn bridge.

This has been "Zen Koans Explained." The Lord's footwork.

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