The Bridge

The Bridge

Tosui was a seventeenth-century Japanese Zen master who taught in various temples and provinces. The last temple he visited attracted so many mediocre adherents that he decided to stop teaching entirely. He advised them to disperse and go wherever they desired. Then he disappeared.

Three years later one of his disciples discovered him living with some beggars under a bridge in Kyoto. He 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 gathered a few things and joined him. The following day one of the other beggars died. Tosui and his pupil carried the body away at midnight, buried it on a mountainside and returned to the bridge.

Tosui slept soundly the remainder of the night, but the disciple lay awake. When morning came Tosui said: ‘We don’t have to beg for food today, our friend has left some over there,’ but the disciple was unable to eat.

‘I said you couldn’t live like me!’ exclaimed Tosui. ‘Go away and don’t bother me again.’

Adapted from ‘Zen Flesh, Zen Bones’ by Paul Reps.