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Zen Koan Case of Meeting your Master

The real master is never a master who is external to you. There will come a time within everyone’s life, when they meet the only real master, and this is the master within themselves.

Paradoxically though, once found, this same master must eventually be pushed aside.

Self control and self mastery are important, but who is it that is responsible for establishing these things within us is, if it is not our own master?

The real truth is that nobody is a master, not even yourself. In oneness, only oneness lives, and this means that any self control or self mastery is a step away from oneness, in order for you to try to manipulate a part of it for yourself. The oneness is not ever your master, but you need to allow it to master all of you to flow with it perfectly as your friend.

This Zen story about meeting our own master exemplifies these points.

At a long distant time in the past, and when it was still possible to find a master such as the Buddha, a man set off on his own journey in order to find his own master, and then to ask the master if he could become a disciple, or a student of him or her.

He spent the best part of his life on this search. For over twenty years, he searched both low and high, and in nearly all of the places that he had heard about from others, who had told him that a master reputedly lived there.

Finally, one wintery day found our pilgrim on the banks of a wide river. He had been told that on the other side, within one of the caves, lived a real, authentic, venerable, old spiritual giant.

This was reputed to be the teacher of the Zen master, Hakuin, who was already regarded as a great master, in his own right.

Wandering up and down the river, our would be student, finally spotted a man there with a small boat.

He said to this man,

” Would you mind rowing me across this wide river, and I will then give you some of these gold coins for your effort. ”

The pilgrim had been lucky enough, so far at least, during all of his long periods of searching, to never have been robbed yet of his collection of gold coins.

Halfway across the river, our wandering, soon to be a monk, looked down upon the waters passing him by. He noticed that something rather large, and with an unusual shape, was being carried along by the river. Surprised, and curious to know what this was, he was glad to notice that it was indeed floating now right towards their small vessel.

As the log of wood, or was it maybe something else, came closer towards the boat, so close that he could almost reach out and touch it, he soon realised that it was the dead body of perhaps another seeker of truth. Maybe it was the body of another pilgrim, and of one who had also tried to cross this wide, and apparently sometimes treacherously, dangerous river.

Our seeker smiled inwardly, thinking happily to himself now,

 “at least I was smart enough to find a boat owner to ferry me across this obviously hazardous river.”

He knew how appearances can change so quickly, and how peaceful calmness could just as quickly turn into a fiercely raging storm.

The body now drifted with the tide, and very soon it rubbed up against the  side of the boat. The seeker was a little uneasy about the eeriness of all of this.

A little fearful, he refused to look any closer at this dead body.

The boatman though, and to whom this was a common enough sight, remarked offhandedly to the seeker.

” You should take a closer look at that poor dead man down there. He looks exactly like you, maybe it was your brother, or even one of your relatives. ”

Our would be student steeled himself enough then, and as he gripped hard the edge of the boat, he looked over the edge, and finally cast his eyes downwards. He had to do this of course to not just have a look over the side of the boat, but into the water as well.

Suddenly he did recognise this dead body, but it was not his brother’s body at all.

Deeply shocked, he saw that it was his own!

Our student, who had become a very patient and hard to upset type of a person, and used to seeing many mysterious sights, now become completely overcome with emotion. He lost all control, crying and shouting out loudly so loudly that he nearly could have brought the dead body back to life again, if it wasn’t nearly still so dead, already.

The body indeed was very stiff, deadly silent, but surprisingly still, even within the movements of the waves, and it was, oh so very lifeless.

All of the meaning was gone now from his searching, as he continued to watch the body bobbing along, drifting and going perhaps nowhere in particular, carried unknowingly along by the tides, or by the river’s strong current.

At this very moment, he had met his master. This moment was the moment of his liberation. This was the start of his real journey. He was now on his way at last.

When we look into ourselves, and see the truth about who we are, we see that truth is always the only master that there ever is.

Every parable like this is a koan, and in which we must find our own way through it, to extract its real meaning for us as individuals. We are all on our own path towards our own liberation, and we all need to accept the embracing again of own enlightened, but perhaps only still hidden from us, true state.

At least it was all hidden to who we thought that we were at that time. Our real self is never hidden though. We are just too afraid to accept it, as being really us. We see ourselves, and look away.

I will add a comment or two here of my own, about the lesson’s within this Zen parable for me, or about what I got personally from this koan.

The gold coins to me represent this man’s inner truths, and that can never be lost, or stolen away from you by anybody else .

Love lives in you. Sometimes however it is still hidden away within your own truths, until you take the rigid steel like hand of your own mind, and melt it within the fires of love. When you do this, you are left holding then, nothing but a mirror of molten gold or love, that then reflects to you, your own real self.

We are all our own master, and as I have found in my own life, we know it all, already. This knowledge of truth that we hold within us has only to be properly re-experienced from life’s experiences, in order to become the living truths of your own infinite part of the overall oneness.

As the Buddha once was reputed to have said himself, this then gives you an understanding of the one in the many, while at the same time knowing that, you are also one of the many, in this one.

It is interesting that this same quote was also said to have been made by Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher.

This is quoted from his one of his many works.

“From the Gods a gift to the human race: thus I reckon the gift of seeing the One in the many, and the many in the One.”

The search for our master will continue on until we finally see that in this way the search is being our master. We must give up even this searching, and just flow with what is, and we will then see that there is no master to find.

Oneness is not our master, it is perhaps but an experience of God that we are a part of. No-one is free, if they think that they must be the master of themselves. Freedom has no masters, oneness is never mastered.