Zen Story: The Outcast Master

National Teacher Daito Kokushi, whose honorific name means “Great Lamp. Teacher of the Nation,” was one of the founders of the renowned O-To-Kan school of Rinzai Zen. He died in the fourteenth century.

According to the custom of ancient Zen Schools, Daito disappeared from the monastery after his enlightenment, to mature his realization hidden in the midst of the world. It was not until years later that he was discovered living under a bridge in Kyoto, in the society of homeless beggars. From there he became a teacher of the emperor.

Daito once wrote a poem about his life as an outcast:

When one sits in meditation,

one sees the people coming and going

over the avenue bridge as trees

growing deep in the mountains.

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