Osho on Ekido (Zen Master) – Only a Zen master beats his disciples

Question – Beloved Osho, The Japanese Master Ekido was a severe teacher and his pupils feared him. One day, as one of his pupils was striking the time of day on the temple gong, he missed a beat because he was watching a beautiful girl who was passing the gates. Unknown to the pupil, Ekido was standing behind him. Ekido struck the pupil with his staff, and the shock stopped the heart of the pupil, and he died. Because the old custom of the pupil signing his life over to the master had sunk to a mere formality, Ekido was discredited by the general public. But after this incident, Ekido produced ten enlightened successors, an unusually high number.

Osho – This type of phenomenon is special to Zen and to Zen masters. Only a Zen master beats his disciples, and sometimes it happens that the disciple dies through beating. Ordinarily, this looks very cruel, violent, mad. Religious people cannot conceive how a master can be so cruel as to kill a disciple, but those who know feel differently. A man who is enlightened knows well that nobody is ever killed. The inner is eternal, it goes on and on. It may change bodies but the change is only of houses, the change is only of dresses the change is only of vehicles. The traveler goes on and on, nothing dies.

The moment of death can become the moment of enlightenment also, both are so similar. When someone becomes enlightened it is a death deeper than ordinary death; when someone becomes enlightened he comes to know that he is not the body. The attachment, the identification, disappears. For the first time he can see an unbridgeable gap. He is here, the body is there; there is an abyss between. He has never been the body and the body has never been him. This death is deeper than ordinary death; when you die ordinarily you are still identified with the body.

This death is still deeper. Not only are you unidentified with the body, your identification with the mind, with the ego, also disappears. You are left simply as an emptiness, as an inner space, boundless, you are neither the body nor the mind. In ordinary death only the body dies; the mind goes on following you like a shadow. The mind is the problem, not the body. Through the mind you have become one with the body, and unless the mind disappears you will go on getting into newer bodies, into newer vehicles, and the wheel of life will go on and on. When you become enlightened suddenly you are not the body, you are not the mind. Only then do you come to know who you are. The body is a seed, the mind is also a seed; hidden beyond them is you.

Sometimes it happens that a Zen master can coincide the moment of your death with your enlightenment. In the right moment he can hit you: the body falls down — everybody can see that — but deep within the ego falls down also. Only you and the master know. It is not cruelty, it is the highest form of compassion, and only a very great master can do it. It is very subtle to feel the moment of your death, and to make it a point of inner transformation and transfiguration.

Look at this story and you may think-it is how the story appears-that the master killed his disciple. That is not the thing. The disciple was going to die anyhow; it was the moment for his death. The master knew it; he simply used the moment of death for the disciple’s enlightenment. But this is an inner secret, something esoteric, and I could not defend Ekido in a court with this. The court would say he is a murderer. Anyhow, there would be no way to prove he knew the disciple was going to die in that moment. Why not use death? An ignorant person cannot use life; an enlightened person can even use death. That’s how a master should be, using everything for enlightenment.

Ekido was just standing behind the disciple; he was beating the gong of the temple and the master was watching. If this disciple can die in awareness, death will become the turning-point of the wheel. If he can die in awareness, if he can fall but remain conscious, if the body can fall, but deep down he can remain centered, alert, aware, this will be the last death; he will not need to be reborn again. Remember, if you can die with full awareness the wheel of life stops; you can enter a new body only if you are unaware, unconscious. When someone dies fully conscious, this world disappears, there is no birth again.

That’s why we say an enlightened person never comes again. A buddha simply disappears; you will not be able to meet him again in the body. You can meet him in bodilessness — he is everywhere then — but not in the body. You cannot meet Buddha somewhere because only a body exists somewhere. When the body disappears Buddha exists everywhere, or nowhere. You can meet him here, you can meet him there, you can meet him anywhere, but don’t look for him in the body. The body exists somewhere; when the body disappears, the soul, the consciousness exists everywhere. You can meet Buddha anywhere; wherever you go you can meet him.

The body is there because the mind seeks desires through the body; desires cannot be fulfilled without the body. You can be completely fulfilled without the body, but desires cannot be fulfilled without the body. Desire needs the body; the body is the vehicle of desire. That’s why possession happens. You have heard, you must have heard, many stories about a ghost possessing somebody else. Why is a ghost so interested in possessing somebody else? It is because of desires. Desires cannot be fulfilled without a body, so he enters somebody’s body to fulfill his desires.

The same is the case when you enter a womb, enter into a fresh body, and start the journey of desires. But if you die alert, in that alertness not only the body dies, all desires evaporate. Then there is no entering into a womb. Then entering a womb is such a painful process, it is so painful that consciously you cannot do it; only unconsciously you can do it.

The English word anxiety comes from a Latin root which means narrowing down, and in the beginning the word was used for the entry of a soul into a womb. So the first anxiety is felt when a soul enters a womb, because everything is narrowed down; an infinite soul becomes a small body. This is the most painful process possible, as if the whole sky has been forced to enter into a seed. You don’t know it because it is so painful that you become totally unconscious.

There are two painful processes. You may have heard Buddha’s saying, “Birth is pain, death is pain.” These are the greatest pains, the greatest anguishes possible. When the infinite becomes finite in the womb, it is painful, it is anxiety; and when the infinite is taken out of the body again there is anguish and pain.

So whenever someone dies consciously, he disappears. Then there is no more entry into the body. Then there is no more anxiety, because anxiety is the consequence of desire; then you need not be narrowed down because there is no desire to be fulfilled. You can remain infinite; there is no need to enter a vehicle because now you are going nowhere.

This disciple who was beating the gong of the temple must have been near his death, close, and the master was standing behind him because of this fact. The disciple was going to die any moment. This is not said in the story, this cannot be said but this is how the thing happened; otherwise there was no need for the master to stand behind the disciple when he was beating the gong. There are many more important things for the master to do. Beating the going is just an ordinary thing, an everyday ritual. Why was the master standing behind him? This Ekido seems to be strange fellow. Had he not anything more significant to do? At that moment there was nothing more significant, because this disciple was going to die anyhow and this death had to be used. And only a master can use death — out of compassion. He was waiting to see whether he remained alert at the moment of death or not. He missed.

The story is beautiful and very significant. He saw a beautiful girl passing and his whole consciousness was lost. He became a desire, his whole being became a desire: he wanted to follow this girl, to possess this girl. And whenever there is desire, consciousness is lost because both cannot exist together. Desire exists with unconsciousness, it cannot exist with consciousness; when you move in desire, consciousness disappears. Hence so much insistence by all the buddhas and Jainas for desirelessness. When you are desireless you will be aware; when you are aware you will be desireless. These are two aspects of the same coin — on one aspect, desirelessness; on another aspect, alertness, consciousness.

The story is significant. Seeing a beautiful girl pass, the disciple missed himself. He was no more there; he became a desire. He started following the girl, he entered a dream, he became sleepy, he became unconscious. Sex is the mid-point between death and birth; between birth and death is sex. Really, between birth and death.there is nothing but sex, an extension of sex. You are conceived out of sex, and from the moment you are conceived you start on a journey of sexual pleasure. The moment you die, this continues. And sex is so powerful that even if death is standing there, you will forget it. If sex takes the grip then everything can be forgotten; you become completely mad.

The form of the girl caught his mind; he was no more there. He was alert just a moment before, now he was not alert. You may have heard stories, Indian stories, of rishis, seekers, doing austerities, meditating in their forest abodes in the hills. Always it happens that whenever they reach a point of awareness, suddenly sex arises. Apsaras, nymphs from heaven, descend as if they are just waiting for someone to come to a point of awareness, as if there is a subtle conspiracy against achieving awareness. Hidden deep in a forest someone achieves a little alertness, and suddenly nymphs are there, beautiful girls from heaven — not of this earth, perfect; You cannot conceive anything more perfect; the bodies are as if of gold, transparent. Suddenly awareness is lost and the rishi has become a man of desire. He falls.

From where do these apsaras come? Do they really come from heaven? Is there some conspiracy against awareness? — no. They come out of the mind of the seeker. The mind, when it sees that everything is going to be lost, uses sex as the last weapon. When the mind sees that now awareness is reaching a crystallization, and that crystallized the mind will not have any say, the mind will be dropped, this is its last struggle — suddenly the mind creates sex and the desire for sex, the mind projects.

I say to you, there may have been no girl passing. It was just the moment of death, and this man was aware, so the mind played the last trick. That is the last; if you win that you have won the mind. The mind will play other tricks and always preserve sex as the last resort. If sex cannot work then nothing can work. The mind depends basically on sex.

Look into your mind: you will find it is ninety percent sex, thinking about sex, dreaming about sex. Projecting in the future, remembering the past, it is always about sex. And sometimes, even if you feel it is not thinking about sex, ponder over it, meditate — it desires other things also because of sex. You may think about becoming wealthy — what will you do with your wealth? Just ask the mind, and the mind says: Then you can enjoy the body, then you can get the most beautiful woman possible. The mind may think: become a Napoleon, a Hitler. But ask the mind what you will do with power. Suddenly you will find, hidden somewhere, sex and desire.

This girl may not have been passing there. Or, even if the girl was passing there, the girl may not have been as beautiful as she looked, as she appeared. In the first place I think there was no girl — just the moment of death and this man’s awareness. He was beating the gong fully alert. This is part of meditation in a Zen monastery — whatsoever you do, do it with awareness. When you walk, walk fully alert; when you move your head, be fully alert. Whatsoever you do, follow it with alertness; don’t miss it, don’t think of anything else. Be there in it as a light and everything is revealed. Every act, every nook and corner of it is lighted; nothing is in darkness. When you eat, eat with awareness. This is all one has to do in a Zen monastery — twenty-four hours of alertness.

This disciple must have been beating the gong with full alertness. The gong is beaten to make everybody alert, and he must have been alert with the sound resounding in the monastery. Suddenly the girl appeared — from where? In the first place I think there was no girl; the mind projected. In the second place, even if there was a girl, the girl was not so beautiful as the mind thought — it projected. The girl was just a screen; the dream came from the mind and was projected.

That’s how it is happening to everybody. When for the first time you fall in love, the girl is not of this world; she comes from somewhere else — she is an apsara, a nymph from heaven. But by and by, the more you become acquainted, the girl becomes more and more earthly, ordinary, homely. Suddenly you find there is nothing — this is just an ordinary girl — and then you think you have been deceived, that this girl has deceived you.

Nobody has deceived you. Your mind projected; your mind projected so that desire could move. Beauty doesn’t exist in things; beauty is a projection. Beauty is not objective; it is subjective. So one day somebody looks beautiful, another day the same person becomes ugly. It is you who projects, it is you who withdraws, the other works just as a screen.

Once you come to know that the mind projects beauty and ugliness, that the mind projects good and bad, you stop projecting. Then for the first time you come to know what objective reality is. It is neither good nor bad, it is neither beautiful nor ugly; it simply is. All your interpretations drop with the projections.

Osho on Zen Master Ekido

So this disciple at the moment of death was going to be alert and aware, and the mind did the last thing, its final resort — a beautiful girl appeared. The mind created beauty around her and awareness was lost. The mind became dim and desire arose; the soul was there no more. The disciple became the body.

That’s why all religions insist so much on transcending sex. Unless you transcend sex the mind will play the last trick, and it will be the winner, not you. But repression is not transcendence, It is escape. Move into desire with full awareness; try to be in the sex act but alert. By and by, you will see the emphasis changing: the energy will be moving more into alertness and less into the sex act. Now the thing has happened, the basic thing has happened. Sooner or later the whole sex energy becomes meditative energy, then you have transcended. Then, whether you stand in the market or sit in a forest, apsaras cannot come to you. They may be passing on the street but they will be there no more for you. If your mind is there absent apsaras become present; if your mind is not there present apsaras disappear.

At this moment when the disciple missed awareness, the master hit him hard on the head. I would like to do the same for you in your moment of death, but it cannot be tolerated here. In Japan it was one of the oldest traditions: whenever a disciple came to a master, he said “My life, my death — both are yours. If you want to kill me, you can.” This is what surrender is. And he signed, he wrote it down; he gave it in writing because the law, the state, won’t listen. The law will not listen if you say that because he was going to die, that’s why you hit him. The law will say: you hit him, that’s why he has died.

The law moves from the visible and a master moves from the invisible. The master is seeing the invisible death reaching, and he hits just to make the disciple alert. And a very hard hit is needed. When the mind is moving in sex an ordinary hit won’t do; a real hit is needed, a real electric shock-like thing.

It is an old story. If in the future there are monasteries like old Zen monasteries, there will be no need to hit with a staff. An electric shock can be given — but something so shocking that the whole being trembles, something so shocking that there is a break in the desire that is leading you out.

The master hit the disciple so hard that he died. This is the visible part of it — he fell down and died. What happened inside? What is the inside story? When the master hit the disciple, it was the moment of his death, but desire was arising. And in the moment of death if sex is there, only then can you enter into another womb; otherwise you cannot enter.

Men dying in bed, if they are conscious, always think of sex. It may be strange but an old man, even a man of a hundred years, dying in bed, almost always thinks of sex, because sex is the first and the last in the body’s life. He may have been thinking of God before, he may have been chanting Ram, Ram, Ram, but suddenly at the moment of death everything drops and sex appears again. It is natural: the first must be the last. You were conceived out of sex and you must die with sex in your mind.

So, dirty, old men are not just a myth. The body is almost dead but the mind continues to think. And old men think more about sex than young men, because young men can do something about it. Old men cannot do, they can only think; the whole phenomenon becomes cerebral, mental.

In the moment of death you are preparing for a re-entry, for entering the womb. Try to understand deeply why there is so much attraction in entering the feminine body, the female body. What do you gain out of it? While making love, when your whole being wants to penetrate the feminine body, what do you gain out of it? Psychologists say — and spiritualists have always been alert about it — that it is again the same symbolic act of entry. It is not only when you are born that your being enters into the womb of a woman, this persists your whole life. Again and again you want to penetrate the female body; you want to reach the womb again and again.

Sex means the urge to penetrate the feminine body, to enter again into the womb. They are both the same: whether you enter as a seed or whether you enter just in a sex act, the urge is to enter. At the moment of death sex must come into the mind, and if it comes, you have missed. You have created a desire, and now this desire will lead you again into another womb. You will enter.

The master was waiting behind. Masters are always waiting behind disciples, whether physically or nonphysically, and this is one of the greatest moments — when a person is going to die. The master hit him hard, his body fell down, but inside he became alert. The desire disappeared; the girl passing was no more, the street was there no more. Everything dropped with the body, shattered; he became alert. In that alertness, he died. And if you can join alertness and death you have become enlightened. That’s why a miracle happened. Ekido’s tradition became one of the most significant traditions in Japan. Ten persons attained enlightenment. People started to wonder: this cruel man who has killed, this aggressive and violent man who has killed, why are his disciples becoming enlightened?

It is a rare number, Ten is rare. With one master, ten disciples becoming enlightened is very rare. Even to help one to become enlightened is too much. But there is nothing strange, it is plain arithmetic — only this type of master can help. And whenever I have read this story I have always wondered why others missed. This man could have enlightened many. But those who were afraid, scared, filled with fear, simply must have escaped from this man. People would have stopped coming to his monastery because he was dangerous.

One thing is said about Ekido — that when this disciple died he never said anything about it, he never said: The disciple is dead. He continued as if nothing had happened, and whenever somebody would ask: What about the disciple? he would laugh. He never said anything about it: he never said the disciple was dead, he never said something had gone wrong, he never said it was just an accident. Whenever someone would ask he would laugh. Why was he laughing? — because of the inside story. People can know only from the outside. If I hit you hard and you die, people can only know that you are dead; no one will be able to know what has happened inwardly.

This disciple achieved something, something which buddhas make efforts for many lives to attain — and Ekido did it in a single moment. He was a great artist, a great master. He used the moment of death so beautifully and the disciple attained. The disciple disappeared not only from the body, the disciple also disappeared from the mind. The disciple was never born again; this was total death with no rebirth.

But in Japan people had become accustomed to such things. You would go to a master, he would hit you; he might throw you out of the window; he would jump on you and start beating you. You were asking a philosophical question — whether God exists or not — and he would start beating you. Ekido helped many persons to become enlightened. Only such a man with such deep compassion can help, but a very great surrender is needed.

It is said that the disciple’s parents came when the disciple was dead. They came to see Ekido and they were very angry, obviously — they had only one child and he was dead. They were old and they were depending on him. And they were waiting — sooner or later he was to come back from the monastery and help in their old age.

In Japan, monastery life is a periodical thing. You can go to a monastery, become a sannyasin, remain there for a time, study, meditate, attain a certain quantity of alertness, a certain quality of being, and then come back to live the life of an ordinary householder. Sometimes, if you feel that you are missing and the mind has become dim and confused, you go again. It is not a permanent style of life to become a sannyasin in Japan. Only few people follow it their whole life; that is their decision; you can come back and this is not thought of with guilt.

In India there is guilt. If once you become a sannyasin and then come back, get married and become a householder, then everyone looks at you as if you have fallen. This is nonsense, this is foolish because the whole country cannot become sannyasins Only a few people can be sannyasins, not doing anything, and they will have to depend on others who are doing, who are active in life.

Sannyas should be available to everybody. The whole country must be able to become sannyasins, but that is possible only if you can be a sannyasin in ordinary life — if you can go to the office, if you can work in a shop, if you can be a laborer, or a teacher, or a doctor, or an engineer and still be a sannyasin.

So in Japan people move to the monastery — that is just a training period so the whole time is devoted to meditation — then they come back. They carry the quality with them and come back to ordinary life, become ordinary citizens again and work in life — as far as the outward life is concerned. Inside they go on trying deeply for the inner flame. Whenever they feel something is becoming dim, whenever they feel they are missing consciousness, they go again to the monastery, stay there for a period and come back again.

This old couple was waiting for the boy to come back — and he was dead. They must have been angry; they must have thought many things against this master Ekido. So they came, they looked at Ekido and they were waiting for him to say something kind to them. What did Ekido say? He said, “Why are you waiting? Follow the boy. You have wasted enough life, don’t waste any more.”
And when they looked at Ekido’s eyes they forgot their anger. This man could not be cruel; the compassion was flowing. They had come to complain but they simply thanked Ekido and went back.

When you come to a master, be ready to die. Beating any gong, falling in desire, following a girl — the master can hit you any moment. If you have not surrendered the hit will be useless; the master will not hit you because you will miss, it will not be of much use. This disciple must have been one of the closest, most intimate, and so surrendered that he would die but would not complain. He fell down without a complaint, as if the body dropped like an old dress. And inside there was light, more light; he entered that light.

Be ready to die; only then can you be reborn into an altogether different dimension. That dimension is the dimension of the divine. Don’t protect yourself — your protection is your undoing; don’t try to safeguard. Near a master be insecure because he is your security. Be unsafe, leave everything to him and wait for his hit; any moment it can descend on you. But if you have not surrendered it will not descend, because no master is interested in hitting you, no master is interested in killing you. Masters are interested only in making you fully enlightened, and that can happen only when your death and your awareness meet — a very difficult, very rare combination.

A master can see when you are going to die. It is written, because your body has a fixed span; it can be read. An astrologer may miss it; a palmist may not be able to read it because you are such a liar that even your palm lies. You are so deceptive that even your forehead will not say the truth. And you are so afraid of death that unknowingly, unconsciously, you hide the knowledge of it in the innermost chamber. If you are a true person, authentic, you yourself will become aware of when you are going to die.

Zen masters have been forecasting their deaths. They can always tell when they are going to die, but even then people don’t believe them. How can we believe that you can know death? — we have hidden it so deep, and we never look at it.

Astrology may fail because it is an outer science, reading something from the outer towards the inner. Palmistry may fail because it cannot be very certain. Your hands cannot be believed, you cannot be believed; your whole body lies. And the lines on your palm can be changed very easily. For fifteen days think of suicide and your life line will be broken. Continuously, for fifteen days, don’t think of anything else, just think of suicide, of committing suicide, picturing, dreaming. Within fifteen days your life line will be broken.

The mind can create or change. If you go to a palmist and he says within three months you are going to die, he may have misinterpreted, but if this idea settles deep in you, you will die in three months. And within three months your life line will be finished. Your hand is not influencing your mind, your mind is continuously influencing your hand.

I have heard about one Egyptian king. He was very much afraid of death; he was very weak and ill and always on his death bed. He came to know about one astrologer who predicted the death of one of his minsters, and exactly on time, the minister died.

The king thought, “this man is dangerous.” The king thought, “This man has done something like black magic. He has killed, and to allow this man to be alive is dangerous — he can do the same to me.”
He called the astrologer and asked him, “Tell me something about my death. When am I going to die?”

The astrologer looked at the king’s face and felt something dangerous; the king was very ferocious. He suspected something, so he made the chart, studied it, and then said, “You will die after I have died, within one week.”
So the king called all his doctors to look after this man. A palace was created for him with the best of food and of everything. The greatest doctors were called, just in his service, and told, “Preserve him, because he says if he dies within seven days….” It is said that the king lived very long because that man was alive; he was a very healthy man. And the king died only when that man died; within a week the king was dead.

Your mind goes on changing, and if your mind is a liar, don’t go to any palmist; the palmist will be deceived. But you cannot deceive a master because he never reads your palm, he never looks at your forehead, he is not worried about your stars; he looks deep in you. He knows the exact moment of your death, and if you surrender the death can be used. This story is beautiful, meditate on it. The same can happen to you but much readiness is needed, ripeness is needed, and surrender.

Source – Osho Book “A Bird on the Wing”

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