The Monk, the Disciple and the Temple Gates at Midnight

I read this story sometime in the 1980s and I haven’t been able to recall, nor trace its provenance. I’m retelling it here as best as I remember it, because I think that it contains a seed of wisdom regarding the Way of Life and Death.

There was once a wise and aged monk who had an especially close teaching relationship with one of his young disciples.

The years drew by, as they do, and the old monk became ever more feeble with the passage of time. Eventually he summoned his disciple and told the young man that he was close to death.

The disciple was distraught, but the old monk simply said:

“Wait three days after I die, then go to the temple gates at midnight.”

He would speak no more on the subject and died soon thereafter.

With a heavy heart, the disciple assisted with the necessary rituals of disposition and, on the third night, went alone to the massive temple gates. The moon was nearly full and there was a light snowfall. The young man waited there until dawn, but nothing unusual happened. Tired, cold and discouraged, he set again about his duties.

In the days and weeks and months and years that followed, though, whenever he passed through the temple gates, the disciple recalled more of his teacher’s character and lessons. He began to wax in wisdom.

Many years later, when he lay on his death-bed, he summoned his own disciple and said:

“Wait three days after I die, then go to the temple gates at midnight”.

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