The corpse floating in the river

1001 Tales told by the Master

“One day or other you will come to the wide river where… all is taken… and you are left totally alone, with no possessions.”

monk about to swim

A Chinese allegory tells about a monk who was in search of Buddha.

He travelled for years and years and then finally he arrived in the country where Buddha lived. Just a river had to be crossed and he would be face to face with Buddha. He was ecstatic.

He enquired whether he could get a ferry or boat to go to the other shore, for the river was very wide. But people on the shore informed him: Nobody will be able to take you there because there is a legend that whosoever goes to the other shore never comes back. So nobody can dare to take you there. You will have to swim.

Afraid of course, because the river was very wide, but still finding no other way, the monk started swimming. Just in the middle of the river he saw a corpse floating, coming closer and closer towards him. He became afraid; he wanted to avoid the corpse. He tried in many ways to dodge but he couldn’t, the corpse proved very tricky; howsoever he tried, the corpse kept coming closer and closer.

Then finding no way to escape from it — and moreover curiosity also possessed him because the corpse seemed to be the corpse of a Buddhist monk: the ochre robe, the clean-shaved head – taking courage he allowed the corpse to come near; in fact rather on the contrary he himself swam towards the corpse.

He looked at the face, and started laughing madly, because it was his own corpse; he could not believe his eyes, but it was so. He looked again and again, but it was his own corpse.

And then the corpse floated by, down the river, and he watched all his past go with it: all that he had learnt, all that he had possessed, all that he had been, the ego, the centre of his mind, the self — everything floated off with the corpse. He was totally empty.

Now there was no need to go to the other shore, no need to go to the other shore because once his past had been taken by the river he himself was Buddha. He started laughing because he had been searching for the Buddha without, and the Buddha was within.

He came back laughing to the same shore he had left just a few minutes before, but nobody would recognize him. He even told people: I am the same man! but they laughed.

He was not the same man. He was not really. And that was the reason for the legend that nobody comes back – whosoever goes to the other shore. Everybody had come back, but they were not the same, the old was dead, and the absolutely new had come in its place.

I would like this allegory to be as deeply implanted in your being as possible. This is going to be your future. If you really go on and on journeying towards the Buddhaland to become the ultimate, to know the ultimate, one day or other you will come to the wide river where all that you have done, all that you can do, all that you have possessed, all that you can posses, all that you have been, all that you can be: all is taken by the wide river – it moves with the flow slowly towards the ocean; and you are left totally alone, with no possession, with no body, with no mind.

In that aloneness flowers the flower of Buddha.

You have come to the Buddhaland. You have come to know the Tao.

Osho, Tao: The Three Treasures – Talks on fragments from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Vol 3, Ch 9

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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