The drunken disciple

By Paulo Coelho

A Zen master had hundreds of disciples. They all prayed when they were supposed to pray, except for one, who spent all his time drunk.
The master grew older. Some of the more virtuous students began talking about who would be the new leader of the group, the one to whom the important secrets of the Tradition would be passed on.
On the eve of his death, however, the master summoned the drunken student and passed on the secrets to him.
The other disciples were in uproar.
‘It’s shameful!’ they proclaimed loudly in the streets. ‘We have been sacrificing ourselves for the wrong master, one who has failed to see our qualities.’
Hearing the hubbub outside, the dying master remarked:
‘I needed to pass on those secrets to a man I knew well. All my students are terribly virtuous and only show their good qualities. That is dangerous, for virtue often serves to hide vanity, pride and intolerance. That is why I chose the one student I knew really well, the one whose faults I could see most clearly.’

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  1. katayoon says:

    wonderful , the reality of soil bare and pure

  2. Leaf says:

    Jesus said, John comes neither eating nor drinking and you heed him not….I come, being accused of being a drunkard and a glutton and will you listen to me??
    The responses here I’m afraid do show, that we are very difficult to please, as a people.

  3. Like LOVE, giving TRUST to other people also involving risks.

  4. aditya says:

    It seems more a question of being a right student than finding ( or being :-) ) a right master !!

    interesting how the dicsuiion on this blog topic shaped up ! for the given situation, where the msater suspects ( knows ! ) his disciples of vanity; he made the right choice, those who could gather the courage to stay on with the drunkard as their master would have certainly found enlightenment either way ! if the new master was ‘genuine’ ! no problem, the purpusi goes on as per traditions !! Had he not been worthy, then the very effort required from these disciples to keep the monastry intact would have been an ‘enlightening’ expereince for them !!?? (smile y )

  5. aditya says:

    was only knowing well the only criteria ! rainer u r more right although less romantic I will say !!


  6. Yercox says:

    For luck or disgrace I had known many drunkards in my life, and I can insure they are the beings most incognito and unexpected that I never seen..

    However it’s true too that virtue hides many things hidden..

  7. Yza says:

    Often, we cannot comprehend the wisdom given to our spiritual leaders. It seems absurd and lack of basis. But, in due time, we will understand. Just trust him and have faith in him. That is, if we are truly his disciple…

  8. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo
    I love Your stories!!
    This one is great!
    For me it’s about love and trust – that should come together.
    If this disciples chose this master in the first place they should trust that the choises he makes are good ones.
    He chose somebody he knew (maybe wanted to give this person a chance to believe in himself again)and it doesn’t matter in what state this person is. We never know how we could react in specific situations.

    Also – “nothing is what it seems”- what’s pretty outside may not be so pretty inside and the other way around.???

  9. Deborah says:

    This morning I interviewed a woman who provides rooms for recovering addicts who need a house to live in for a month or so while they transition into their new life. What I found most remarkable about the sober addicts was that they were as vulnerable as hatched chicks. In context of your post today, who better to entrust with wisdom?

  10. agnieszka says:

    Hello Paulo,
    I love your stories!!!!
    They make me think. They’re like little wise puzzles.
    I’m so excited by them.
    Back to the story: Too bad for those disciples – they couldn’t trust their master or at least ask questions.

    “Nothing is what it seems” – sth pretty outside may be not so pretty inside and the other way around and this master knew that.

    These disciples – maybe they just cannot trust anybody, ever if they couldn’t trust somebody they chose.???
    For me love and trust come together.

  11. chehaw says:

    What a wonderful story. It’s a beautiful reminder of the value of just being who we are, and accepting ourselves.

  12. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo
    I love your stories!!!!!
    They make people think, and this is the big step to change what is wrong with us.
    Too bad for those disciples that they didn’t trust their master or at least ask questions -why?
    (if they chose him to be their master in the begging – they should trust him to make a wise choices)
    It’s true that not everything which is so pretty on the outside is also good deep inside and the other way around.
    “not everything is as it seems”- isn’t it?
    P.S. If they didn’t have trust in their master – will they have ever with anyone??
    :-) love

  13. rainer says:

    this is a fine story, with an unexpected turn. Wouldn’t the pupils of a zen master study zen koans. Would they not meditate and learn, that words, respectively prayers won’t show the true nature of the world? Is alcohol not an obstacle for meditation?

    Maybe I have read to much about zen to believe in the story, but to lay the responsibility of many pupils in the hands of one drunkard only to teach the others of their vanity ist tough.

    .. after the master was buried his pupils said, well let’s get the h.. out of here and lets look for a master where we can learn zen. When the last wine was drunken, the drunkard get sober an opened an inn because he had to earn his living.