The abbot of a once famous Buddhist mostery was deeply troubled. The mostery had fallen into decline. Monks were lax in their practice, novices were leaving and lay supporters deserting to other centers.
The abbot traveled far to a sage and recounted his tale of woe, of how much he desired that his mostery would regain its luster, becoming the flourishing haven it had been in days of yore.
The sage looked him in the eye and said, “The reason your mostery has languished is that the Buddha is living among you in disguise, and you have not honored Him.”
The abbot was shocked. The Enlightened One was at his mostery! Who could He be? Brother Hua?...No, he was extremely lazy. Brother Tzu?...Surely, he was too dull!
But then the Tathagata was in disguise. What better disguise than a sluggard or a dullard? The abbot hurried back, his mind in turmoil.
The abbot called his monks to him and revealed the sage’s words. They too were taken aback and looked at each other with suspicion and awe.
Which one of them was the Chosen One?
But the Buddha’s disguise was perfect. It was simply impossible to detect Him living incognito among the monks. Or so the abbot and the monks thought…
Not knowing who He was, they all took to treating everyone with the respect due to a Buddha. And without realizing it, the monks started practicing what Tathagata had said long ago: “Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.”
Soon something wonderful began to happen in the mostery. The faces of all the monks began shining with an inner radiance. This in turn started attracting novices. Lay supporters began thronging their prayer meetings. Before long, the mostery far surpassed its earlier glory.