Sessen Doji and the Man-eating Demon (the First Half)

The Story of Shakyamuni Buddha's past life




Long, long ago, Sessen Doji, Shakyamuni Buddha’s name in a past life, was practicing asceticism deep in snowy mountains, seeking for Bodhi (the true happiness).

“Where does our suffering and sorrow come from? For what do human beings live?”

These questions always echoed in his heart. It was because of these simple and deep questions that he sought sublime enlightenment.

Deep in the mountains, snow was present all year. Sessen Doji practiced asceticism day and night, torturing his body and mind; just staying in severe nature was hard practice.

One day, when he was meditating, he heard a faint voice, seemingly coming from nowhere. Since he was staying deep in the mountains and could see no one, at first he thought it was his imagination. However, when he heard somebody sing “All things are impermanent. This is the law of creation and destruction,” the phrase captured his heart. Is this the word of enlightenment? He recited the phrase. “Everything in this world is impermanent. Fragrant flowers in full bloom will soon fall, and my body will rot. This is an unchangeable rule of the world.”


“What a wonderful phrase! It is the truth,” he thought. Having received the very truth he sought, he jumped in delight. “Who on earth told me such a wonderful phrase?” Unfortunately, the phrase taught him only part of the enlightenment. “I want to hear the other part,” he said. Though he looked around, he couldn’t find the singer. There should be only grass, trees, and small animals. But someone must have sung the song. Sessen Doji couldn’t give up. He visited rocks, pushed his way through the bush, and looked all over the mountain.


For those seeking enlightenment at the risk of their lives, the second part of the enlightenment phrase was the most important. Despite spending long hours searching, he couldn’t find the singer. He was about to give up. He looked up only to find an unearthly horrible-looking man-eating demon on a rock. “Did the demon sing the song …?” he thought. “How can it be? But it must be, it’s the only thing that can speak.” Wondering, little by little he fearfully approached the man-eating demon.


to be continued


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