A much revered, very wise, aged head monk and martial
arts master is on his deathbed. His students are
gathered for the deathwatch, arranged with the smartest
of the students at the masters head, the next smartest
second, and so on, down to the pitied dunce of the class
at the foot of the bed.
As it became increasingly apparent that the old master
was soon to depart, his best student leaned over and
whispered, "Before you leave us, could you please,
finally give us THE secret of life itself, great master
After a few moments of thought, with considerable
effort, the master managed to call out, "Life is like a
The honored student turned to the one next to him and
said, "The master said 'life is like a river.' Pass it
down." And so each student in turn passed the wisdom
down to the next. But the dunce said, 'Hey, wait a
minute. Life is like a river? What does that mean? Ask
him what he meant by that."
Ashamed and tentative, each student passed the question
back up the line. The best student again leaned over and
said, "I'm sorry, master teacher, but the dunce down at
the end, he does not understand. He wants to know: what
do you mean? - life is like a river."
With every ounce of strength remaining in his dying,
frail body, the wise old master teacher managed these
last words: "Okay, so it's not like a river."