Tuzen's efforts had evoked much notice of late. As if some store of karma from a previous life had suddenly spent itself, now he was free, and freely gave of himself to all others as he progressed along the path. His meditation, his austerities, his good words and kind deeds had suddenly moved him to the forefront of the circle of disciples. It had happened so quickly that the others needed to redouble their efforts simply to keep pace. Naturally, he did not escape the notice of the Teacher, or of the Great Lodge which watches over the progress of those who would live to serve humanity.
Tuzen awakened one night from a restful sleep, feeling the force of some compelling presence in his room. A being of light appeared before his eyes and spoke to him.
"Follow me, that you may reach your deserved reward."
Tuzen was apprehensive at first, but the voice sounded so natural that he quickly put on his garments and found himself walking out of the monastery behind the luminous figure.
Where was he going? He knew not. He knew only that he must follow. A feeling of inward tranquillity overcame him and he followed, almost oblivious to his surroundings. But he was walking up the mountain path. Hours passed, and he continued walking. Strangely, his body did not tire, for it seemed weightless. The light from a thousand stars fell upon the trail from the clear and cloudless sky. Tuzen followed the light before his eyes and pressed onwards.
Winding around a bend in the path, he noticed the stark figure of a tagged, tattered man in the periphery of his vision. It was a beggar sleeping by the way - cold, hungry, seeking the sweet oblivion of sleep as his only protection from the frosty mountain air which even now was numbing his limbs. Tuzen, warmed by the vision of his own attainment, barely allowed this image to register and passed on. He could feel his realization close at hand.
Following the light before him, within a few steps he had walked off a high cliff. Struck with horror, he instantly fell to his death. All around him as he fell, he heard the laughter of the hungry ghosts. Miles away, two Sages looked at one another. The hungry ghosts were the kama-rupas of other disciples who had similarly fallen at the same point.
* * *
The Teacher relayed the story of Tuzen to his disciples. Naturally, they were deeply saddened by the news of their brother's demise. But shortly sorrow passed and they speculated as to what the nature of Tuzen's error had been.
"I think it was in following the apparition in the first place", said one.
"But the real mistake was not stopping to help the beggar", said another.
"Or perhaps he did not believe the apparition enough. Had his confidence been sufficient, he would not have fallen, and gone on to reach his reward", offered a third.
Indeed, were his former efforts as genuine as they had all supposed? Perplexed, they went to the Teacher to ask what the real meaning was. The Teacher replied:
"Tuzen's mistake lay in the thought of himself as separate from another. His pride caused him to miss an opportunity to be of service. Do not commit the same mistake by separating out Tuzen's mistake from your own, for he differed from you only in that he had the courage to try, with the result that he has learnt a lesson that will profit him much in his next birth."