Home Discussion Forum Three Kinds of Disciples, Which one are you?

Three Kinds of Disciples, Which one are you?

Here is a story about Disciples from the Zen tradition, but if you consider yourself a disciple which kind are you?
Three Kinds of Disciples
A Zen master named Gettan lived in the latter part of the Tokugawa era. He used to say: “There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain the temples and shrines, and then there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers.”
Gasan expressed the same idea. When he was studying under Tekisui, his teacher was very severe. Sometimes he even beat him. Other pupils would not stand this kind of teaching and quit. Gasan remained, saying: “A poor disciple utilizes a teacher’s influence. A fair disciple admires a teacher’s kindness. A good disciple grows strong under a teacher’s discipline.”
As always I ask this question with Metta/Loving Kindness.
(((((May All Beings Be Happy)))))
Thank-you for answering
Buzz1954 I think this is just as pertinent for all people, not just Buddhists.
GER C disciple not discipline
Sorry GER C read your answer again and realised my mistake Sorry
Sara I don’t know how to tell which one you are sorry, but I suppose I am each and all at different times, depending on the teaching, and my openness to it at that moment
God Shrew Are you even answering the question? being cryptic is all well, and good, but there is a time and a place.


  1. It is preposterous order to teach first & learn after
    Many and Few don’t seem to get it,
    that All is neither Many nor Few,
    but all does contain both such like
    in the allness of “inexcusable” law,
    where it’s all perish, none enter.

  2. I’d like to think that I was the the sort of disciple who grows stronger (more knowledgeable) under the teachers discipline although I am also aware that I do not suffer authority well. In that vein of thought I’m not sure exactly how well I would fit into that group.

  3. Self-guided. I adhere not to the Guru system. I want no students, nor subjugate myself to a master. More like the book “Siddhartha,” I search my own path to happiness.

  4. My ego would like to think I am the first. There is a part of me that suspects I am the second. And there is another part that hopes I am not the third.
    What does that say about me?
    P.S. Which one are you? How do I know which one I am?

  5. I am no 3 a good disciple who would grow under his teachers discipline.But the only laws i will follow is gods law.

  6. “Rice bags and clothes-hangers.” An idea that took me a moment to absorb. I admit to feeling just like that on many occasions. Lately i have expressed this feeling as “a heap of junk.” Anyone who has never had this feeling does not know humility.
    What i do NOT understand is the “poor disciple” — in what way “utilizes a teacher’s influence”?
    I don’t know what kind of disciple i am, but i’m ONE of them!

  7. “The Marrow of Zen”
    “In our scriptures (Samyuktagama Sutra, volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!
    “When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best. That is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen. You may think that when you sit in zazen you will find out whether you are one of the best horses or one of the worst ones. Here, however, there is a misunderstanding of Zen. If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses, you will have a big problem. This is not the right understanding. If your practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one. When you consider the mercy of Buddha, how do you think Buddha will feel about the four kinds of horses? He will have more sympathy for the worst one than for the best one.
    “When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one. In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind. Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen. But those who find great difficulties in practicing Zen will find more meaning in it. So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.
    As to your question, I feel i may be a clothes-hanger that inadvertantly passes on wisdom.

  8. Which one am I, I don’t know because I don’t have a teacher in Buddhism yet.
    My sensei is the closest thing and I think I am one who imparts in the first respect and a utilizer in the second.
    you can take meaning from those stories but I don’t particularly like them or glean anything of real quality from them. That could show my ignorance or not but I think the first part was basically the teacher complaining about his disciples- something he should not be doing if he’s a good teacher, in my opinion- and in the second part it smacks of an abusive relationship where the abused justifies the abuser- textbook stuff there.
    I don’t mean to put-down or disrespect the stories but I just don’t see them as meaningful as many others I have read.

  9. I am certainly not wise. But in admitting so, I also believe that every person is a wise person but different people show wisdom in different ways. Some show it through foolishness, some through love, some through silence etc. See yourself, see the glory in you, how glorious you are! You can do anything you just need to put your mind to it.
    As for me, I am just a student who is having all three qualities you have mentioned. And I am working to become a good disciple.

  10. I follow Jesus, son of the LORD God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
    Jesus is the only one you should be a disciple of.
    Do read the Bible – it is the inspired word of God.


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