Here is the movie: Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring 2003

The plot is that the student having attachment to a woman, leave the temple and marries her. Years fly by, and the student returns because he kills her, after her affair. The master helps him to let the anger out before being caught by the police, and then he immolates himself. After that, he leaves some śarīra.

My question is: why would the master cries before the immolation?

(source: i2.wp.com)

My answer is that he disappoints with the student. But isn't that disappointment an attachment?

2 Answers 2


My question is: why would the master cries before the immolation?

The "Winter" segment of the movie kind of gave the hint. Notice in this segment, after being paroled from prison for the crime of killing his wife, the now middle-age apprentice returns to the floating monastery and begins to take on the role of his previous master. And as with the movie's title's central theme, which reflects the cyclical nature of Samsara, the same exact history repeats itself with the scene of a woman abandoning her baby son, then the baby becomes the boy apprentice who is shown tormenting a turtle in the Spring-Again segment,... etc. Putting together all the pieces of the puzzle, it points to the original old master's own dark past with its own dark kamma before he renounced it to become a good monk. So although after years of training and gaining certain level of attainment, he's still not free of his kammic debt. And so he cries not only out of sadness for his student but also for himself, that his self immolation doesn't mean total and final complete liberation, there's still "more work to be done" and life will go on and on until all kammic debts' been completedly exhausted, hence the image of the water snake swimming away after the self immolation.

  • I see. Somehow I have thought that master = no attachment whatsoever. However, the scene that he has sarira indicates that he really has no attachment?
    – Ooker
    Oct 30, 2019 at 17:16
  • The sarira is only indicative of certain level of virtuous/meditative strength, but in no way guaranteeing attainment of total final complete liberation, ie. Nibbana.
    – santa100
    Oct 30, 2019 at 17:50
  • I see. So there are different levels of liberation? I thought that once you are in meditation, you reach nirvana?
    – Ooker
    Oct 30, 2019 at 18:33
  • Absolutely. See the stages of enlightenment link below for more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_enlightenment
    – santa100
    Oct 30, 2019 at 21:11

I’d say he’s more disappointed in himself. But either way, what’s wrong with being upset? Buddhism isn’t Vulcanism. To really practice is to face samsara with a heart that is fully open. When you do that, sometimes you’re going to cry.

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