Stills from The Dragon Must Sleep

Ben Zen

Ben Zen is a black Buddhist Monk that has been trained in all forms of the Martial Arts.  He started as a child at age five when bandits in a very remote region of China killed his missionary parents.  He was taken to the nearest settlement and dropped off in the dead of night by one of the banditís girlfriends.  The place was a monastery for Buddhist monks.  They were fighting monks of the Northern Shaolin sect from the original temple in Henan.  Although they rarely accepted outsiders to the monastery for induction they made an exception this time due to the circumstances and the fact that the child had no other options.  He could tell them his name, Ben but the rest of his memory was blocked by the horrendous ordeal.  The monks did not know that his parents were missionaries.  The church that sent them assumed that they were all dead.  He was also the only black child or for that matter outsider that had ever been inside the temple.  He was a bad student in the beginning due to the trauma he had experienced.  He would only do the least amount of work to get by and would get picked on by all the Chinese students.  They would all laugh at his kung fu because it was so bad. 

One day he was sent to study under a monk whose apprentice had graduated.  On the first day the monk told him to go out and play in the courtyard.  The monk went on into the training hall and started to do some intense kung fu exercises that Ben had never before seen.  The next day when he came the monk told him to go and play in the courtyard again.  The next day after that was the same routine.  Two weeks went by and Ben started to watch him practice and try to copy his moves on his own.  A month went by and he was still watching and practicing the moves and footwork of the old monk from his vantage point looking through the window.  It rained one day and the monk still told him to go out and play.  Three months went by in this manner when young Ben finally asked if he could come into the training hall.  The old monk told him that only grandmasters or future grandmasters are allowed to enter.  Ben did not hesitate and entered the hall and bowed to his new Shifu (master/teacher).  The old monk smiled.  He liked the fact that there was no hesitation in the childís decision.  It is a sign of dedication and focus.  They went in and sat down on the cold stone floor.  The monk said the first lesson is the most important lesson.  You will synchronize your heart to mine.  The heart is the strongest muscle and if you can control it you will be able to control everything. 

It took Ben a year of total concentration to accomplish this one task.  The day came when he felt a spiritual and physical oneness with his teacher.  He learned to slow down his heart rate to one beat a minute, then to one beat per hour.  They were now in complete synchronization and harmony so the training could begin.  He grew into a tall handsome man and was well respected by all the other students.  He always made sure that he did more work and did it better than anyone.  By all accounts he was a tremendous student, one of the best.  Twenty years later Ben graduated with many honors and did many good deeds and brought much honor to the temple.  The day came when he was considered a Master.  It was also decided that Ben should teach the lessons of the Shaolin Temple to others in his probable birth country, America.  His teacher gave him a second name.  That name was Zen because he wanted Ben to always live a Zen life and just be happy. 

Ben immigrated to America and started a school open to all nationalities from around the world and soon became well known to those seeking spiritual enlightenment as well as Gung Fu skills.  The one thing he stressed above all else to all his students was to never use their fighting skills to harm another person.  Unfortunately his students didnít listen to him sometimes and got into fights with a rival Martial Arts gang called the Green Dragons.  His school flourished and his students started calling themselves the Zen Boys. 

Ben Zen also started to get feelings for a student named Lotus.  He had never had this kind of feelings before in his life and didnít know what was happening to him.  By having these longings for this girl he was breaking own his solemn vow of chastity.  A Buddhist monk wants to break the cycle of birth and rebirth to enter into Nirvana so as to attain enlightenment and free the spiritual self from wanting or needing all things in this material world.  Ben Zen is a monk that has accidentally fallen in love with a student that loves him.  He is at a crossroad in his life. If he goes with this girl he will lose his school and his credibility.

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