Ojai, CA - Students of the venerable Roshi Li Shen were in awe of their teacher as he sat motionless for a month straight in his living room, where he would also routinely give teachings.
Never had they witnessed him in this true state of meditative bliss. Here, finally, was the high teaching they had been requesting from him for years but he had routinely waved off, stating it would be given to them once they were ready.
Unfortunately, he wasn't actually meditating or giving a teaching, he was merely a shell of a human that had once been. Shen had died about a month earlier from slowing his heart rate down so much it eventually got to zero.
The students may not have realized their master was no longer alive had it not been for 5 year old Charlie McDaniels, the son of one of Roshi's students, who ran into Roshi Shen, accidentally knocking him over. Shen tipped to the side, legs still crossed, and a bunch of change fell out of his pocket.
That should have been the tip off but Shen was known for his silliness. The students laughed and thought he was doing one of his bits, so they all tipped to the side as well.
They stayed in this position for twenty minutes, until Darlene Reinbach tentatively asked her teacher, "Roshi Shen, may I sit upright? This is hurting my back." When he didn't answer she figured she had to stay that way, so she did.
Another student and medical doctor, Glen Kopel, thought this was strange. Though a believer in Buddhism, he was still a man of science and something about this wasn't right.
"I first asked Roshi Shen if I could check his pulse. When he didn't answer I took matters into my own hands and checked it anyway. It was then I realized he was dead. Unfortunately not everyone believed me and they decided to stay tipped over for another hour, including Darlene, who now leans to the left permanently, even while standing."
A lover of air conditioning, Shen kept his house at 32 degrees no matter the season, which served to preserve his body.