A Zen master creates such a tremendous trust.

It is not belief – belief is in theories, theologies.

Trust is a personal intimacy, a feeling that “he understands me; that’s enough. Now whenever the time is ripe he will call me.”

People have waited not only three years but thirty years, polishing rice.

Once it happened…

The man was polishing rice for thirty years, and the master had told him, “Unless I call you, you should not come. And you are not to attend the scholarly discussions in the monastery, you are not to read the scriptures. You simply polish rice from the morning till late in the night. There are ten thousand monks, and you have to take care of the rice.”

So for thirty years the man completely forgot thinking – because what is the need of thinking when you are just polishing rice every day for thirty years? Almost half of his life had gone into polishing rice. And it is such a simple process you don’t need any mind, you don’t need any thinking. And he had been prohibited from going to the discourses, going to the sermons, going to the discussions of the monks, told not to read scriptures. He had been prevented completely from anything that could create a mind. He had been given a simple task that was going to uncreate the mind. Whatever mind he had got would be uncreated.

And these people were of great strength, integrity. Just to wait for thirty years, without any complaint, without even seeing the master again…and because the master had said, “This is the only thing you have to do.” He was not even talking to any other monk. People had completely forgotten about him.

He lived in a small hut by the side of the kitchen. In the morning he would enter the kitchen; late in the night he would fall back into hut, go to sleep. This was a simple process. In thirty years’ time there was no mind.

And an incident happened. The master was getting old, and seeing that his death was coming close, he informed the ten thousand monks – excluding the one who was just polishing the rice – “If anybody wants to be my successor he should come in the night and write on my door just the essence, the very essence of Zen.”

There were great scholars, and the whole monastery knew who was the most scholarly person; perhaps he would be chosen. That scholarly person, when master had gone to sleep, stole very silently so that nobody would find who had written it. He was even afraid; he knew the master. You could not deceive him, that was certain. And he himself knew that he knew nothing of Zen as far as experience was concerned, although he could make a scholarly statement. But that old fellow was not going to be deceived by scholarship.

And he made a beautiful statement; he wrote it on the door, very silently so that the master did not wake up: “Zen is nothing but getting out of the mind, and the beyond opens its doors.” But he did not sign it, afraid, and very cautious – “If he finds it right, I will stand up and say I have written it. If he finds it wrong, I will simply sit silently.” That old fellow used to beat the disciples.

In the morning, when the master opened the door and saw the sentence, he said, “Who is the idiot who has written this?”

And there was no answer from the ten thousand monks.

So the master washed it off, and said, “Don’t destroy my door! Unless you know… I can die without a successor, but I will not have any scholar to be my successor.”

Of course the statement was perfectly good, you could not improve on it: “Zen is going beyond the mind.” It could not be condensed more clearly and accurately.

But masters have their own ways of finding…

Two monks simply passed by the rice-polisher. People did not even know his name, they simply called him the rice polisher. They did not consider him even a monk; he had never told anybody that he had been initiated, and nobody ever bothered about him, what his name was. He never came to the discourses, he never came to meditation, he never came to scholarly discussions. And the whole campus was agog with all kinds of philosophical discussions; when scriptures are read, sutras from Gautam Buddha were read, he never came. What kind of man…? Just doing one thing…people had completely forgotten how many years he had been doing it.

Two man was just passing by, discussing, “The sentence was perfectly right, but this old fellow is very strange… How did he manage to find that it is a scholarly statement but not existential, not experiential?”

For the first time the rice-polisher monk laughed. In thirty years that was the first expression. Those two monks looked at him, and they said, “Why have you laughed? And we have never seen you laughing…”

He said, “I laughed because whoever wrote that must be an idiot!”

They said, “Exactly – these were the words of the master! Can you write something better?”

He said, “I don’t know how to write. I have forgotten. In thirty years the little bit I knew how to write, I have forgotten. And anyway who wants to be the successor?”

They were shocked, “This man is strange. Thirty years completely silent, and suddenly exploding…”

In the middle of the night the master came to the rice-polisher and he said, “Can you improve upon it?”

The rice-polisher monk said, “There is no mind; how are you going to go beyond it? And there is no beyond – all is here and now. One has to go nowhere, not even beyond mind. Mind is a fiction, and the people have created another fiction of going beyond the mind. But forgive me. I don’t want to be your successor. I am so happy. You are such a great man, you gave me such a meditative job…”

The master said, “You will have to accept my successorship because there is nobody else whom I can trust. They are all filled up with scholarship and all kinds of knowledge.

You are the right person, and I have been waiting these thirty years that perhaps you will be the successor. This waiting proved to me absolutely that you must have experienced something that is keeping you centered, without any worry, no tension. You have not even uttered a single word to anybody; you just do your job and go to sleep. But one thing: these scholars and these ambitious people will create trouble for you. So I have brought my rope and my staff and my cap” – these are the things that the successor gets from the master. “So take this robe, this staff, and this cap.” He put it on the rice-polisher monk’s head, and told him to escape from the monastery as quickly as possible.

“Just go deeper into the mountains. Those who need will reach you. But beware! If anybody finds it out from this monastery they are going to kill you. They will not accept a rice-polisher monk as their master.”

So the poor fellow took the robe, the staff, and escaped. But while he was escaping from the gate, the gatekeeper saw him with the robe and with the hat and the staff of the master. So he immediately informed all the ambitious monks who were trying, working out how to improve, “Now stop! The man has been chosen.”

They said, “Who is the man?”

They said, “Do you remember a man who came thirty years ago and never spoke for thirty years? The rice-polisher! I saw him just going out of the gate with the master’s staff and cap on his head, and the robe he was carrying in his hand and running!”

So, many ambitious people took their swords and rushed towards the way the guard had told them. And they soon found that poor rice-polisher, surrounded him with their swords, and told him, “Give the robe. You don’t know a single word about Zen.”

The poor man laughed. He said, “Do you think there is a word that one has to know before he knows Zen?”

They were shocked. It was true, but still their ambition…and they could not accept him. But he said, “There is no problem. Keep your swords in their sheath, there is no need to be worried. This is the cap” – he threw the cap on the ground. “And this is the robe, and this is the staff. If you can take it, take it.”

But although they were ambitious, they had a certain sensibility, living with the master so long. How could they take it? If the master had given it to him, then it would be absolutely wrong. And they knew that they knew not, and this fellow seemed to know. It did not matter that he was rice-polisher.

So they touched his feet and said, “We were wrong. We were just ambitious. You please come back.”

He said, “But I don’t want to be the successor. I had refused, but the old man was so insistent. You please take all these things. Whoever wants to be the successor, he can. I am going to the mountain.”

They said, “No, you have to come back.”

He became the successor.

Zen is a very strange path. No scholarship is needed, no knowledge is needed. What is needed is an immense silence, and waiting, watching… Whenever the time is ripe, existence pours all its mysteries into you.

So for thirty years he worked in the kitchen.


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