Thursday, May 10, 2007
In Japan, there once lived a great zen master, Bokozu, fully realised. He had thousands of disciples. His monastery was peerless in terms of wealth and fame . One fine day he decided to retire from day-to-day affairs and hand over charge to someone in the monastery. Someone who was fully realised too. He put a notice on the board. The disciple who could answer his question would be his successor. Question was : Why is it that we suffer? How come we go thru cycles of birth and death? Answers were to be written on the board bellow the question.
Everyone came and read the question. What an ordinary question, they were thinking. Anyone could answer that. That was what they were studying. One disciple, considered favorite of the master, came forward. What has become of the master, had he gone too old, he thought. To become head of such a big monastery one had to answer a simple question. Being calculative, he wrote the answer at night and left the monastery hiding behind a hill. He also wrote where he could be found. Calculating that if the answer was right he would be called back and be welcomed by the master. If he was wrong, master would send disciples to track him and thrash him. And he, hiding behind hill, could see disciples coming to get him in time and could escape.
Next morning crowd of disciples converged on the notice board and read the answer. He had written: Our mind is like a mirror. Our actions and reactions form layers of dust around the mirror. Ignorant of this, we keep on adding layers instead of getting rid of them. Mind is busy , unaware in the transaction of take and give. And we die, unfinished in our transactions and are born again and continue the process. So, stop the transaction. Cleanse the layers of dust.
The master also read it. Shaking his head he ordered disciples to get hold of the favorite disciple and thrash him. Seeing the mob of disciples coming after him, the knowledgeable disciple fled away from the hill and monastery.
Other disciples were confused and scared. What could be the answer? Even the brightest amongst them had failed. How could he be wrong? That was what the teachings said. What the scriptures said. That your mind is the cause of all suffering. That it is like a mirror. Layers of dust gather on it and we are in illusion. This was the correct answer, they thought. If this is not right, then what is? Has the master gone senile? Even he would not be able to give a better answer.
Nearby a man heard their conversation. He was beating rice to get rid of husks. That was his job at the monastery, to prepare rice before it is cooked. Ten years ago he had come to the monastery asking for master's refuge. Master had told him to beat rice for the monastery and do nothing else, think nothing else. Make his mind unoccupied and just beat rice. When time comes, the master would come to him.
So the man would wake up in the morning, beat rice whole day. When night came, he would have supper and retire to sleep due to exhaustion from day's work. For the last ten years that was his daily routine. Gradually he had less communication with others. Others thought he was dumb, unable to speak. He had become non-important, non-entity.
As he heard disciples conversing about the master's question, he just laughed. Disciples who thought him to be deaf and dumb were surprised and annoyed. Why are you laughing, you ignorant man? What do you know except rice beating, they insulted.
Undisturbed, he said : the answer is simple.
They retorted: If you know the answer, why don't you write it on the board? If you are right, you will become master's heir. You will head over the hierarchy and all the wealth of monastery.
He said: If you want to know the answer, I can tell you right here. I am not interested in writing that on the board.
One of them said: okay, tell us.
He replied : Where is the mind? What mind are you talking about? I don't see any mind whatsoever. No mind, no mirror. There are no layers of dust forming? And why the need to cleanse? Then he walked away.
One clever disciple went and wrote this answer on the board. When the master read it, he promptly knew it could only be the rice-beater's answer. So he made him his successor.
It is said that under his guidance, a great number of people were enlightened later.