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Chapter 13: You Cannot See with Your Ears

But the chief monk.

Hyakujo’s monastery of one thousand monks had one chief monk for day-to-day affairs.

Hyakujo’s conversation with the cook and said,
“No one can say that the cook monk
is better than the chief monk.”

“I am the chief, and this is such stupidity that the cook is going to become the head of a great monastery on the mountain.”

So Hyakujo called all the monks together
and told them the situation.
He said that anyone who gave the correct answer
to his question would be a candidate
for the position in the new monastery.
Hyakujo then pointed to a water pitcher
standing on the floor and said,
“Without telling me its name, tell me what it is.”
The chief monk said, “You cannot call it a wooden shoe.”

This was not accepted. It said nothing about the water pitcher.

When no one else answered, Hyakujo turned to the cook.
The cook stepped forward, tipped over the pitcher with his foot
and then left the room.
Hyakujo smiled and said, “The chief monk lost.”

Because the cook had said everything about the pitcher without uttering a single word. And he did not even wait to see whether he was chosen or not. Such unconcern for position, for power. Only such a man can be chosen to be the chief of a monastery where people are going to meditate.

The cook monk was made head of the monastery and lived there
many years teaching more than one thousand monks in Zen.

It has been a wonder in the Zen tradition how the cook managed. He was absolutely uneducated. All that he had done his whole life was cook, but he managed to teach Zen to one thousand monks. The anecdote simply indicates that Zen is not an education, it is an experience. It is available to all: the uneducated, the educated, the young, the old, the brahmin, the sudra. It is available to all, if you can become silent.

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