A successor has to be a master. You are all mystics but none of you is capable of being a successor, a master. This will help you to understand. The mystic is one who can experience, but is not articulate enough that through some gestures, some device he can manage to convey it to others. Out of a hundred mystics perhaps one is a master, because the task is immensely difficult. To say it perhaps is the most impossible thing in the world. You can go roundabout, you can bring the person to the experience by creating false devices, but you cannot say it. Those false devices needs a very articulate craftsman – a master who knows that even lies can be used to indicate the truth. Hyakujo said, “Perhaps I will not have any successors.”
A little biographical note:
All that is known about Hyakujo’s last days is that once, when he was getting rather old and feeble, his monks tried to persuade him not to work, but their words had no effect on him.
Fearing for his health, they finally resorted to hiding his working tools from him. But Hyakujo refused to eat, following his own precept of: “a day without work is a day without food.” Finally, his monks returned his tools.
Hyakujo died in 814 at the age of 90.
He did not choose anyone as a successor. He left it to the assembly to find out a successor. So the assembly of the sannyasins nominated a successor. This nomination is just like nominating a pope; he is not authentically a successor. And nobody even objects to the very idea of how unenlightened people can elect the successor of Jesus Christ, who is the representative of God.
Two hundred cardinals come to the Vatican when one pope dies. There is a special place for these two hundred cardinals – small caves in absolute secrecy. Everybody goes into a cave, different caves. Nobody is allowed to talk to each other, or confer with each other about whom to choose. Twenty-four hours are given and everybody meditates. I don’t know how they meditate, because I have not come across any bishop or cardinal…I have met these people and none of them knows how to meditate.
What they call meditation is contemplation. They contemplate over who will be the right person out of two hundred. So they write down the name, and after twenty-four hours those names are collected. Whoever is chosen by the majority becomes the pope. Of all these two hundred cardinals none of them is enlightened, so it is simply a political election.
As for becoming a successor to a master, it cannot be an election, it can only be a transmission of the lamp. Only the master can choose. But it was a strange situation because the master refused to accept the most intimate three followers. This shows something special about Zen – that it will not choose anything less than the best.
I am reminded of another choosing of the successor by Bodhidharma….
He had four disciples who were very intimate to him. And all the other disciples thought it was almost certain that out of these four, one was going to become the successor.