Hyakujo needed to select a monk to be the master
of a new monastery that was to be established
on the mountain of Ta-Kuei-Shan.
He called the cook of his monastery
and told him he had been chosen.
But the chief monk overheard
Hyakujo’s conversation with the cook and said,
“No one can say that the cook monk
is better than the chief monk.”
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.”
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.”
The cook monk was made head of the monastery
and lived there many years
teaching more than one thousand monks in Zen.
In another incident, Kantaishi, a Confucian scholar,
asked Daiten, who had a monastery in the place of exile,
“How old are you?”
Daiten held out his rosary and said, “Do you understand?”
Kantaishi said, “No, I cannot understand.”
Daiten replied, “In the daytime
there are one hundred and eight beads
and at night there are also one hundred and eight.”
Kantaishi was very much displeased
because he could not understand this old monk,
and he returned home.
At home his wife asked, “What makes you so displeased?”
The scholar then told his wife all that had happened.
“Why not go back to the monastery and ask the old monk
what he meant?” his wife suggested.
Next day, early in the morning,
Kantaishi went to the monastery,
where he met the chief monk at the gate.
“Why are you so early?” the chief monk asked.
“I wish to see your master and question him,” Kantaishi answered.
“What is your business with him?” the chief monk asked.
So the Confucian repeated his story.
“Why don’t you ask me?” the chief monk inquired.
Kantaishi then asked, “What does ‘one hundred and eight beads
in the daytime and one hundred and eight beads at night’ mean?”
The chief monk clicked his teeth three times.
At last Kantaishi met Daiten and once more asked his question,
whereupon the master clicked his teeth three times.
“I know,” said the Confucian, “all Buddhism is alike.
A few moments ago I met the chief monk at the gate
and asked him the same question
and he answered me in the same way.”
Daiten called the chief monk and said,
“I understand you showed him Buddhism
a few minutes ago. Is it true?”
“Yes,” answered the chief monk.
Daiten struck the chief monk
and immediately expelled him from the monastery.
Maneesha, there are things which mind is naturally incapable of understanding. The mind has limitations, but our ego does not want to accept the limitations of the mind.
Every sense has its own limitation. You cannot see with your ears and you cannot hear with your eyes. In the same way, you can see objects with the mind but you cannot see the beyond, the formless with the mind. To the mind it will look absurd – just as light is absurd to the blind man, to the deaf no music exists in the world.
Those who have become too much identified with the mind – and unfortunately all the civilizations and cultures that have existed in the world have enforced and reinforced the mind…. Zen is alone and unique. It points beyond the mind. So remember not to try to understand rationally, intelligently. Only in deep meditation and silence will you be able to feel the significance of these small anecdotes. They have something hidden in them, but it is not possible for the mind to figure it out.