You can understand, twenty years just cleaning rice and going to sleep, his mind became silent. No meditation was needed. He never went to any discourse – there was no time. Nobody talked to him because he was thought to be of the lowest category, just a poor villager who knows nothing, and he never asked anything of anybody. People passed by him as if he was not there. He was taken for granted.
The day came for the master to leave his body, and he said, “Before I leave my body I want to choose my successor. The way I want to choose is this: whoever knows the right answer should come in the night and write it on my door; if the answer is right, he will receive my robe and my bowl.”
This ex-general, Hui Ming, was certainly the most important person of the whole following of the master, and everybody thought that he would be the winner. So he went in the night and he wrote on the door, “No-mind is the answer.” But he was so afraid of the master – afraid that if it is found to be wrong he is going to get a good beating – that he did not sign it. He thought, “If it is right then I will declare that I have written it; if it is wrong then it is better to keep silent.”
In the morning when the master woke up he said, “Who is that idiot?” Hearing this, Hui Ming escaped from the monastery – somebody may inform the master because a few people had got the idea…they were looking out for who was going to write. In fact it was public knowledge that it was Hui Ming!
Two monks, after taking their food, were just passing by Hui Neng and discussing, saying, “The master is too hard. The answer seems to be right: “no-mind” is the whole philosophy of Gautam Buddha. What more can be said?” People had completely forgotten that Hui Neng even speaks; for twenty years he had not spoken a single word to anybody. He simply did his work, would go to sleep, wake up, start his work again. That day, listening to those two monks saying that the answer seems to be right and the master is too hard, he laughed. Those two monks stopped and they said, “Why are you laughing?”
He said, “Whoever wrote that is an idiot.” This was exactly what the master had said, “Who is the idiot who has spoiled my door?” Those monks could not believe it, but they informed the master that a man of the name of Hui Neng, whom he had sent twenty years before to the mess, had said exactly the same thing: “Whoever wrote this is an idiot.”
The master said, “I know. He is the only man…I was hoping that he would come and write the answer. But I forgot completely that in the first place he is non-ambitious; in the second place he cannot write, he is illiterate; in the third place I had prohibited him: ‘Whenever the time comes I will come to you, you have to remain in the work I have given to you. Never show your face.’“
In the middle of the night the master came, woke up Hui Neng, gave him the bowl and his robe and said, “Now escape, because you are a simple fellow. There is great competition, and there are dangerous people – that man Hui Ming has been a general, he is a warrior. They will try to snatch away the robe and the bowl, so you simply escape as far away as possible.”