But there is absolute silence, the story has ended. The master’s question – “You have waved your hand, that’s right. But will you express some principle that you have understood, experienced?” – the disciple has not answered. There is no answer! He must have stood before the master, being himself the answer – his silence, his joy, his sudden opening…His crazy gesture of waving the hand simply indicates that it is beyond the mind and beyond his comprehension…what principle? – there is only silence and no principle.
It is something rare; only a Zen story can end in such a way. The master asks the question, and the disciple remains silent – that is the answer. If he had spoken he would have got a good hit, because his speaking would have shown that he had missed, that he could not manage to open himself entirely, that he had still remained in the mind.
But his silence shows that now there is no question, no answer; there is no principle, no philosophy. There is no you, no me, but only a total serenity, an eternal silence which has never been disturbed.
These are not stories; stories don’t end in such a way. This is an actual incident. The silence is being understood by the master. Nothing is said, but everything is heard.
A second incident…just giving you different aspects, from different doors.
Having left the fifth patriarch’s place, Hui Neng traveled south for two months, and had reached the Ta Yu range. He was pursued by the monk Hui Ming, who was originally a general, accompanied by several hundred men, who wanted to seize the robe and the bowl (emblematic of succession to the patriarchs).
In Zen, every patriarch gives his robe and his bowl to his successor, and naturally there is great competition and human frailties, jealousies….
This man, Hui Ming, was far more learned, in every way far more cultured. He had renounced the great post of general, and had become a disciple; he had practiced for a long time. But the master chose a very strange man, Hui Neng, to be his successor. In his monastery there were at least twelve thousand monks, and not a single one would have thought that Hui Neng was going to become the successor.
Hui Neng’s only accomplishment was that since he had come, twenty years before, he had been cleaning the rice for the twelve thousand monks from the early morning till late at night. For twenty years he had not done anything else. He had never been in any of the discourses of the master, he had never read any scripture – in fact he was illiterate. He was a villager, but a man of tremendous determination.
The day he got initiated, Hui Neng asked the master, “What am I supposed to do?”
The master said, “Go to the mess, clean rice and never again come back to me” – and he never came back again. Twenty years of silently waiting…because the master had said, “If it is needed, I will come to you. But you should never again show your face to me. You simply clean the rice from morning till night, then go to sleep; again clean the rice, then go to sleep.”