It is not only the silence in the temple; a greater silence is within them. It is not only the holiness outside; a greater holiness is within them. The whole day they are whole. Whatever they are doing – cleaning the grounds of the monastery, working in the garden, cutting wood, carrying water from the well, cooking food – whatever they are doing, they are doing so totally that unless you are an insider you can see only their action. You will not be able to see from where that action arises – the oceanic depth within them.
One emperor of Japan went to see Nan In, a famous Zen master and one of the strangest masters of all. The emperor had heard much about him. Many times he had invited Nan In to come to the court, to be a guest of the emperor, but he always received the message that: “It is always the thirsty who goes to the well, not the well to the thirsty.”
Finally, the emperor decided to go himself. When he came inside the door of the monastery… It was on a mountain, surrounded with thick jungle, and a man was chopping wood. That was the first man he met.
He asked him, “Where is the master? Can I see him?”
The man stopped and he said, “Yes, you can see him. Just go directly and you will reach the place where he lives.” And he started chopping wood again.
And as the emperor was going he shouted, “Don’t disturb the place. Just sit down and wait. The master comes whenever he feels like coming. That is his mastery.”
The emperor thought, “Strange people. Just a woodcutter, but he talks with the emperor in such a manner that if he were in the court he would be beheaded! But here it is better to be silent and go.”
So he went and sat at the cottage where the master was supposed to come. After a few minutes, the master came. And the emperor was puzzled, because he was dressed in the robe of the master, but his face looked exactly like the woodcutter’s.
Looking at his puzzled face, the master said, “Don’t be worried, we have met before. I was chopping wood; I directed you to this place.”
The emperor said, “But why did you not say then and there that you are the master?”
He said, “At that time I was not. I was just a woodchopper, a woodcutter – so totally involved in it that I had absolutely no place for the master left. That’s why I said to you to wait, so that I could finish with my wood, take a shower, put on the master’s robe, remember that now I am a master, and be total in it. Now I am ready. For what have you come?”
The emperor said, “I have completely forgotten for what I had come! Seeing the situation, that the master chops wood…don’t you have disciples? I have heard that you have five hundred disciples.”