Once there was a big monastery in one part of China where about five hundred monks lived. They were all practicing the path of self-realization under their master.
One day a man came to the monastery to become a disciple and he said to the zen master “Sir, I want to know myself. I want to know the truth behind myself”. The Zen master looked at him and said, ‘if you want to know the truth then you will have to put your whole life to understand the truth of life. It may take your whole life to know the truth and still there is no guarantee that in this lifetime you will get to know the truth”.
Are you ready for that?
The disciple said “yes, sir I have come here not to turn back I am ready for it”.
The master said if that is so, then do one thing there are five hundred monks in this monastery you take care of their rice pounding just keep beating rice from morning till
evening when you get tired go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning.
then, again, start pounding rice, don’t do anything else, don’t think about anything else.
Just follow this path, also don’t come to me again, I will come to you myself when needed.
The young man started pounding rice, as per the instructions of his master. There were five hundred disciples in that monastery all of them needed food at times. Therefore, he would get up early in the morning and start pounding rice till night. When he was tired, he would fall asleep in the same room where he was pounding rice. He would neither talk to anyone nor anyone would come to him to talk.
For a few months while pounding the rice all thoughts kept coming to his mind and the thoughts also faded away on their own. Slowly and slowly his thoughts started to subside. After a few years he even forgot his name. He would always keep silent and keep pounding rice in a thoughtless state.
He didn’t meditate nor didn’t he read any scripture, but he was fully obsessed with what he was asked to do by the master in the monastery. The chief disciple of the monastery and the other disciples all considered this rice pounder much inferior to them. 12 years passed by doing this. After 12 years, one day Zen master announced that now my last phase is approaching, and I have to choose my successor who will be the head of this monastery after me.
Therefore, any of my disciples who have become self-realized should come and write a few lines near my door at night that covers all his experience. Many disciples thought of doing so. One of the chief disciples of the monastery went and wrote a few lines.
He was very knowledgeable of Buddhist scripture. All the disciples considered him to be the possible successor of their master. He wrote that, mind is like a mirror on which dust of thoughts and desires accumulates. To sweep away this dust is meditation. A person whose dust has been cleared and the mirror of the mind has become clear he has attained self- realization.
When the master woke up in the morning and saw these lines, he got very angry and said, “which idiot has written all this rubbish on my wall?”. The chief disciple kept silent. However, the lines he wrote were full of wisdom, but it was all bookish knowledge.
The chief disciple was very clever. He wrote the lines but did not sign below because he himself was not sure whether it is right or not, since he was not self-realized. The master completely rejected those lines, and everyone was surprised to see this. This became a topic of discussion in the entire monastery.
One day two disciples while talking on this topic passed by the disciple who had come here 12 years ago and used to pound rice day and night. He smiled gently after listening to the discussion of both. Both the disciples asked the rice pounder, why are you smiling?
They asked him because the rice pounder was considered as a very insignificant monk in their opinion. No one had ever seen him reading scripture or meditating. Everyone considered him to be someone who just keeps pounding rice. There were great scholars in that Monastery and the rice pounder did not even mean anything to them. That’s why they were amazed to see him smile. They again asked him why did you smile?
The rice pounder said I smiled because the master is saying all these lines are rubbish. “These lines have no value”, said the rice pounder. Those disciples were shocked. They asked him can you write some lines which are better than this? The rice pounder said “well, I can’t write. But yes, I can say a few lines”. If you can write those lines, then I am ready to go with you. Said the rice pounder. They all agreed, so they went near the master’s room.
The rice pounder said a few lines and the other disciple wrote it on the wall and wrote rice pounder below those lines. They were expecting the same reaction from their master again.
The lines which the rice pounder told to write were amazing and those lines were –
“Mind is just an illusion there is neither mind, nor there is any mirror of mind and when the mind does not exist where will the dust settle, he who knows this has known the truth.”
When the master saw these lines, he got up in the middle of the night and came to the young responder while he was asleep.
He woke him up and said “Take this. Take my stick and take my robe from today onwards you are my successor but leave this monastery right now and go somewhere, far away from here”.
The master further begins to say, “I know that there are so many scholars in this monastery who considers themselves to be superior to you, they will kill you because they cannot tolerate the fact that a simple rice pounder has become self- realized, whereas they could not be.
You have got all that I have, and you have got it while pounding rice and I know that wherever you will go people will start coming to you. That’s because when a flower blooms its fragrance starts spreading everywhere.”
The rice pounder touched the feet of his master and left from there in the night.
In life many people think that meditation can only be done by sitting at one place with closed eyes but in reality, it is not like that meditation can be practiced even while walking.
Meditation can also be done even while doing some work the real meaning of meditation is that whatever you are doing you are so engrossed in that you are not even aware of your body just like that rice pounder who became so engrossed in pounding rice that he did not have any sense of himself and one day while pounding rice he attained self-realization.
Similarly zen means to be in the present moment all the time and not to think of anything because the mind exists if there are thoughts. When there will be no thought then the mind will also vanish and when the mind is no more then only your own pure self will remain.
In fact, we do not need to do any other spiritual practice to know our true nature. We just need to be so engrossed in our work. Practice but not preach, then our work becomes meditation.