The old Zen
master's health was fading. Knowing his death was near, he announced
to all the monks that he soon would be passing down his robe and rice
bowl to appoint the next master of the monastery.
His choice, he
said, would be based on a contest. Anyone seeking the appointment was
required to demonstrate his spiritual wisdom by submitting a
The head monk,
the most obvious successor, presented a poem that was well composed
and insightful. All the monks anticipated his selection as their new
leader. However, the next morning another poem appeared on the wall in
the hallway, apparently written during the dark hours of the
everyone with it's elegance and profundity but no one knew who the
author was. Determined to find this person, the old master began
questioning all the monks. To his surprise, the investigation led to
the rather quiet kitchen worker who pounded rice for the meals.
hearing the news, the jealous head monk and his comrades plotted to kill
their rival. In secret, the old master passed down his robe and bowl to
the rice-pounder, who quickly fled from the monastery, later to become a
widely renowned Zen teacher.