A Smile in His Lifetime

Mokugen was never known to smile until his last day on earth. When his time came, he called his students and said, "You have studied with me for more than ten years. Show me your real interpretation of Zen. Whomever expresses this most clearly shall be my successor and receive my robe and bowl." Everyone watched Mokugen's severe face, but no one answered. Encho, a disciple of long standing, moved near the bedside and pushed Mokugen's medicine cup forward a few inches toward the bed. The teacher's face became even more severe. "Is that all you understand?" he demanded. Encho moved the cup back to its original place on the bedside table. A beautiful smile appeared on Mokugen's face. "You rascal," he said to Encho, "you have worked with me for ten years and have not yet seen my whole body. Take the robe and bowl. They belong to you."

Encho moved the medicine cup toward his teacher. Facing his teacher's last hours, he could not discuss the interpretation of Zen. he simply wanted his teacher to stay and live. "Is that all you understand?" the teacher asked. So Encho took back the cup: "If you insist, I will take back the medicine. Even though you pass away, please don't worry. i will take care of the temple." Mokugen smile, for there was an assured feeling about his successor.


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