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Chapter 16: Have You Had Your Dinner?

He cannot understand what is going on. Now he is completely puzzled and confused. All this talk about dinner seems to be about something else.

Later Chokei asked Hofuku, “To give food to others is surely worthy. How could he fail to be open-eyed?”

An ordinary understanding is that to give food to those who are hungry, to feed them, is a virtuous act. Obviously such a virtuous act can be done only by one who is awakened. At this point the Catholics and other Christians will certainly agree with Chokei, who is saying, “To give food to others is surely worthy. How could he fail to be open-eyed?”

In such ordinary statements so much is hidden. It is possible for you to feed the hungry and yet not be awakened. You can feed the hungry for reasons of your own. Most probably it is because of greed - greed for heaven, for heavenly pleasures. If you can accumulate enough virtue, you will be received by God. And if you are not virtuous, a sinner, a hellfire is waiting for you into which you will be thrown for eternity; there is no rescue.

Ordinary morality will agree with Chokei, but anyone who understands the meaning of inner awakening knows it perfectly well: to feed someone does not mean a virtuous act because it is coming out of unconsciousness, out of greed, out of a certain motivation, certain ambition, certain fear. How can you be called an awakened person? The awakened also feeds, but not because of any profit to be gained here or hereafter. The awakened also feeds not only the body but the soul, out of pure compassion, never expecting anything in return.

Hofuku said, “Both giver and receiver are blind.”

These are great dialogues between great people. Chokei himself is enlightened. You might not understand his asking, “How could such a man fail to be open-eyed, who feeds others?” This is a net thrown to catch Hofuku. If Hofuku said, “Yes, you are right,” he would have missed the point, but Hofuku stands on the same ground as Chokei. He makes the statement, “Both giver and receiver are blind” - to think that “I am giving” is ego-centered and to think that “I am receiving” is also ego-centered. There is no difference; both are blind.

Chokei said, “Are you still blind, even though you exhaust every means?”
Hofuku said, “How can you call me blind?”

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