If you are discontented it is because the means and the goal are different for you. You are using the means to achieve some goal – and our minds live in goals. So as long as you have any goals in your life – even goals like liberation, godliness, peace and bliss – as long as you have anything to attain you will remain a shopkeeper. And as long as this is so, your life cannot have the grace that descends on the meditator’s life.
Hotei says the meaning of meditation is: “Walk on!” Don’t stop anywhere, simply go on. There is no question of even going in any particular direction. He is saying, “Float! Don’t come to a halt, don’t lose your flowing, don’t become stagnant!” A pond gets dirty, a river never does. Even if you don’t throw any garbage into a pond, it will still become rotten, because there is no flow; it is closed. A river cannot rot because it cleanses itself with its own flow. When you lead a life of business you are like a pond or a puddle; when you lead a life of meditation you are like a river.
Hotei never stayed in one place – not because of any rule. This is a fact of great interest. Mahavira used to ask his disciples never to stay in one town for longer than three days. This is right. This direction has been given after deep thought, because three days is a kind of limit for the mind; from the fourth day attachment sets in. If you change your house, for three days you will feel strangeness, from the fourth day you will begin to feel that you belong there. This is why Hindus mourn for three days when someone dies. In fact, it is on the fourth day that the person who has died really departs.
Psychologists who have studied these phenomena confirm this three-day limit of the mind; if you want to form an attachment, they say, three days’ company is needed. This is why Mahavira told his disciples not to stay anywhere for longer than three days – so that this attachment does not begin, so that the river does not cease to flow. After three days all the passions will arise: the passion to fall into intimacy with somebody, the passion to fall into enmity with someone else; some people will appear to be good and others bad; the mind will desire a closeness with some and a distance with some others. This is the beginning of the formation of a household.
But if you set out to make a rule of this you will miss the essence. Three days is not a rule; you can make an attachment in three seconds if attachment is what you are after. And if you don’t want attachment, you can stay with someone for three lifetimes and still be free. The rules are a superficial device to help the unintelligent. If you are intelligent you will capture the essence.
This Hotei never halted in any town, he only passed through with his bag on his shoulder – Buddha and Krishna and Christ were never seen wandering with bags on their shoulders the way Hotei used to – and his bag contained sweets, toys, flowers, crackers…just things for children. He must have been a very marvellous man!