Each morning when he would wake up, this was his routine, only broken once. The routine was that when he would feel that he was awake, before opening his eyes, he would say, “Hotei,” – that was his name – “are you still here?” And then he would answer himself, “Yes, master.” He would say, “That’s good.”
His disciples thought that this seemed to be crazy. Many times they asked him, “Why do you do this?”
He said, “One day, I will wake up and Hotei will not be there. And Hotei has been such a beautiful servant – in good times, in bad times, in darknesses, in lights – the first thing is that I want to be sure, whether Hotei is around or gone. And the moment he says ‘Yes, master,’ I am filled again with great energy for the day’s work. His ‘Yes!’ is such a beauty, such a grace.”
“But,” his disciples said, “there is nobody. You are saying both things. You ask the question and you answer it.”
Hotei said, “From the outside, this is how it appears, but all that appears is not real. From the inside, I am asking: ‘Hotei, are you here?’ and it is my mind who says, ‘Yes, master!’ As far as I am concerned, the question and the answer are coming from different sources.”
But in his whole life, only once…that was the day he died. He opened his eyes and his disciples were surprised. A lifelong habit…they have also become habituated to listening to it. Something was missing – what happened? There was silence.
And then one disciple asked: “Master, have you forgotten today? You have not asked, ‘Hotei, are you still here?’ Have you forgotten? Are you becoming old, losing your memory?”
Hotei laughed. He said, “I am not losing my memory and I cannot become old, I am eternally young. I am not asking because I don’t want to put Hotei in an embarrassing situation.”
They said, “We don’t understand. What is the embarrassing situation?”
He said, “The embarrassing situation is that today, Hotei cannot say ‘Yes, master!’ This is my last day. In fact, I would have died in the middle of the night. I simply managed to go on breathing for the morning, so that you all can come and I can see you for the last time. And perhaps you can also see me for the first time.”
He closed his eyes and said, “Hotei, okay – now we can go.”
And he said, “Yes, master. I have been ready since the middle of the night, it is time.”
Have you noted the beauty of Hotei’s eccentric behavior? It looks eccentric…it is the sanest behavior possible.
Why do I judge so much?