So the mystic will not even pluck the flower from the tree. Then what will he do? He will not even so much as touch the flower, because touch can only be external. Touching at the periphery we may find out whether the flower feels tender or rough, but how are we going to touch the soul within it? There is no way to touch the soul – it is beyond touch. And the mystic’s interest is not with the physical body of the flower, because the beauty of the flower lies not in its body but in the radiance emanating from its soul. So what will the mystic do?
He will meditate, he will sit near the flower. He will make no alterations to the flower, he will alter himself so that all his thoughts recede. He will not touch the flower at all; he will transform himself so that his heart becomes totally silent, so silent that the flower can enter into him. He will have to lower all his defenses so that the flower too can let go of all its self-protecting devices. This is because when you make preparations for your security, the other does the same. When you build a wall around you the other does so too, out of fear; but when you remove your wall the other loses his fear.
The mystic will sit by the flower in loving meditation, allowing himself to dissolve into the flower and the flower to dissolve into him. A moment will come when there will be neither mystic nor flower; the life current of each will merge into the other in complete harmony. Then the mystic will know what a flower is. Then he will say, “One who has known one flower has known the whole of the divine.” This is the mystic’s way of understanding.
This story you have asked about is an episode from Hotei’s life. He was such a unique being; to seek comparisons between Hotei and other saints is quite futile. No other mystic has lived the way he did. He spent his whole life walking from one village to another, never stopping anywhere; to settle was not his way.
Someone once asked Hotei to explain in a nutshell what meditation is. Hotei’s answer was, “Walk on!” If you stop, he is saying, meditation is lost. As soon as you stop the mind is born. Where the river stops a pond is formed, and there is the beginning of stagnation. So Hotei says walk on, do not stop, walk on not to any destination; in the walking is the destination. There is nowhere to reach; in flowing is the reaching – just flow.
This is a perception based on a profound inner experience of Gautam Buddha. Buddha said that there are no things in the world, but only processes. You are not a person, you are a process. It is mainly for linguistic purposes that we convert everything into objects. We say that there is a river: ask Buddha and he will say there is no such thing; the river is a process, it is becoming. To say the river is implies stability, and the river is never in this state, it is always becoming. Again, we say that the tree is; language makes it appear as though everything is at rest, but every moment the tree is becoming. In the time it takes to say, “The tree is,” an old leaf will fall, a new leaf will sprout, a flower will fall in the wind. The tree is not a static thing, it is a flowing, a process. You too are a process.
This is why Buddha says there is no soul in man.