The Zen master Hotei used to travel around with a bag full of sweets on his shoulder, distributing them to children as he played with them. Whenever he came across a Zen adherent, he would bow down and say only this: “Please, give a penny.” And whenever someone would ask him to come into the temple and give a discourse, then too he would say the same thing: “Please, give a penny.”
Once, when he was playing with some children, another Zen monk came by and asked Hotei, “What is the meaning of Zen?”
In silent reply Hotei dropped his bag onto the earth.
And when the Zen monk asked, “What is the attainment of Zen?” a smiling Hotei picked up his bag, put it on his shoulder and went on his way.
Later the other monk became a very famous Zen master.
Can you please explain the messages in this dialogue?
The statements of the mystics and their way of life are not based on any logical syllogism. There is no calculation in their lives, they are not conventionalists; their lives are a spontaneous throbbing. We can experience something in that throbbing, we can taste that throbbing, but that throbbing can never be defined logically or intellectually. So the first thing to be understood is that the life of a mystic is not run according to some moral code, scripture, tradition or structure. His life is not like a pond, it is like a flowing river. The life of a mystic does not happen through careful planning but through living moment-to-moment pulsations of consciousness in their totality.
We call a man evil whose life has a mold of evil-doing. He lives through a mold but the mold is that of evil-doing. He commits thefts and all kinds of dishonesty, he is treading the path of evil quite deliberately and calculatedly. His wickedness is his own decision; this life-style he has chosen of his own accord. We call a man virtuous who has made virtue his chosen life-style. Charity, kindness and good deeds have all been carefully considered by him, and are deemed appropriate to the style of life he has chosen. The lives of both the evil-doer and the virtuous man are bound by a mold.
There is a third kind of life, the life of the mystic, which is free from any mold. So the lives of two mystics will never be alike. They can only be similar when they are cast in the same mold – like mass-produced Fiat cars. But two plants cannot be alike; really, even two of their leaves cannot be alike. Not even two pebbles found anywhere on this vast planet can be the same as each other, because every pebble has come out of the infinite; it is not cast in a certain mold. This is why there is no repetition in existence. Nothing is duplicated, everything is unique and unparalleled.
The mystic does not manipulate his actions according to either evil or virtue. He does not impose any system on his life.
The mystic lives in a state of conscious anarchy.