Then one of the disciples said, “But it is not very original, because I have heard of a great rascal saint just like you who died standing. So it will not be very unique and original.”
Somebody suggested, “Then the best way is, die standing on your head! We don’t think that anybody has done that before. It is going to be unique – never done before and perhaps never in the future.”
Hotei said, “I like the idea!” Even at the point of death he stood on his head. And it is said that the disciples were at a loss to figure out what to do now. Because they knew what to do when a person dies in the bed, but what to do with the master who has died standing on his head?
Somebody said that his sister, who was older than him – she was a nun, just as he was a monk, and she lived nearby…. “It is better to ask her; we should not do anything before asking somebody who is in a better position and is a better authority.” The elder sister was called.
She came up and she said, “Hotei, you rascal! Your whole life you have been this way – but at least behave at the point of death! Get up and lie down on the bed!”
Naturally, when the elder sister says so…. Hotei jumped up, laughed, lay down on the bed and died!
But this kind of saint is a very unique phenomenon. Tradition would not accept him, religions will avoid mentioning him. Even after death he continued to be himself. Before dying he said, “Remember, I am not a traditional man, so please don’t give me a bath”. It was a traditional thing, that before taking him to the funeral pyre he should be given a bath. He said, “I have taken my bath in the morning so there is no need to give me a cold bath again. I hate it!” “But,” they said, “you will be dead!”
He said, “Dead or alive, I hate it! And remember that you are my disciples and my will should be followed; don’t remove my clothes.”
Traditionally, a bath is given, and new clothes, food…because we are sending the person on a new pilgrimage, on a new journey. But he insisted. The traditional people were not even willing to participate in his funeral because they said, “This is not right – he should be given a bath, his clothes should be changed.”
But his disciples said, “We cannot deny our dead master – and he never cared about you anyway. And we don’t think he will care whether you come to the funeral or not.”
They had to put his body on the pyre in his clothes…and only then did they recognize that that man was really something, one who comes only once in a while. The whole crowd of disciples started laughing, because he had hidden in his clothes fireworks! So, many things started exploding. He made a joke even of death! He created laughter even at his funeral.