- Hotei, a Zen master, was passing through a village He was one of the most beautiful persons who have ever walked on earth. He was known to people as ‘The Laughing Buddha’ — he used to laugh continuously. But sometimes he would sit under a tree — in this village he was sitting under a tree, with closed eyes; not laughing, not even smiling; completely calm and collected.
Somebody asked: “You are not laughing, Hotei?”
He opened his eyes and he said, “I am preparing.”
The questioner could not understand. He said, “What do you mean by ‘preparing’?”
He said, “I have to prepare myself for laughter. I have to give myself rest. I have to go in. I have to forget the whole world so that I can come again rejuvenated and I can again laugh.”
If you really want to laugh you will have to learn how to weep. If you cannot weep and if you are not capable of tears, you will become incapable of laughter. A man of laughter is also a man of tears — then a man is balanced. A man of bliss is also a man of silence. A man who is ecstatic is also a man who is centered. They both go together. And out of this togetherness of polarities a balanced being is born. And that is what the goal is.
- Hotei is tremendously significant. Rarely has a man like Hotei walked on the earth. It is unfortunate — more people should be like Hotei; more temples should be full of laughter, dancing, singing. If seriousness is lost, nothing is lost — in fact, one becomes more healthy and whole. But if laughter is lost, everything is lost. Suddenly you lose the festivity of your being; you become colorless, monotonous, in a way dead. Then you energy is not streaming any more.Laughter is a flowering. If Buddha was the seed, then Hotei is the flower on the same tree. If Buddha is the roots, then Hotei is the flower on the same tree. And if you want to understand Buddha, try to understand Hotei. And it is right that people used to call him the Laughing Buddha. Buddha has come of age in Hotei. Buddha has laughed in Hotei. Enlightenment has come to its very crescendo.
But it is difficult to understand Hotei. To understand him you will have to be in that festive dimension. If you are too much burdened with theories, concepts, notions, ideologies, theologies, philosophies, you will not be able to see what this Hotei is, what his significance is — because he will laugh looking at you. He will laugh because he will not be able to believe that a man can be so foolish and so ridiculous.
- Hotei lived a totally different life from an ordinary religious man. His whole life was nothing but a continuous laughter. It is said about Hotei that even sometimes in sleep he would start laughing. He had a big belly, and the belly would shake. Sardar Gurdayal Singh would have enjoyed meeting him, and Hotei would have enjoyed Sardar Gurdayal Singh. People would ask him, “Why are you laughing? and even in sleep!” Laughter was so natural to him that any and everything would help him to laugh. Then the w hole life, awake or asleep, is a comedy.
- It is said that when Hotei attained enlightenment he started laughing. He lived at least thirty years afterwards; he continued laughing for thirty years. Even in sleep his disciples would hear him giggling. His whole message to the world was laughter; he would go from one town to another just laughing. He would stand in one marketplace, then in another, just laughing, and people would gather. His laughter had something of the beyond — a Buddha’s laughter. He is known in Japan as ‘the laughing Buddha’.His laughter was so contagious that whosoever heard it would start laughing. Soon the whole marketplace would be laughing; crowds would gather and laugh and they would ask him, “Just give us a few instructions.”
He would say, “Nothing more, this is enough. If you can laugh, if you can laugh totally, it is meditation.” Laughter was his device. It is said many people became enlightened through Hotei’s laughter. That was his only meditation: to laugh and help people laugh.
- In Japan there is the beautiful story of a really great buddha, Hotei. In Japan he is called the Laughing Buddha, because the moment he became enlightened he started laughing.
People asked him, “Why are you laughing?”
He said, “Because I have become enlightened!”
“But,” they said, “we can’t see any relationship between enlightenment and laughter. What is the point of laughing?”Hotei said, “I am laughing because I was searching for something which was already in me. I was searching the seeker; it was impossible to seek it. Where can you seek the seeker? How can you know the knower? It was like a dog chasing its own tail or you chasing your own shadow; you cannot catch hold of it.
It was so ridiculous, the whole effort was so absurd! That’s why I am laughing: I have always been a buddha! Now it looks very strange that for millions of lives I remained unconscious. It seems unbelievable how I went on missing myself. Now that I have known, a great laughter is arising in me.” And it is said he continued to laugh till his death; that was his only message to the world. He must have been a man like Indivar — just crazy, far out!