Chapter 10: Ninakawa Smiles
Just before Ninakawa passed away the Zen Master Ikkyu visited him. “Shall I lead you on?” Ikkyu asked.
Ninakawa replied, “I came here alone, and I go alone. What help could you be to me?”
Ikkyu answered, “If you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path in which there is no coming and going.”
With his words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled and passed away.
Death is the crescendo, the highest peak that life can attain. In the moment of death much is possible. If you have been preparing and preparing, meditating and waiting, then at the moment of death enlightenment is very easily possible - because death and enlightenment are similar. A master, one who is enlightened, can easily make you enlightened at the moment of death. Even before, whenever it happens, you have to be ready to die.
What happens in death? Suddenly you are losing your body, suddenly you are losing your mind. Suddenly you feel you are going away from yourself - all that you believe to be yourself. It is painful, because you feel you are going to be drowned into emptiness. You will be nowhere now, because you were always identified with the body and the mind, and you never knew the beyond; you never knew yourself beyond the body and the mind. You got so fixed and obsessed with the periphery that the center was completely forgotten.
In death you have to encounter this fact: that the body is going, now it cannot be retained any more. The mind is leaving you - now you are no more in control of the mind. The ego is dissolving - you cannot even say “I.” You tremble with fear, on the verge of nothingness. You will be no more.
But if you have been preparing, if you have been meditating - and preparation means if you have been making all efforts to use death, to use this abyss of nothingness - rather than being pulled into it you have been getting ready to jump into it, it makes a lot of difference. If you are being pulled into it, grudgingly - you don’t want to go into it and you have been snatched - then it is painful. Much anguish! And the anguish is so intense that you will become unconscious in the moment of death. Then you miss.