This Ikkyu was a very rare man. He was turned out immediately, out of the temple. In the morning he was sitting just on the side of the street outside the temple – worshipping a milestone, putting flowers, doing his prayers. So the priest said, “You fool! In the night you misbehaved with Buddha. What have you done? You have committed a sin, and now what are you doing with this milestone? This is not a statue.”
Ikkyu said, “When you want to pray, everything is a statue. At that time the buddha within was feeling very cold. At this time the buddha within is feeling very prayerful.”
This man Ikkyu had thousands of disciples all over the country, and he used to wander from one place to another to help disciples. This story is about one of his disciples, Ninakawa. He was just on the verge, almost enlightened. But “almost enlightened” means nothing; you can move back, from the last point also you can fall. Unless it has happened, it has not happened. From the very last moment, when only one step remains and you will become an enlightened one, you can come back. This Ninakawa was almost enlightened but still in the grip of the scriptures, because unless you reach to the truth, it is very difficult to get out of the grip of the scriptures.
It is very difficult to get out of the prison of words. It happens only when you are really enlightened. Then you can see that words are just words: nothing is there, they are not substantial, they are made of the stuff dreams are made of. They are just ripples in the mind, nothing else; sounds in the mind. And the meaning? Meaning is given by us; it is not there, no word is meaningful. And any word can become meaningful by common agreement.
So it is just a social phenomenon, not concerned with truth at all. But people live by words: if someone says something against Jesus and you are a Christian you will be ready to kill him, or be ready to be killed – it is a question of life and death. Someone says something against Mohammed, a Mohammedan gets mad. Just a word – “Mohammed” is just a word, “Jesus” is just a word – but people live by words.
I have heard: Once Mulla Nasruddin caught hold of a man on the street and said, “I am in a very difficult situation: my wife is hungry, my children are ill. Will you help me a little?”
The man looked at Nasruddin; he was really in a sad plight. He asked, “Why should I help you? But one thing I would like to ask: what brought you to this sad plight? How did you become so miserable? What has happened to you?”
Nasruddin said, “It is a long story. But to say it in short: just a few years ago I was also a businessman like you, and beggars used to catch hold of me on the street. Everything was going wonderfully. Then a catastrophe….”
The man became interested. He said, “Then what happened?”