A poet comes to meet a Zen master. He must have been a very great poet, because only the highest and greatest poets can have a meeting ground with the mystic. Each and every poet will not have that, because where the poetry becomes ultimate, there is the first step of mysticism. Where the poetry ends, culminates, reaches its peak, its Gourishankar, becomes the Everest, there is the first step of the temple of the mystic. The highest poetry is the lowest mysticism – there is the meeting point. So only very great poets can attain to the height where a Zen master will have to say: My son, you have learned much.
Now we should enter into this story.
Ninagawa-Shinzaemon, a linked-verse poet, and devotee of Zen,
desired to become a disciple of the remarkable master, Ikkyu,
who was abbot of the Daitokuji in Murasakino – a violet field.
This has always been my feeling: that the greatest of the poets cannot avoid religion; they have to come into it, because poetry leads to a certain point, and beyond that is religion. If you persist in being a poet, you will become religious. You can remain a poet only if you have not traveled the whole extent of it. So only small poets can remain poets: great poets are bound to move into religion. You cannot escape it, because a certain point comes where the poetry ends and religion begins. If you follow up to that extent, where will you go? At that moment poetry converts itself into religion. One has to follow.
The same thing happens to a logician, to a scientist, but in a different way. With a scientist also, if he persists, goes on and on and on, there comes a moment where he feels there is a cul-de-sac, the road moves nowhere. Now there comes an abyss, there is no more road ahead.
It is different with a poet: there is a road ahead, but now it is no longer of poetry. His road automatically converts into the road of religion. But for a scientist, a logician, or a philosopher, it happens in a different way. He comes to a cul-de-sac, the road simply ends. It goes no further, there is no road, just a precipice, an abyss.
This happened to Albert Einstein in his last days. It can happen only to the greatest. The lesser minds on e same road never reach to the cul-de-sac point. They die somewhere on the road believing that the road was leading somewhere, because there was still road ahead of them. The conversion happens only to the greatest. In the last days of Albert Einstein’s life, he started feeling that his whole life had been a wastage. Somebody asked him, “If you are born again, what would you like to be?” He said, “Never again a scientist. I would rather be a plumber, but never again a scientist. Finished!” In the last days, he started thinking about God, or the ultimate meaning of life, the mystery of mysteries, and he said, “The more I penetrated into the mystery of existence, the more and more I felt that the mystery is eternal, unending, infinite. The more I came to know, the less I became certain about my knowledge.”