Just before Ninakawa died, Zen Master Ikkyu visited him “Shall I lead you on?” Ikkyu said. 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 on which there is no coming and going.” With those words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled (he was enlightened in the instant of a moment) and passed away.
Ikkyu was a very famous Zen teacher during the Ashikaga era in Japan. He was the son of an emperor, and his mother was a student of Zen. In this koan he points to the eternal life of Zen, which has no beginning and no end. Since it is eternal, there is no coming and no going. Life and death are only the manifestations of eternal life.
Life itself never dies. The Zen student was previously too attached to the delusion of life and death that it prevented him from seeing the ultimate reality but when the Guru Ikkyu challenged his attachments, he saw the folly and immediately attained the deathless. We say that we came from eternity and go back to eternity. Eternity means here and now. From beginningless time to endless time, it is all here.
Every minute is the manifestation of eternity. Some people worry about death. Why? Death is as natural as birth. The worry about death or excitement for life simply shows that we have some form of attachment or greed for either; and that becomes an impediment for attaining to a higher reality that is more superior. Discovering these truths in life causes one to search for meaning in everything they do. This causes one to cultivate spiritual qualities and merits such as: proper objectivity, mutual fulfillment in all activities, great intuition, creative initiative that enables one to develop other beings spontaneously, skill in liberative art, success in one’s doings and so forth.
To Awaken means to awaken the spiritual gene inside of us. Many people live their lives until death without bothering to awaken the spiritual genius in them; hence they feel reluctant to leave when the opportune moment comes. Why is that so? To Awaken one must cultivate faith in the Teaching of Truth first, then conceive the spirit of Thatness, practice generosity and so forth, after which they advance their predetermination for enlightenment. In the end they undergo an intrinsic and innate purification, and ultimately achieve the UNLOCATED NIRVANA – the supreme enlightenment and the manifestation perfect deeds and virtue. Here, ‘unlocated’ means that whenever one goes or whatever one does, they will find the same supreme Nirvana therein without hindrance.