Saturday, December 8, 2007

State of mind in the moment of death

"I, for my own part, attach no significance to the condition, good or bad, of persons in their final moments. People in whom shinjin (faith in Amida) is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason their end also - even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom - is a happy one." (Shinran Shonin)

This is for me, one of the most important statements of Shinran Shonin which gave me true relief and assurance in my difficult moments. No matter if I die well, in my bed, or in the street like a homeless person, no matter if I feel good or bad, if I smile and die peacefully with the appearance of a wise person or I cry because of pain or fear, no matter if my death makes a good impression or not, no matter if I die of old age or in my youth, I am accepted exactly as I am and I will be born in the Pure Land because of Amida’s Compassion.

This is because, in His Primal Vow, Amida Buddha did not mention a special condition in which I have to die in order to be born in the Pure Land. He just promised that those beings who trust in Him, wish to be born in His land and say His Name will be born there. These three minds – the mind who entrusts in Amida, the mind who wishes to be born in Amida’s Land and the mind who says Nembutsu are in fact one mind, the manifestations of the entrusting mind (faith/shinjin).

In Jodo Shinshu we are taught that we enter the stage of non-retrogression ("truly settled") or the stage of those assured of Nirvana, in the very moment we entrust in Amida Buddha, and we are born in the Pure Land where we become immediately Buddhas in the very moment we die.
But even after we receive shinjin (faith) we continue to live our lives like ordinary people, filled with blind passions and illusions, and we can die like ordinary people because of the problems of ordinary people.

However, this very ordinary person is already "received and never abandoned" by the Compassion of Amida Buddha and in this way his end becomes a happy one. He dies like an ordinary person but is reborn as a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida.

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