Showing posts with label DEATH AND IMPERMANENCE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DEATH AND IMPERMANENCE. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Simple instructions for beings in the intermediate state (bardo) to be born in the Pure Land

(last update November 26th 2018 - scroll down to read)

Can a person who did not entrust to Amida Buddha during his life, change his mind and entrust while in the intermediate state between death and the next rebirth (bardo)?

I do not recall any passage from Shinran, Rennyo, Honen or other Patriarch of our lineage in which liberation through faith while in bardo was specifically mentioned, but I personally think it is possible. In fact, Shinran too, said a few times in his writings that beings who are born in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha „are not solely from this world”[1], so I don’t see why a bardo being cannot go there  if he comes in accord with Amida’s Primal Vow, that is, if he entrusts to Him, says His Name and wishes to go His Pure Land.  The Primal Vow itself is all inclusive as Amida does not say there that only human beings can go to His Pure Land (- see my explanations of The meaning of "sentient beings of the ten quarters" from the Primal Vow).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A short discussion on suicide by Pure Land followers

Victory Banner - symbol of the victory
of Buddha Dharma. People of shinjin are victorious
  over death and rebirth, because they entrust
themselves to Amida's Power, and are assured of birth 
in the Pure Land, so their last life as samsaric beings may
be one of service, helping others to entrust to Amida and 
be sure of birth in the Pure Land. 
Question by D.K.: Some ancient accounts tell of Pure Land disciples committing suicide in order to go to the Pure Land. I've heard some Buddhist scholars say that this is equal to killing a Buddha... because by killing oneself one is tampering with karma and because we ALL have a Buddha nature. Please tell me dear Rev. Josho what your take on this is. Namo Amida Bu

My answer: Killing oneself is NOT the same with killing a Buddha. This does not even worth discussing. All I can say is this - if one has shinjin (faith in Amida) the conditions of his death (suicide or other causes) does NOT matter because he will certainly go to the Pure Land. However, a person of shinjin can continue his life in human form to help others receive shinjin too, as Shinran advised, "receive yourself shinjin and help others receive shinjin". This is the attitude of our school, and not like those people from who knows what "ancient account" (definitely NOT from the account of our school!). 

What is the rush to go to the Pure Land by suicide, when we’ll certainly die sooner or later? Lets live a life of faith, try to be an example of faith for others, spread the Amida Dharma or help others spread it, and don't make society think that we are a sect of desperate suicidal people who can't handle life.

D.K.: I agree. I myself have entrusted myself and my karmic destiny to Amida. So my future in this realm of Samsara has been entrusted to Him.  I was just curious as to our school's view on this topic.
My answer: Certainly I have never seen in Shinran's writings any condemnation, or encouraging of suicide. But I clearly saw an encouragement to live a life of faith and helping others receive faith. This being the case, I gave the above answer.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Contemplating the suffering of the intermediate state (bardo)

article connected to this collection of teachings

After describing each of the six realms of samsaric existence, I find it important to also explain the intermediate state between death and the next rebirth (antarabhava in Sanskrit, bardo in Tibetan)[1]. All beings pass through this state, which is itself filled with various dangers and suffering, depending on the individual karma. But first, let me say a few words about the process of dying.

Not all beings die the same way. Those who cultivated virtue and who die with a virtuous mind, that is, while remembering their good deeds or focusing on good thoughts, may see various pleasant images as though in a dream. Their death is comfortable and do not feel too much pain in body. On the other hand, those who did evil deeds and who die with an unvirtuous and attached mind experience  immense suffering when leaving their bodies:

Monday, August 14, 2017

2) Impermanence and death

"This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movement of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain".[1]

Nothing that can be found in samsara lasts forever: the outer universe, the bodies of beings in various states of existence, the social status and wealth, our so called "spiritual achievements", etc.

The great world systems with their various realms and planets that appear due to collective karma of beings inhabiting them will disintegrate one day. Then other worlds will be born and die again.[2] The long-living gods of higher states of existence know death too, just like any samsaric being. Rulers of vast celestial realms as well as rulers of humans will also die and their kingdoms will dissapear. Rich and poor, succesful people or losers, all will leave their present bodies and will not take with them any of their worldly achievements or failure. Death is indeed, the great equalizer:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Funeral verses on the death of self power mind

A friend of mine asked me to send him a few words on the occasion of Obon festival, so I wrote these verses, which comprise the essentials of our teaching. I call them Funeral Verses on the Death of Self-Power Mind:

Cremate the old corpse of clinging to your so called merits and "spiritual realisations" in the fire of the twofould profound conviction.

Conduct daily funeral ceremonies for your attachement to self power by entrusting to Amida's Power of salvation.

As the smoke offering to provide to the departed, enjoy in the merit transference of coming back to this world to save all beings.

And for the funeral monument, raise the Nembutsu of faith on the grave of different practices, teachings and wrong views.


Explanation of some terms for those who have little knowledge of Jodo Shinshu:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Shinjin is freedom from death

Meeting with Amida Buddha after
being born in the Pure Land at the end of life

Some say that we, nembutsu followers, live our daily life in a permanent obsession with death. But I say we live a life of relaxation and gratitude because the greatest matter of death and afterlife has already been solved for us by Amida Buddha.

We know we are free not only of the consequences of death which follows the end of this life, but of all deaths and rebirths of samsaric existence. We know that nobody we love in this life, or we have loved in the innumerable lives of the past, will ever be separated from us by death, because we’ll save them all once we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land of Amida. So, how can faith (shinjin) in Amida be called „obsession with death”, when true FREEDOM is its natural consequence!

Old dwellers and newly born in the Pure Land
dance with joy and express their gratitude to Amida

Namo Amida Butsu!
May you all have a meaningful  Obon!
May all beings solve the matter of afterlife through faith in Amida Buddha!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Because you are an ordinary person

Especially because you are an ordinary person, you can’t afford not to be sure where you go after death. So, if you encountered Amida’s helping hand, accept it immediately, without any second thought. You must not assume yourself any risk and do not allow death to catch you unprepared, that is, without faith (shinjin). Let smart guys and virtuous practitioners dwell in the „here and now”, realize emptiness, oneness, or whatever they say they realize, but you stay humble and cling to the sleeves of Amida.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Question: What part of our mind goes to the Pure Land?

Question: What part of our mind goes to the Pure Land? Is it the mind we currently have, in others words is it who we are now that goes to be born in the Pure Land?”

Answer: What we know for sure is that birth in the Pure Land takes place after physical death. This is what the Masters of our tradition clearly said, so we accept it.

At death, what we call ‘mind stream’ leaves the physical body and instead of passing through bardo (intermediary state) and then to other states of existence, it goes directly to the Pure Land where Enlightenment happens immediately. At that very moment, the delusions of our ‘mind stream’ are naturally melt like ice meeting fire, and our true enlightened nature will appear. So, we may say that we go to the Pure Land as we are, but once born there, in the safe and enlightened realm of Amida, ‘we’ transform into something completely different, that is, fully Enlightened Buddhas.

But all these things are inconceivable and beyond conceptual understanding, so I cannot enter into further analysis. Some aspects are imposibile to understand at the level we are now as unenlightened beings. Now all we need to do is to simply entrust to Amida. Jodo Shinshu is the path of simple faith, not of profound understanding in this life of the ultimate nature of mind.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Again, on the "here and now" slogan

- fragment from a letter to a friend -

You say that the nembutsu of faith is too much related with death and afterlife and that you prefer something for the „here and now”. But this separation is only an illusion. In truth, death is not separated from the „here and now” as breath which comes out might not be followed by the breath which comes in.
In the „here and now” you can lose everything; in the „here and now” you or your loved ones can stop breathing, in the „here and now” you may suddenly find yourself in the afterlife, losing this human form, the chance of listening the Amida Dharma and receive faith. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Do not have patience

I myself cannot find any satisfaction with Buddhist teachings and practices that doesn’t promise me a quick escape from birth and death. This is why I entrust myself to Amida Buddha, because I am in a hurry to become a Buddha.

I know that some virtuous practicers might interpret my hurry as laziness in spiritual matters or as lack of patience. I don’t deny anything, but when I deeply contemplate the rare chance of being born a human and how easy it is to fall again in the lower realms[1] or when I see that even in this life, thoughts resembling those of animals, hungry spirits or hell dwellers often appear in my mind and in the mind of others, I feel that I do not want to assume any risk of failing to quickly become a Buddha once and for all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Solve the matter of death and after death NOW!

"We should all quickly take to heart the
matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife, entrust ourselves deeply to
Amida Buddha, and recite the nembutsu." (Master Rennyo)

No matter what I do, there is one thought that comes to me naturaly and this is: „I will die one day, maybe tommorow or even today”.....

To be or not to be a religious person lies in how much attention one gives to his own death and after life. And there is something more: in how hurried he or she is to solve this matter of death and after death.
This I think should be a great urge for a Buddhist practitioner – to solve the matter of death NOW, as soon as possible, to be hurried to solve it and to not postpone it for another day or year.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Time for practice

M said to me, „I am very sick, I haven’t felt well for two months, so I can’t practice”.

But if you don’t practice*  when you are sick and in danger of death, when will you ever practice? Now is the time, when your life is fragile. In fact, your life is always fragile but only when you are ill you truly feel the fragility of life.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The meaning of Obon (festival of the dead 14th-15th August)

When someone died very young a few years ago everybody was astonished. How could this happen? Why her? She was so young!
This is how every family reacts when a younger member dies suddenly.

Death looks like a thief entering unexpectedly with dirty boots in your room.
People are always taken by surprise. Even you, the reader of these lines, might be shocked if the doctor would tell you that you have cancer and only 3 months to live. Even me, the writer, might react in the same manner.
Why is that? Because for us death does not exist, it is something that always happens to somebody else or which is scheduled to take place some other time in the far future.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You are not your body

There are many situations when you want to do something but your body doesn’t obey your wishes. Like for example, you would like to read or learn all night but the body is too tired and wishes to sleep. Or you have a very important task to finish, but the body suddenly feels hunger and needs to eat. Also, you have to go to the toilet every day, even many times a day.

Sleep, hunger, thirst, the need to urinate comes automatically, no matter whether you want them to happen or not. So, it seems that your body has its own needs and its own mechanism.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Death barrier

“Death barrier,
what does it mean to you?”[1]
You have to answer to this question, but not using only your rational mind. You have to put all your heart into this question. Ask yourself over and over again, “death barrier, what does it mean to me?

What does death mean to you? Do you really feel that you will die, do you really understand impermanence? This question is addressed to you personally; it is not a general question, not a philosophical question, but a very intimate question. It must become very personal.

Take the thought of death in your everyday life, when you go to bed in the evening, when you start your day in the morning, when you are sad or when you feel happy, when it is your birthday or when you get marry, when eating a good meal, after having sex, when you are satisfied…invite death to enter your mind and make you aware of its hidden presence.

Everything you have is fragile, so feel this fragility. “Fragile” is a very good word. Feel the fragility of your own body, of your relations with others, of the environment you live in, and especially feel the fragility of your own so-called spiritual achievements. Be aware that you can die every day, every moment, and fear most about the place you might go after death.

Fear most if you haven’t received shinjin (faith) yet, and do all you can to be sure that your destination is certain. Don’t waste the time you have without solving the most important matters of death and what comes after death.

[1] Zuiken Inagaki Sensei.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Immediate Buddhahood for ordinary people, without passing through bardo

"Being mindful of Him (Amida Buddha) always, we board the Vow Power. After death we attain birth in His land, where we meet Him, face to face, with unbounded joy."
Master Shan-tao

Although it is not so well spread outside Asia, like Tibetan Buddhism, Jodo Shinshu deserves its place among the most advanced Mahayana teachings and practices.
I know that in Tibetan Buddhism, there are methods for attaining complete Buddhahood quicker than in other Mahayana schools. Some practices are hard and dangerous like those of the tantras, but some are easier like the practice of attaining Enlightenment in the bardo or the intermediate state between death and the next birth, in accordance with the Bardo Thodol. Through its methods, Tibetan Buddhism promises, if well practiced, Enlightenment in 16 lives maximum, or even in the bardo, if one is not capable of attaining it in this very life.

It is indeed wonderful, but looking to the teaching and practice of Jodo Shinshu, I feel even happier that through faith in Amida Buddha I will attain supreme and complete Buddhahood in the very moment of death and birth in the Pure Land: not in the bardo, where I still have to practice something based on my own power, while I also experience the manifestations of my own karma and delusions, but in the very moment of my death.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Brutal awareness

Hey, awake yourself to the true reality of your life!

Your body is becoming older and older day by day, no matter you are now twenty, thirty or fourty years old. Some of you are already fifty or sixty. Look at yourself in a mirror! Look at yourself in your old pictures and you will notice the differences. How your body has changed. Your body is becoming uglier and uglier day by day, and will soon resemble more like a corpse than a living body. Look how your hair becomes white, ..... the signs of death are there, in your own body.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Intense Awareness of Impermanence

Meditation on death is encouraged in all forms of Buddhism as a natural method for becoming more serious and devoted to the Dharma. There are many types of death-meditation, but all have the same essence: to become deeply aware of our own mortality and to make this awareness the basis of our life and practice. Death is normal, but our unawareness of it, is not. Everybody accepts that one day will die, but few are indeed conscious about it and use well the time they have. The reason why so many “seekers” of the “right path” remain just seekers all their lives and never become practitioners of one school or another, is not that all the Dharma methods or teachers of our times are bad or not useful to them, but because they think they have all the time in the world to both enjoy a busy life and their search for truth. To become aware of our own death is more than saying, “of course I will die one day” and having smart discussions about life after death.

Here is a passage from “Words of my perfect teacher” by Patrul Rinpoche, that clearly shows how meditation on death can be integrated in our daily life. Everyone of us, no matter we are monks, priests or lay, whether we follow practices based on self power, or we rely on the Other Power (Amida Buddha), can find this text useful to increase our awareness of death and dedication to the Dharma:

“Meditate single-mindedly on death, all the time and in every circumstance. While standing up, sitting or lying down, tell yourself: “This is my last act in this world”, and meditate on it with utter conviction. On your way to wherever you might be going, say to yourself: “Maybe I will die there. There is no certainty that I will ever come back.” When you set out on a journey or pause to rest, ask yourself: “Will I die here?” Wherever you are, you should wonder if this might be where you die. At night, when you lie down, ask yourself whether you might die in bed during the night or whether you can be sure that you are going to get up in the morning. When you rise, ask yourself whether you might die sometime during the day, and reflect that there is no certainty at all that you will be going to bed in the evening.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Disgusted with samsara

Sometimes the thought of death becomes unbearable. And the more unbearable it becomes, the more I understand the urgency to follow the Dharma and take refuge in Amida.
It has nothing to do with merit or being wise. When one sees that fire burns his room and his entire house, he has no other option than run through the door, or through the window. What else can he do? In the same way, what other option do I have, than trying to escape this miserable house of pain?
Sometimes the events of my life become unbearable and impermanence shows his ugly teeth to me. It's all the same shit, repeated again and again in every life. I am born, I grow, become attached to this or that, I waste my life, become sick, old and finally die just to start it all over again. And between these events, I lose everybody I love.

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.

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch