What is it that We Are Born For?

It is the beginning of a memorable year in which we will celebrate the 55th anniversary of Shinrankai’s establishment. At the end of last year, one of our Buddhist friends passed away at the young age of fifty-one. It was due to subarachnoid hemorrhage. I saw his little daughter devastated by grief and continually wiping her running tears. However hard you ask it to wait, death does not wait. We are deeply stained with evil and inflamed with passions. Even if we consider death as someone else’s affairs, death WILL come to us for sure and we will be faced with the crucial matter of the afterlife. We should not be overly affected by emotions and must overcome every obstacle and listen to Buddhism until we attain salvation. Otherwise any glory or happiness in our life will be like a mere dream and for sure we will end our days with regret. We must make sure that we know what it is we are born for. Let’s read You Were Born For A Reason together.

Why are we born, and why do we live? Why is it wrong to take one’s own life, even amid great pain? What is the ultimate purpose of life?

With unswerving conviction and courage, Shinran gave an answer that is brief and brilliant: There is a great ship that will bear us cheerfully across life’s sea of ceaseless suffering, and our mission is to board this ship and live in eternal happiness.

The introduction to Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment, Shinran’s most important work, begins with these lines:

Amida’s inconceivable Vow is a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross, and his unimpeded light is the sun of wisdom that destroys the mind of darkness.

This is a great manifesto for all humanity. It means that Amida’s Vow to save all beings is the sun that eradicates the darkness which is the root of human suffering, and a great ship on which all are borne cheerfully and happily across life’s sea of endless waves of tribulation. To board this ship is indeed the purpose of life.

What does it actually mean to board the great ship that carries us across the sea of suffering? In a nutshell, it is this: to have one’s darkness of mind (the root of suffering) eliminated, and know the joy of life that exults, “How glad I am to have been born human!” Shinran left many writings, but it is fair to say that everything he wrote can be summed up in these words.


As we have seen already, Shinran compares life to a sea in which human beings suffer wave after wave of distress. He calls this the “sea that is difficult to cross” or the “sea of tribulation.”

Before he died, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), the powerful warrior chieftain who was awarded the ancient title of seii taishogun (“barbariansubduing generalissimo”), is said to have compared his life to “traveling a long road, laden with a heavy burden.” Never once, in other words, was he able to set down the burden of suffering. Even an unparalleled optimist like Goethe lamented in 1824, “The course of my existence …at bottom … has been nothing but pain and burden, and I can affirm that during the whole of my 75 years, I have not had four weeks of genuine well-being.” (snip)

Yet we were not born to suffer; that is not why we live. The ultimate wish of every person is the same: to do away with suffering and cross life’s sea of tribulation with all cheer and happiness. This is the greatest challenge of mankind, and the solution lies in Shinran’s magnum opus, Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment.

(You Were Born For A Reason, Part Two, Chapter 2, page 51-52)

Only Amida Buddha has the power to solve our crucial matter of the afterlife. However, the Buddhist teaching is so profound that even a brilliant scholar like Tendai misunderstood the true intention of Buddha. Because we have a lot of difficulties in following the teaching precisely, Takamori Sensei, our true Buddhist teacher, gives us guidance in which he teaches us how to go forward. We are guided by Sensei’s New Year’s message. Each one of us should take it to heart as a personal direction to us from Takamori Sensei.

In addition, we will remodel our Buddhist castle, the temple in LA, this year. We are planning to invite a special missionary from Japan for the inauguration ceremony.

Kohei Harada, Missionary

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #24, What is it that We Are Born For?

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