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“At the moment of death….” Repeated Wake-Up Calls from Master Rennyo

December 12, 2017

 

The reason we human beings live is, in short, to attain happiness. Even those who commit suicide do so believing they will find relief after death. Therefore, we can conclude that all human activities are tailored for us to obtain happiness. However, whatever happiness we pursue in everyday life is fragile. All happiness turns to suffering and sadness as it always collapses in the end. 

 

How long does the joy of marriage or satisfaction of having your own house last? We do not know when our spouse might come down with an illness or get involved in an accident. Our world is filled with tragic incidents, with wives grieving the loss of their husbands, husbands left heartbroken after parting from their wives, and parents finding themselves betrayed by their children. We often hear the anguished laments of people who have lost their loved ones. 


Your own house, which took you a lifetime of effort to build, can be brought down in an instant due to a disaster such as an earthquake or a tsunami. 

 

A once-happy household may be torn apart when one of the family members passes away in a car accident. Your house might be washed away in a natural disaster. Although we do not want to believe it, this is the reality we are facing. 


The kind of happiness that is here today and gone tomorrow is full of uncertainty, like treading on thin ice. Even if our happiness lasts for a while, how are we going to feel when it is time for us to die? As sad as it is to think about it, the day when we lose it all is not far off. The following words of Master Rennyo describe the reality of our lives: 

 

At the moment of death,
nothing one has previously
relied on, Whether wife and
child or money and treasure,
will accompany one. At the
end of the mountain road of
death, one must cross the
river all alone.
(The Letters)

 

 “If I fall ill,”, a man thinks, “my wife or children will take care of me, and as long as I have money and possessions I needn’t worry about food, clothing, or shelter.” In this way, people rely on family and possessions in life, but in death there is no such thing to rely on. The journey of death is undertaken naked and alone, all adornments stripped away, and where does it lead? This state is what is referred to as the great problem of birth and death.

 

The Happiness That Never Changes Even on Our Deathbed

 

We cannot help but ask ourselves, “Why do we live?” when the shadow of death flashes through our mind. However, Master Shinran clearly declared that absolute happiness never vanishes away even in the face of death and that obtaining absolute happiness is the purpose of life. 

 

Absolute happiness is described as “the benefit of being held fast, never to be forsaken.” 

 

Amida Buddha’s Vow holds us fast in a split second of ichinen and never forsakes us. This is why Amida’s salvation is also referred to as absolute happiness. We can savor the satisfaction and joy of being born as a human being anytime and anywhere once we are held fast, never to be forsaken by Amida Buddha. The following is a cry of astonished joy as Master Shinran experiences the truth of Amida’s salvation in Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment: 

 

 “How genuine, the true words of Amida that embrace us and never forsake us, the truth that is absolute and peerless” —Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment 

 

Being saved from eternal darkness by Amida Buddha, Master Shinran’s contrition itself transformed into absolute happiness. Master Shinran is the one who taught the existence of the mysterious happiness of being held fast, never to be forsaken.

 

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #57 | 2015 , “At the moment of death…” Repeated Wake-Up Calls from Master Rennyo

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