The Most Urgent Matter is the Funeral of the Soul
“Revelation of the Primal Vow means the end of life in the former-moment.” —Gutoku’s Notes
With these words, Master Shinran taught that once we have come to know, “Amida’s Vow is true!” in a split second of ichinen, the life of illusion in which we have been transmigrating for untold aeons ends. Amida Buddha pledged, “I will save all people into absolute happiness without fail.” As this is a promise which is beyond our imagination, anyone who hears it will doubt it for sure. The reason why someone would think, “I’m not doubting Amida’s Vow. I’m listening to it and I believe in it,” is that they have not listened to the Vow until the point where they would have become aware of their doubt yet.
“All people” in these words of Amida refers to masses of blind passions, which are aggregates of desire, anger, jealousy and envy. One who is made entirely of blind passions and does not have an ounce of truth is incapable of believing in the truth of Amida’s Vow.
Master Rennyo wrote in The Letters, “The mind that believes in Amida and the mind that contemplates Amida are both made to arise through Amida Buddha’s various skillful means.” This means that it is Amida that brings about the mind to believe in his Vow within us, and so this mind is not one that we human beings have within us already.
Having come to see full well that all humanity lacks the mind to believe in the Truth, Amida pledged in his Vow that he will save such foolish beings made of blind passions. Even so, we are conceited and think that we at least have the mind to believe in Amida’s Vow. In actuality, by thinking in this way, we are doubting in Amida’s Vow and rejecting it.
The mind that doubts Amida’s Vow is called the ‘doubting mind’. In Gutoku’s Notes, it is called the ‘former- moment’. It is this ‘doubting mind’ that is the root cause of suffering, which has been tormenting us since the limitless past and will continue to torment us into the future. When we are saved into absolute happiness in accordance with Amida’s Vow, we are made clearly aware that “Amida’s Vow is true!” In that same moment, the ‘doubting mind’ is eradicated. Master Shinran refers to this as the “end of life in the former-moment.”
Here, ‘life’, which ends in that moment, does not refer to the physical life of the body, which will turn to dust within a hundred years. This ‘life’ refers to the ‘life of delusion’ in which we have been transmigrating and suffering continually since the beginningless past. When the soul of delusion that has transmigrated for untold aeons ends, the root of all suffering is cut off and we are granted absolute happiness. This is why our most urgent matter is the deathbed and the funeral of the soul.
However, people in general are focusing only on funerals for physical remains and are putting their effort into erecting splendid graves and staging grand funerals and memorial services. Master Shinran would often say this: “After I die, throw my body in the River Kamo and feed it to the fishes.” What he meant here was something truly enlightening. He said this in order to rectify these common errors, to teach that one’s remains are like the empty shell of a locust, and to teach us that what we should hold to be a crucial matter is the funeral of the soul.
Today, some of those who pride themselves on their intellectuality say that they don’t need funerals or graves and approve of donating one’s body to science or scattering one’s ashes. On a superficial level, what they are trying to do appears to be the same as what Master Shinran did, but the spirit behind it is completely different. We Shinran followers must listen to Buddhism intently and hurry to resolve the funeral of the soul (acquire other-power faith) above all, not wasting a day or an instant.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #39 | 2014, The Most Urgent Matter is the Funeral of the Soul
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