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There is a great ship that will bear us cheerfully across life's sea of ceaseless suffering.

February 14, 2018

 

We Can Hear Cries of Lament from the Sea of Suffering

 

  • I had always drawn strength from raising my children, but now they have grown, they have little contact with me. They're still my dear little ones, but they rely less on me. Moreover, once I get old and bedridden, I will be considered a nuisance. If I have enough money to give them, they might still visit me. But money will be all that will matter for them.

  • I’m tired because I lost my son eight years ago and my husband became sick three years ago. I have my own house and car, and they are enough. I don’t have materialistic desires now. I like traveling, but I can’t go out since I have to take care of my husband. I sometimes feel really empty as I wonder why and for what purpose I live. 

  • I lost my wife two years ago. She died of a heart attack. I went out in the morning and came home to find her dead. I want to know the meaning of living. 

  • I have been taking care of my bedridden husband for so long. It's no easy task. And he has no hope of recovering. I'm having a mental breakdown.

  •  I spent many years raising four children, including my brother’s child, and taking care of my mother-in-law. I worked like a horse. That's why I was really looking forward to my retirement. But my husband suffered a cerebral infarction just after his retirement. I have been taking care of him for five years since then. I feel very lonely. 

  • I have been fighting against cancer and have been brushing shoulders with death for six years. During that time, I have been betrayed by people I trusted and loved. Now I don’t know what to believe in. I spend my life in tears, wondering why I have to live in spite of this suffering. 

  • I lost my husband and I have a troubled relationship with my son’s family and daughter’s family. I am losing the strength to live. 

  • I got divorced fifteen years ago and live separately from my three children. I haven’t seen them since then, and I miss them so much. 

  • I live with my husband and he suffers from dementia. Every day is painful. I have lost hope in life. 

 

In this way, waves of suffering, hardship and disasters assail us one after another in this life. Master Shinran thus calls life “the sea that is difficult to cross.”

 

Even though you find floating logs and planks on the ocean and try to get a hold of them, once a big wave assaults you, the logs turn over and you're thrown back into the ocean. Salty sea water fills your mouth and you suffer.

 

But let's say no large ocean waves come at you and you are able to keep holding onto your logs for a time. Even if this is so, what will happen at the very end of this life? Master Rennyo says the following. 

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 Fascicle 1, Letter 11) 

 

When you have to leave this world, you will have to leave behind everything that you have relied on, such as wife, child, money, or treasure. There will not even be a single thing that you can count on. You will have to leave this world completely unaided and all alone. 

 

 In the end, after having been continuously tossed about by waves of suffering, all of our logs will betray us and our lives will be over. Then we wonder, "What was the purpose of our lives here? If everything betrays us in the end, that means we were here to suffer." 

 

So hard we strive to live this life, though full of pain it is. But why? Why do we live? 

 

In the very beginning of Master Shinran’s masterwork Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment, Master Shinran says that there is a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross. 

 

There is a great ship that will bear us cheerfully across life's sea of ceaseless suffering. This is what Master Shinran is telling us. The great ship was made by Amida Buddha, who reigns supreme among all the buddhas of the universe. 

 

To board this great ship and be saved into absolute happiness in this world and beyond is indeed the purpose of life. Master Shinran also calls this great ship “the ship of Amida's great compassion."

 

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #63 | 2016, There is a great ship that will bear us cheerfully across life's sea of ceaseless suffering.

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