Śākyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teaching can be summed up in four Chinese characters: bakku yoraku. “Bakku yoraku” refers to removing suffering (bakku) and imparting joy (yoraku). What types of suffering do we face every day? People suffer from a lack of money, work stress, relationship issues at work or school, disease… the list goes on and on. For some people, their suffering is so unbearable that they take their own lives. But would dealing with all these problems really be enough to put an end to human suffering? What is the root cause of human suffering? The teaching that pinpoints the cause and resolves it is Buddhism.
The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Infinite Life details a true story, known as “The Tragedy of Rajagrha.” The story took place during the lifetime of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha. The ancient kingdom of Magadha, ruled by King Bimbisara, was supreme in the subcontinent of India.
When he and his wife, Queen Vaidehi, finally had the child they had so longed for, Prince Ajatasatru, it brought peace to their hearts. However, this peace was short-lived, as the prince’s violent nature soon sent them spiraling into torturous suffering.
In mortal fear of their brutal and ungrateful son, the king and queen longed for inner peace. As they began a quiet search for true happiness, they listened to Sakyamuni Buddha’s sermon for the first time.
In the animated movie “The Tragedy of Rajagrha,” we hear the following sermon preached by Sakyamuni Buddha to the troubled royal couple. “People dislike suffering and are looking for happiness. However, people are always suffering no matter how wealthy they are. Kings and noblemen suffer like everyone else. Why do these things happen? It is because people don’t know the real cause of their suffering. Neither money nor fame can eliminate suffering. When they lack either, they suffer. When they have them, they suffer as well. Having or lacking, it makes no difference. People always live without peace of mind. For example, people suffer when they are childless. They yearn for children. However, when they have children, they suffer because of them. What is the cause of your pain and suffering? It is your dark mind. Just as a very ill person cannot savor delicious food, so, a person with a dark mind cannot savor happiness. To solve the problem of your dark mind and eliminate suffering, there is no alternative but to listen to the teachings of Buddha. Listen to the Dharma, the teachings of Buddha, until the problem of your dark mind has been solved and you have been granted true happiness. Listen carefully, even if the universe should become an ocean of fire.”
In his sermon, Sakyamuni Buddha clearly mentioned that the cause of our suffering is the “dark mind,” which is also known as “pitch-darkness of mind.” This is, in other words, the mind that does not know what will happen after death.
Despite the fact that we all abhor death, it is inevitable; death is absolutely certain to happen to us. So what happens after we die? It is hardly possible for us to live happily in the present while this great issue is still unsolved. This is definitely a universal human problem. This problem is referred to as “the crucial matter of birth and death” or “the crucial matter of the afterlife.”
Solely to Teach Amida Buddha’s Vow
As mentioned previously, “bakku yoraku” refers to removing suffering (bakku) and imparting joy (yoraku). Suffering in this case is caused by the “crucial matter of the afterlife.” Therefore, removing suffering means to solve this crucial matter. Imparting joy, put in another way, is to attain the everlasting absolute happiness of having had our births in the Pure Land settled.
The removal of suffering (bakku) and imparting of joy (yoraku) can only be achieved through the Vow of Amida Buddha, who is the teacher of Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the reason why Sakyamuni Buddha focused on teaching Amida Buddha’s Vow alone.
Master Shinran made a definitive statement about this fact in the following lines in The Hymn of True Faith: “Sakyamuni Buddha was born into this world solely to teach the ocean-like Vow of Amida Buddha.”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #65 | 2016, Bakku Yoraku: Removing Suffering & Imparting Joy
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