Wherever We Are Human Beings are the Same (and other thank you letters)

Master Shinran refers to our life as an ocean that is difficult to cross, and has been teaching us through his writing for 800 years that there is a great ship that takes us cheerfully and happily across this ocean although our life is brimming with difficulties, distress, and disasters. I’m moved every time I hear this. It’s been half a year since my husband and I moved to the US due to his job and now I have a close friend here.

She is a homemaker who has been here for three years. She said she intended to pursue something that she could not do while she was in Japan and that she was hoping to lead a meaningful life by doing what she had always wanted. However, she confessed to me that for some reason, nothing was going well as she expected. She looked sad as she said this.

I realized keenly that whether in Japan or in the US, regardless of where we are, we human beings cannot live free from suffering and hardships.

I learned clearly through the teachings of Master Shinran the rock-solid existence of the Vow-ship that takes us across the sea of suffering, what would happen once we’re taken on board the ship, and how to get on board the ship. I’d like to move on vigorously toward the light.

Rieko Morohashi, Chicago

We Are So Preocupied by Our Desire

I learned that we distract ourselves from the crucial matter of the afterlife by trying to cater to our five desires. Śākyamuni Buddha taught about the precarious situation that all human beings are in through the parable of the traveler, who by the end of the story was dangling from a wisteria vine with a tiger looking down at him, three dragons waiting to eat him, and two mice taking turns to gnaw at the vine. Eventually, the vine will snap, and the traveler will fall into the bottomless sea below, yet he is easily distracted from this terrible predicament when honey starts dripping down onto him. Enjoying the sweet taste of the honey, he completely forgets about the tiger, the dragons, and the mice.

In the same way, we are in dreadful peril in that we will fall into Avīci Hell when we die and death could come to us at any time, yet we manage to completely put this out of our minds as we strive to fulfill our five desires. We are so preoccupied with this, in fact, that we do not even have the ears to hear the roar of the tiger. It is only by listening to Buddhism that we will be made starkly aware of this reality of human life, and it is only through the power of Amida Buddha that we can have our crucial matter of the afterlife resolved.

Nicola Gant, Great Britain

I Want All Beings to Be Saved and Happy as Well

Time has gone by so fast, and I am doing my best to move forward. But a lot of doubt is lurking within the shadows of my dark mind. I was surprised recently by a revelation that my faith in Buddhism was more like a selfish desire to succeed in "something grand" than to obtain genuine salvation. I was foolhardy in thinking I could somehow bring about peace to myself and the world by helping with a Buddhist website. I thought all my doubts would be gone if I did. Instead I see death a gust away along with an unexplainable feeling: I want to be saved. And I want all beings to be saved and happy as well. But as for the world to come, I still cannot see forward. I can only dream blindly that Amida's vow is true. I wish for this promise with all my heart, and just the possibility of its truth brings tears of joy.

As terrorism, vulgarity and apathy abound on this strange deluded world, I begin to doubt. People can't see the fragility of life around them. I must still be a fool for I do not understand well what is Buddhism often retreating into solitude or chasing distractions. I keep falling. But I keep getting up. Your tenacity keeps me going. Thank you so much for your guidance and perseverance.

Felix Crosser, Los Angeles

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #61 | 2014, Wherever We Are Human Beings are the Same (and other thank you letters)

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