It’s My Life, and My Responsibility (Part 2)

(Read Part 1 HERE)

Before long the wealthy man was bed-ridden with a terminal illness. He panicked as the shadow of death closed in on him minute by minute. He called Wife #1 and confessed how lonely he felt and begged her to join him on his journey to the other world. “Unlike other matters, I cannot join you on your journey to death.” Her harsh reply pushed him to the depths of despair.

Not being able to bear his loneliness, the wealthy man suppressed his embarrassment and turned to Wife #2. “Didn’t Wife #1, whom you loved and cared for so much, turn you down? I, too, want no part in this. You sought me on your own free will; it wasn’t I that asked you to marry me.” As he feared, Wife #2’s response was just as cold.

The man timidly tried pleading with Wife #3. “I haven’t forgotten the kindness you have shown me; so I shall go with you to the graveyard. But from there on, please forgive me, but I won’t go any further,” was the reply from Wife #3.

The man represents all human beings. Wife #1 represents our body. Wife #2 represents our possessions. Wife #3 represents our family and friends.

When it comes to Amida’s salvation and you are saved by Amida’s Vow, it is salvation for you, not anyone else. As Master Shinran said, “pondering the vow of Amida, I realize it was entirely for me, Shinran alone.” This is truly one of the amazing concepts in Buddhism. How can the saved person feel that something which is for all people be just for them alone?

But these words from Master Shinran exemplify this one particular duality of Buddhist salvation. When one is saved, one feels as though all the efforts of all the teachers of Buddhism, where all for me and me alone; and that Amida’s Vow was made just for me. It is incomprehensible, says Master Shinran, and must be experienced to be understood.

According to the Law, there is never the case of “Other’s Cause My Result.” If I have a disease, I am the one who must go through the surgery and treatment in order to be cured. If I could pay someone else to have the treatment done for me, then the richest people in the world could avoid such painful suffering for their lifetime. But it’s not the case.

Every man, woman and child have to reap what they have sown. If I have done the sins I must reap the results. Someone else cannot repent for the sins I have committed. Someone else cannot remove my sins by dying for me, as another religion teaches. It cannot happen. The Law of Cause and Effect does not discriminate, and since Buddhism is based on this ++law, neither does Buddhism discriminate. One reaps as one sows.

If I don’t put in the effort I won’t be saved. If I don’t plant the good seeds, I won’t get the good effect. When a friend or family wins the lottery they can share it with you. And I can decide to donate my organs when I die. But when it comes to Buddhist salvation, no matter how close one is to the person who is saved, they will not get even an ounce of their salvation. And no matter how much the saved person wants to donate his salvation to another, he cannot. Salvation is not transferrable. Someone can guide me to salvation, but no one can get salvation for me through their own actions. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.

We lean on someone else in this life, but when it comes to salvation and where we go after death, there is nothing that can be done for the one who has not put in the effort. Our efforts, or lack of, will never betray us.

Buddhism is a teaching for all, but truly an experience for each one alone.

Frank Costelloe, Los Angeles

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #45 | 2014, It’s My Life, and My Responsibility (Part 2)

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