What is the Purpose of Having Been Born Human?


Last December, several people I was familiar with passed away. Those people must have been full of hope towards the New Year and would not have even dreamed that they wouldn’t live to see January. If I really knew that I would go to the next world if my next breath should stop, it would be natural that I could not help but listen to Buddhism even if it meant setting aside everything else.

However, I came to know that no mind like that arises within me at all. I was so shocked. My parents raised me from an early age, telling me: “Never do anything that would bring contempt upon you. Work harder than anyone else and become a person who is praised.”

Now that I am a mother myself, I know very well how parents feel. Master Genshin felt a debt of gratitude towards his mother, who went through great struggles in order to raise him, and so he wrote a letter on how he was praised by the emperor and sent it to her along with gifts he had been rewarded with in hopes that she would be pleased. I guess that his mother knew his feelings full well, but even so, she sent the letter and gifts back to him as they were with a poem that said, “You became a monk of this world. It is saddening.”

“Even if you got praise and money, they last only for a while. The purpose of having been born as a human is not money, possessions or fame. We were born in order to listen to Buddhism and be saved through Amida’s Vow. That is the unswerving purpose that explains what we were born to do.” I thought that she was telling this to me, a member of the future generations, too.

Michie Shimada, Fukui

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #38 | 2014, What is the Purpose of Having Been Born Human?

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