Birth And Death
Good morning. I hope everyone is doing well. Yesterday here in Charlotte we had some light snow showers. While it wasn’t much I certainly enjoyed watching the snowfall. I appreciate what we had, though I wish it were more.
Friday was the 15th of February the day we commemorate the pari-nirvana of the Buddha. We don’t know the exact day the Buddha died and so in various denominations and parts of the world different days are set aside to commemorate this event.
Saturday was the 16th of February, the day we commemorate the birth of Nichiren, born as Zennichi-maro in Kominata Japan. We know from historical records that he was the son of a fisherman.
So in one weekend we commemorate two events that highlight the cycle of life beginning with birth and ending with death. In between we experience life itself.
It is interesting to note that we normally engage in a lot of planning for birth and almost none for death. The stuff in between, life, may or may not be attended to.
“They will be reborn before the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters. They will always hear this sutra at the places of their rebirth. Even when they are reborn among men or gods, they will be given wonderful pleasures. When they are reborn before the Buddhas, they will appear in lotus flowers.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter, page 203)
When there is a birth a lot of effort is sometimes put into the arrival of the new life. Sometimes rooms are painted in various colors, which are deemed appropriate to the baby. Clothes are purchased, special beds, and all sorts of equipment are obtained such as strollers, bottles, diapers, and so forth.
The arrival of a new life is greeted with great fanfare and celebration in most cases, though certainly not always.
Then there is life, the stuff in between. In life we go to school, learn many things and prepare for a life of productivity and reward. We study diligently, or perhaps not so much, and ready ourselves for a period of work in order to support our family or provide the necessities of life.
“There are always the sufferings of birth, old age, disease and death. They are like flames raging endlessly.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter III, page 77)
Some may also engage in a spiritual practice in order to cultivate peace and meaning for our lives. For those of us who practice Buddhism we meditate, or in the case of Nichiren Buddhists we chant the Odaimoku. Our ultimate objective is to attain enlightenment in this lifetime.
Taking care of our health is challenging for many. Eating right and getting exercise are some of the things we may try to engage in to hopefully minimize the effects of aging.
Then comes death, the thing we prepare for the least. We live our lives as if it were endless, and turn our backs on death. Out of fear perhaps, we do not wish to look death directly in the eye.
I have on several occasions lately spoken about or written about preparing for death. Some of these preparations include thinking about how we may wish to die, what kinds of care we wish to have provided. Making decisions about what life prolonging measures we wish to have done to us is prudent at any age.
‘’I am your great leader. I know that the bad road, which is made of birth-and-death and illusions, is dangerous and long, and that we should pass through it and get off it.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter VII, page 149)
While we may not know the time of death or the way we will die, it is as important to make preparations for that time just as we prepare for the beginning of life. We may require the assistance of others in death just as we required support in birth. Considering who will support us and what we expect of them is crucial.
I hope that you will think seriously about death. Putting as much thought into death as we do into living is crucial. To die with the Odaimoku as our last breath can best be achieved if we have made preparations for this natural phase of life.