Life & Death
An awareness and understanding of death raises our state of life. When we are cognizant of the reality and inevitability of death we begin to seek the eternal, and become determined to make the most valuable use of each moment of life.
Birth, aging, sickness and death are the inescapable realities of life, and the eternal questions humankind has attempted to resolve. How can we create the greatest value amidst a reality that is impermanent and in constant flux? It was the search for answers to these questions that led to the birth of Buddhism.
Buddhism teaches that the four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death are an inescapable part of life. The crucial thing is not to be defeated by them.
Cycles of life and death can be likened to the alternating periods of sleep and wakefulness. Just as sleep prepares us for the next day’s activity, death can be seen as a state in which we rest and replenish ourselves for new life. In this light, death should be acknowledged, along with life, as a blessing to be appreciated.
Death inevitably comes to each of us. Whether it is a time of inner dignity and honor or a pitiful demise is completely reliant on how we live our lives right now, today. In that sense, the “moment of death” truly exists in the present.
From the standpoint of eternity, there is hardly any difference between a “long” and a “short” life. Therefore, it’s not whether one’s life is long or short, but how one lives that is important. It is what we accomplish, the degree to which we develop our state of life, the number of people we help become happy―that is what matters.
The Buddhist philosophy of eternal life is not an expedient designed to persuade people to accept their mortality; it is a realistic and unfailing view of life established through myriad struggles against the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. It teaches us to face up to the harsh realities of life with conviction and hope; it enjoins us to devote all our actions and our thoughts to the welfare of others, because Buddhism sees the universe as intrinsically compassionate. By cherishing this philosophy we can turn each difficulty into a source of power bringing joy to our lives. The trials we face become ingredients for the building of our characters. Hardship becomes the fertile soil in which tiny new shoots spring up and flourish. Each bead of sweat expended in the struggle for self-perfection and the betterment of our society becomes the seed of greater energy.
The experience of losing a loved one impels us toward a deeper understanding of life. Everyone fears and is saddened by death. That is natural. But by struggling to overcome the pain and sadness that accompanies death, we become sharply aware of the dignity and preciousness of life and develop the compassion to share the sufferings of others as our own.