As we approach the end of 2018 it is a time of reflection. The past year was full of change and we said goodbye to some dear friends and family members. We can turn to the truth taught by the Buddha and find some comfort at our losses. The Buddha taught that by attaining enlightenment, we shall enter Nirvana. The advantage of enlightenment lies in the comprehension of the transiency of all our bodily existence while at the same time the permanence of our spiritual nature.
Impermanence is a common theme in our dharma talks and we have a long tradition of funeral and memorial services that remind us of this truth. However, we live day to day like we will live eternally.
This is the plight of human beings. We live day to day not realizing the shadow of death that follows us everywhere we go. If we lived each day as if it were our last, we would feel sincere gratitude for each breath, for all that we receive and all that is done for us by others.
Thankfully we conduct dharma gatherings regularly to remind us of our limited selves and the infinite wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha that embraces us. Annually at the end of the year we place on the altar “kagami mochi” the pounded sweet rice that is shaped into the form of an ancient mirror. Atop the mochi is placed a “daidai” or tangerine. The mirror represents self reflection a practice encouraged by the Buddha throughout his life. It is only through self reflection that we are able to see that self true and real.
The daidai represents the new life we are given with each breath. Each breath, each moment of life is an opportunity for us to awaken to the truth of our life and begin to live a life of thankfulness and gratitude.
“Rare is it to obtain human life, and difficult to encounter a Buddha’s appearance in the world; Hard is it to attain the wisdom of entrusting: Should you meet with and hear this teaching, pursue it with diligence. If a person, hearing and never forgetting this dharma, sees, reveres, and attains it, and greatly rejoices, then he or she is my excellent, close companion; therefore awaken aspiration for enlightenment! Even when the world is filled with a great fire, pass through it and seek to hear the dharma; then you will unfailingly become a world-honored one and free all beings from birth, aging and death.” Shinran’s True Teaching, Practice, and Realization.