“Hard is to be born into human life” A Buddhist parable says that being born is a rare and wonderful event that takes countless causes and conditions. If a sea turtle swims in a vast ocean and every one hundred years comes up out of the depth of the ocean and takes a breath. The turtle goes back down for another 100 years. Suppose a small ring 3’ in diameter is floating in that vast ocean. The sea turtle comes up out of the ocean and pokes its head up for the once in 100 years’ breath of air and comes up right through the 36” diameter ring.
What are the odds of this happening? They are phenomenal. This is how the Buddha described our birth into this world. A rare and wonderful event that takes countless causes and conditions.
By the same token countless causes and conditions lead up to our death. In an instant we may be gone. Last Sunday, I was attending the funeral of Mr. Richard Endo. His cousin Rev. Michael Endo came into the room where the ministers were gathered before the funeral and announced that Laker star Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash. We were all shocked at the news.
Subsequently I learned that 8 other people had died in that crash along with Kobe Bryant’s 13 year old daughter. How tragic and sad for all the families. On that same day a tragic marina fire broke out in Alabama killing 8 people. A plane crashed on that same day killing 2 people. And hours later on the same day 7 US servicemen and women were killed in an Air Force jet crash.
When we all heard about Kobe Bryant we were saddened by the news. At the same time death and tragedy is happening all the time around us. It becomes stark and real for us because of the celebrity of Kobe Bryant. It is no less sad and tragic for all the other lives lost that day around the world. It comes to the forefront of our minds and hearts because it is someone we “knew” and admired.
Kobe Bryant and all the others lost that day, teach us the rarity of birth and the frailty of life. In one instant they are gone from this world.
In silently contemplating the transient nature of human existence, nothing is more fragile and fleeting in this world than the life of a human being. Thus we have not heard of human life lasting for a thousand years. Life swiftly passes and who among us can maintain our form for even a hundred years?
Whether I go before others, or others go before me; whether it be today, or it be tomorrow, who is to know? Those who leave before us are as countless as the drops of dew. Though in the morning we may have radiant health, in the evening we may turn to white ashes. When the winds of impermanence blow, our eyes are closed forever; and when the last breath leaves us, our face loses its color.
Though loved ones gather and lament, everything is to no avail. The body is then sent into an open field and vanishes from this world with the smoke of cremation, leaving only the white ashes.
There is nothing more real than this truth of life. The fragile nature of human existence underlies both the young and old, and therefore we must, one and all, turn to the teachings of the Buddha and awaken to the ultimate source of life.
By so understanding the meaning of death, we shall come to fully appreciate the meaning of this life which is unrepeatable and thus to be treasured above all else. By virtue of true compassion, let us realize the irreplaceable value of human life, and let us together live with the Nembutsu in our hearts. Namu Amida Butsu
You and I have been given the gift of life and the gift of the Dharma by your family members. They reach out to us today emploring us to listen. The Zenmonshu said:
- Listen like it’s the first time you are hearing
- Listen like it is for you alone
- Listen like it is the last moment in your life.
To be able to encounter the Buddha Dharma is a rare and wondrous event that is truly “difficult to be” or arigatai. We have been given by your family the rare opportunity as sentient beings to be able to hear and receive the Buddhas Dharma that is the nembutsu teaching. Sakyamuni expounds the teaching of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow and we are now able to hear the receive it. Let us be immersed in the light of Amida.
Rev. Jay Shinseki Resident Minister for Watsonville
A word from Reverend Shinseki:
2020 The year of the Eco-Sangha. From the Institute of Buddhist Studies Statement on Climate Change. “The human created climate crisis that we are facing is brought on and worsened by the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance. The understanding and application in our lives of the interconnected causality of all things is what we hope to stress in the year 2020. As Buddhists we should be of the profound consequences of our behavior on future generations. Our greed hostility and ignorance on an individual, national and international basis makes us complicit in the destruction of our environment. As a core value of the temple we must also add purpose to make our temple significant and impactful.”
Therefore, we wish to demonstrate active and responsible practices at all our temple activities that are sustainable and protect and preserve natural and social environments.