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Jodo Shinshu and the Afterlife

"Those patients who have not been able to vocalize or come to terms with their conceptions of the afterlife are consistently glummer, grimmer, and gloomier than those who speak with conviction about looking forward to meeting the Buddha Amida, their relatives, or other saints in the world to come." — Carl Becker, "Aging, Dying, and Bereavement in Contemporary Japan"

For some time I have held a repressed belief that "I" will be reborn in the Pure Land to receive further instruction in preparation of rebirth in the human realm. That "I" is not the ego, since it fears death; rather, it is the Buddha-essence which is incarnated in my present form.

I too look forward to meeting with Amida Buddha, my father and relatives who died before me, or even Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shinshu!

However, that Buddha-essence could provide the answer to the Zen koan "What is the face you had before you were born?".

Since I am not an advanced student of meditation, it is impossible for me to answer this question as I have yet to encounter the Buddha-essence which has incarnated within my body.

As well, Jodo Shinshu provides no training in this respect since it was founded mainly to help settle the mind of the Buddhist practitioner regarding the afterlife. Once settled, the mind is able to accept death and not fear it. Without such a fear, all anxiety about death is forgotten. Being freed of this anxiety, the practitioner is able to carry on with life in a manner that is positive, happy and full of joy.

Thus is it possible for me to view death, not as the end of life, but as the gateway to the Pure Land.

Having said this, I feel that a separate blog entry is necessary for me to discuss Buddha-essence with respect to the koan I mentioned.


Carl Becker:

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