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The Bone Storage Hall (story)

Once Upon a Time...

In ancient Buddhist traditions, a spirit temple is a mausoleum containing the bones of countless sentient beings who have died.

It is a tall building with the Japanese characters ("霊廟", reibyō) for "mausoleum" above the doorway.

When the door of the mausoleum is open, it is like the Pure Land of Bliss inside.

Inside the mausoleum is a long dark hallway. High above me, the ceiling glistens with a soft glow when the door is closed.

On my left are twenty-four rooms with open access to the hall, and on the right, the same — a total of forty-eight rooms. Inside each room are shelves filled with drawers. Some rooms contain a lot of drawers; others contain very few drawers.

On each shelf are drawers containing the bones of the dead. Firmly affixed to the front of each drawer is the given name and Japanese Buddhist name of the deceased. Inside each drawer is an urn containing the deceased's bones.

A bright glow from Room Eighteen attracts my curiosity. Inside the room, I recite the Nembutsu ten times until the bright glow becomes a brilliant light that slowly dissipates. Softly I hear a sweet melodious voice sing:

"The Primal Vow is fulfilled," I thought myself. "That glow which turned into brilliant light is Amida Buddha."

Having seen this miracle, I felt humbled so I bowed and exited the room.

As I walk down the hallway, a sign appears on the wall in the distance. On it appears the Chinese characters:

Not only is this spirit temple a mausoleum, it also is a bone storage hall where the bones of dead sentient beings are stored.

Then I turn around, and slowly walk back to the door of the mausoleum.

When I open it, the brilliant light of the setting sun almost blinds me. After I close the mausoleum door, the sun has painted the sky with a rapidly fading red glow.

As I wander home in the rapidly fading dusk, my path takes me due east where the moon shines brightly in the sky.

My thoughts return to my visit to the mausoleum and the shelves within its rooms filled with drawers containing the bones of the deceased collected after cremation. While walking the path alongside the pond near my home, I reflect on death and the brevity of human life.

When I was a Child

When I was a child, my first exposure of death happened when my grandmother died. As I grew older, my first contemplation on nonexistence left me anxious and afraid of death. Once, when I had caught the flu as a child, my own life had almost been taken from me. So my mother bought medicine from the local pharmacy. The next day, my fever broke.

From that moment on, my fear of death became worse. As a result of that fear, the stress caused the allergic reaction of hay fever to arise.

Then one day, at the Buddhist temple near my parents' home, I requested the Three Pure Land Sutras central to the Jodo Shinshu faith to read at my leisure. As I read about the Pure Land of Bliss being described, it seemed a wonderful place.

Once I grasped the concept of the Pure Land as the afterlife, my belief in it increased as my faith in Amida's Primal Vow grew.


In a pond near my home, I gaze on the moon's reflection in it while seated comfortably in a wicker chair.

As it glistens in the water, my thoughts turn inwards in meditation, visualizing the Buddha Amida with eyes closed. From time to time, my eyes open as I gaze on the moon's image reflected on the still surface of the pond. Then I look up at the moon.

At some point during meditation, my inner vision of the Buddha merges with the sight of the bright moon in the sky. It is as though the light of the moon is the light of Buddha Amida.

My meditation is over. So I rise to stretch my legs and raise my arms as if to embrace the moon.

In an instant I feel solemn as I stand before the glistening Boundless light of Buddha Amida, assuring me that Amitabha is nearby.

Thus assured, all fear of death fades from my mind. It is replaced by a greater appreciation of life.

King Emma or Yama:
Buddhist funeral:
Pure Land Buddhism:
Pure Land Rebirth Dharani:

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