When we fully practice Buddhism and live each minute, each day as though it is our last, making every moment count, we can welcome the end of this life, no matter when that may be, without having any regrets.

A clear awareness and correct understanding of the nature of death can enable us to live life fully and without fear, with clarity of purpose and joy. Nichiren Daishonin viewed death and dying as a paramount issue we all must face and seek to understand.

He writes: “The life of a human being is fleeting. The exhaled breath never waits for the inhaled one. Even dew before the wind is hardly a sufficient metaphor. It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next. Therefore I should first of all learn about death, and then about other things” (“The Importance of the Moment of Death,” The
Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 759). The Buddhist view of life is that it is eternal— that, like the existence of the universe, our lives have continued and will continue to exist eternally.

SGI President Ikeda explains: The difficulty is that even if one consciously makes an effort to become aware of the eternity of life, ultimately it is life that supports the self that is trying to achieve this awareness. One cannot comprehend what is large with what is small; by analogy, a wave cannot comprehend the ocean over whose surface it passes. What, then, are we to do?

The only way to awaken to life’s eternity is to cause the greater, eternal self to “emerge” in the small self. And to do this, we need to undertake the task of selfpurification wholeheartedly, with our entire being. This is the purpose of Buddhist practice. ( The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, p. 258)

Rather than trying to ignore or avoid the subject of death, as people these days seem inclined to do, Nichiren Buddhists strive to grasp the true, eternal nature of life through chanting Nam-myohorenge-kyo and diligently carrying out our Buddhist practice.

Death and Dying

A lifetime of one’s actions— remembered and forgotten—will be expressed in how we face death. Those who have lived sincerely and contributed to others’ well-being are likely to die with a deep sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. On the other hand, those who have lived in idleness, self-indulgence or without respect or concern for others, may face death with regret.

Dying and death are processes of transition from this existence to the next. While it is possible to improve our state of being when we are alive, in the afterlife—the period of transition from this life to the next—life is no longer in its active state; one’s life condition at the moment of death will continue into the afterlife and influence the circumstances of one’s rebirth. Death, then, is an important link between life and afterlife, between this existence and the next.

Life and Death in Buddhahood

Those who face death while in the state of Buddhahood will pass into death in that same state, which will also influence the circumstances of their next life. As Nichiren Daishonin writes about one of his disciples: “When he was alive, he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is a Buddha in both life and death. This is what is meant by that most important doctrine called attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form” (“Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” WND-1, 456).

No matter the circumstances by which those of strong faith may encounter the end of their lives, at the moment of death they can experience the state of Buddhahood because of the power of the Mystic Law. Nichiren, writing about the time of death, states:

    For one who summons up one’s faith and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the profound insight that now is the last moment of one’s life, the sutra proclaims: “When the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas, who will free them from all fear and keep them from falling into the evil paths of existence.” How can we possibly hold back our tears at the inexpressible joy of knowing that . . . as many as a thousand Buddhas will come to greet us with open arms! (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 216–17)

When we fully practice Buddhism and live each minute, each day as though it is our last, making every moment count, we can welcome the end of this life, no matter when that may be, without having any regrets.

President Ikeda proclaims: “Death will come to each of us some day. We can die having fought hard for our beliefs and convictions, or we can die having failed to do so. Since the reality of death is the same in either case, isn’t it far better that we set out on our journey toward the next existence in high spirits with a bright smile on our faces— knowing that in everything we did, we did the very best we could, thrilling with the thought ‘That was truly an interesting life’?” (October 24, 1997, World Tribune, p. 11). Practicing Nichiren Buddhism lets us enjoy and appreciate this life to the fullest, as we build a state of eternal happiness that transcends the boundaries of life and death.

[Courtesy October 2012 Living Buddhism]