A Friend Dies

As Buddhists we strive to alleviate suffering.  We do this in many ways, but often in involves following the Eightfold path or trying to perfect the Ten Bodhisattva vows.  Ideally we practice the Buddha Dharma not for ourselves but for the benefit of all beings.  To that end we dedicate our accumulate merit to others, that they my quickly be liberated from the endless cycle of suffering.

In the Pureland tradition, this desire for the all beings to be free from suffering, is at the heart of the Nembutsu, the practice of recollecting the Tathagata by continuously reciting, Namo Amida Bu.  We as self-centered and deluded beings cannot affect even our own salvation, even less the salvation of others. So we call upon the Buddha of Limitless light, Amitabha, that his compassion may liberate all beings.  Hearing and reciting the Nembutsu, means to leaving behind this world of Dukkha and entering the realm of the Buddhas, which is called sukkah, the antidote to Dukkha.

In the Sukkha Realm all beings hear the Dharma, Practice the Dharma, and ripen in the Dharma until they become Buddhas, Awakened One’s, freed of the trap of self, and are able to liberate beings from suffering and the causes of suffering.

As Buddhists who practice the Nembutsu, each recitation of Namo Amida Bu is prayer that all beings will be reborn in the Sukkha Realm, and not remain trapped on the endless wheel of suffering that is the Dukkha Realm.

That is the theory.  But I confess that my heart is broken every time a friend or relative dies.  I grieve at the loss I feel and for the loss and pain of those who love the departed.  As a student of the Dharma, I know that death comes to all of us, that it is part of this Dukkha realm.  As a Pureland practitioner I recite the Nembutsu every day with the hope that all beings can be reborn in the realm of the Buddhas.  As a practitioner I am deeply aware that the only barrier to directly experiencing the Buddha’s limitless compassion is self-clinging. And as a minister I recognize that I must put aside my own grief and try and help the one dying obtain a good birth as well as provide comfort and support to the family and friends.

Though my heart may be torn apart with pain and grief, I am aware, at some level, of something bigger. It does not lesson the hurt or in anyway protect me from the darkest grief. However it does allow me to wakeup the next day willing to love people even more than before and suffer again the pain of loss and the many hurts that is part of caring human relationships. What this is I do not know. Some might call it faith.  But to me it feels more like the years of accumulated practice have created a world in which it is impossible to forget the reality of the Buddhas.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

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