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"The thorough clarification of the meaning of birth and death, this is the most important problem of all for Buddhists."

Extracts from a text by Mizuno Yaoko

Becoming aware of one's own correct action and acquiring the ability to live as the Buddha lived is not necessarily achieved through listening to many sermons nor by memorizing many words. Even a person who has heard numerous sermons and studied the teachings of Buddhism extensively can achieve salvation by reading only a four-phrase poem from a sutra.

It means: Do not perform evil acts. Value all virtues. If you do you will calm your own heart.
Pai Chu-i said, "Do not do evil. Do good. A three-year-old could probably say that." Dorin Zenji responded, "Even though a three-year-old can say it, a man of eighty can probably not practice it."

What is living? Because all of us are alive we do not strive to find the final answer to the question, "What is the real reason that we live here in this way?" Some people would probably answer that we are alive because we were born. But nobody actually knows personally that he or she was born. You think that you were born at a particular time because your parents and other people tell you that you were, or because there is an entry in your family register which states that you were.

It is not true that I am living here now because at a certain time I was born. I believe that I was born into this world because I am living here now. But I was not born at my own discretion. I was not born because my parents wanted me to be born. The perfection and the mystery of the birth of children as living beings is beyond parents' understanding. It could be said that because the earth gives life, the earth is linked to the life of the universe, therefore, we cannot comprehend the life which we receive.


Living beings all die. This is a truth impossible to deny. Siddhartha was a man with unlimited talents born in circumstances which provided him with everything anyone could possibly desire. But having seen death, aging, and illness, he could never be content. Buddhism began because he spent his life gravely focussing his attention on his death which was certain to come.

We, who did not desire to be born, were born, and, therefore, we must face death, a prospect which terrifies us. If death is unavoidable, life itself is the origin of suffering. Is there a way to escape this suffering? Shakyamuni Buddha left his royal palace for the mountains where he devoted six years to ascetic practices and six more years to meditation so he could give us the answer to that question.

After attaining Buddhahood, he returned to the palace to teach Buddhism, but he did not resume a life dependent upon material possessions, honor, and rank. He now believed that the best way to spend his life was to limit his possessions to a monk's sanne, the three types of kasaya (samghati, uttarasamga and antarvasa kasaya): an eating bowl (oryoki), to obtain food from religious mendicancy, and to live either under a tree or on top of a stone. He taught us through personal example that a person could lead the most noble life possible with a minimum amount of food and clothing, and the simplest imaginable dwelling.

He taught us that we who live, thanks to life bestowed upon us by Heaven, suffer more if we devote our lives to the pursuit of possessions than we do by not having anything.