Ashes (Hakkotsu no Gobunshø)
This letter by Rennyo Shonin is usually read by Shin
ministers at funeral services.
Now, if we look realistically at the nature of human life,
we see that it is fleeting and unpredictable, illusive
almost. Birth, life and death pass by in the twinkling of
an eye. Thus we never hear of the human body lasting for
ten thousand years.
And who today can keep the body young and healthy for even
one hundred years? Yes, how quickly our lives slip away.
Whether I am the first or someone else, whether today or
tomorrow, our lives on earth do indeed one day come to an
end. Life seems to vanish unseen like ground water, or to
evaporate like the morning dew on the summer lawn.
Thus our bodies may be radiant with health in the morning,
but by evening they may be white ashes. If the right causes
and conditions prevail, our two eyes are closed forever,
our breathing ceases and our bodies lose the glow of life.
Our relatives in great numbers and with great wealth can
assemble, but they are powerless to change our situation.
Even the rites and rituals of grief and mourning change
nothing. All we can do is prepare the body for cremation;
all that is left is white ashes.
In view of these facts, does it not make sense to focus on
the things we can change? We cannot control the passing
away of both young and old alike, but each of us can take
refuge in the Buddha of Infinite Life who promises to
embrace, without exception, all beings who but recite his
Holy Name - Namo Amida Buddha. This you can do here and
now, freeing yourself of any worries concerning your future
With friendly reverence, I remain,