from Rennyo's Letters
translated by Hisao Inagaki et al
<Revised April 1, 2000>
When I deeply contemplate the transient nature
of human life, I realize that, from beginning
to end, life is impermanent like an illusion.
We have not yet heard of anyone who lived
ten thousand years. How fleeting is a lifetime!
Who in this world today can maintain a human
form for even a hundred years? There is no
knowing whether I will die first or others,
whether death will occur today or tomorrow.
We depart one after another more quickly than
the dewdrops on the roots or the tips of
the blades of grasses. So it is said. Hence,
we may have radiant faces in the morning,
but by evening we may turn into white ashes.
Once the winds of impermanence have blown,
our eyes are instantly closed and our breath
stops forever. Then, our radiant face changes
its color, and the attractive countenance
like peach and plum blossoms is lost. Family
and relatives will gather and grieve, but
all to no avail?
Since there is nothing else that can be done,
they carry the deceased out to the fields,
and then what is left after the body has
been cremated and has turned into the midnight
smoke is just white ashes. Words fail to
describe the sadness of it all.
Thus the ephemeral nature of human existence is
such that death comes to young and old alike
without discrimination. So we should all
quickly take to heart the matter of the greatest
importance of the afterlife, entrust ourselves
deeply to Amida Buddha, and recite the nembutsu.
Humbly and respectfully.
For more translations of Rennyo's Letters,
see Letters of Rennyo: A Translation of Rennyo's
Gobunsho, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Hongwanji International Center, 2000. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org