Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / Nichiren Buddhism View on Death

Nichiren Buddhism View on Death

What happens at the moment of death?

 In a rapid recollection at the moment of our death  - what some who have had near-death experiences have referred to as life flashing in front of their eyes – we are compelled to reflect on our past. 

We will review our behaviour stemming from greed and anger, which are rooted in the fundamental darkness inherent in humanity; indignation, grudges distress, jealousy, and personal antipathy, for example, etch negative karma into our lives.

In the general turmoil of dying, we may become frightened and confused and struggle frantically.  We may feel many emotions, contentment, dissatisfaction, joy, sadness and regret.  How we live prepares us for this moment, and Buddhist practice teaches us how (and sustains our ability to live well).

From a Buddhist perspective, our ability to pass successfully through the dying process depends upon our steady efforts during life to accumulate good causes and effects and to strengthen the foundation of goodness in the depths of our lives.

We can enter [the field of death] peacefully and joyfully if, at the time of death, we are awakened to our fundamental [enlightened-nature].  Nichiren encouraged this attitude: “Be resolved to summon forth the great power of faith, and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of death”. 

Source: Daisaku Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death p.88

 Is it possible to experience death with peace of mind?

 “Irrespective of sufferings or calamities we may encounter in life, if we have faith in the Mystic Law and chant Nammyohorengekyo, we will inevitably enjoy peace of mind at the moment of death”.

Source: Daisaku Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death p.88

“If we firmly establish the world of Buddhahood in our present existence, death is no longer fearful. Our next life will also be enjoyable and free”.

Source: A Religion of Human Revolution, part 7. Life and Death

Preparing for “death without sufferings”:

“Death is something no one can escape from. It follows life as surely as night follows day, winter follows autumn or old age follows youth.

People make preparations so that they won’t suffer when winter comes. They prepare so they won’t have to suffer in their old age. Yet how few people prepare for the even greater certainty of death!”

“We need to cultivate a state of life where we can thoroughly enjoy ourselves at all times. We should have such joy that even at the time of death we can declare with a happy smile: “That was wonderful! Where shall I go next?” Faith enables us to attain the kind of generous and all-embracing state of mind where we enjoy everything in our lives” (Daisaku Ikeda Website, Quotations)

Current moments of life determines the moment of death

“When we are cognizant of the reality and inevitability of death,

we begin to seek the eternal, and become determined to make the most valuable use
of each moment of life”. (Daisaku Ikeda Website, Quotations)

“To die well, one must have lived well. For those who have lived true to their convictions, who have worked to bring happiness to others, death can come as a comforting rest, like the well-earned sleep that follows a day of enjoyable exertion”. 

Does a short or long life carry any importance?

“From the standpoint of eternity, there is hardly any difference between a “long” and a “short” life. Therefore, it’s not whether one’s life is long or short, but how one lives that is important. It is what we accomplish, the degree to which we develop our state of life, the number of people we help become happy—that is what matters”. (Daisaku Ikeda Website, Quotations).  

The Natural Cycle of Life and Death:

“Cycles of life and death can be likened to the alternating periods of sleep and wakefulness. Just as sleep prepares us for the next day’s activity, death can be seen as a state in which we rest and replenish ourselves for new life.  In this light, death should be acknowledged, along with life, as a blessing to be appreciated”   (Daisaku Ikeda Website, Quotations).

The Cycle of Life and Death is universal

“We now know that stars and galaxies are born, live out their natural span, and die. What applies to the vast realities of the universe applies equally to the miniature realms of our bodies. From a purely physical perspective, our bodies are composed of the same materials and chemical compounds as distant galaxies. In this sense we are quite literally children of the stars. 

The human body consists of some 60 trillion individual cells, and life is the vital force that harmonizes the infinitely complex functioning of this mind-boggling number of individual cells. Each moment, untold numbers of cells are dying and being replaced by the birth of new cells. At this level, we experience daily the cycles of birth and death”. 

A Positive Acceptance of Death  

“Some people keep busily engaged in a constant stream of tasks in order to avoid thinking about the fundamental issues of life and death. But in such a state of mind, the joys we feel will ultimately be fragile, shadowed by the inescapable presence of death. 

Facing the issue of death can help bring real stability, peace and depth to our lives”.

The Necessity and Appreciation of Our Death

“On a very practical level, death is necessary. If people lived forever, they would eventually start to long for death.  Death makes room for renewal and regeneration”.

Death should therefore be appreciated, like life, as a blessing. Buddhism views death as a period of rest, like sleep, by which life regains energy and prepares for new cycles of living. Thus there is no reason to fear death, to hate or seek to banish it from our minds. 

Death reveals one’s values during lifetime

“Death does not discriminate; it strips us of everything. Fame, wealth and power are all useless in the unadorned reality of the final moments of life.

When the time comes, we will have only ourselves to rely on.

This is a solemn confrontation that we must face armed only with our raw humanity, the actual record of what we have done, how we have chosen to live our lives, asking,

“Have I lived true to myself? What have I contributed to the world? What are my satisfactions or regrets?” 

“An awareness of death enables us to live each day—each moment—filled with appreciation for the unique opportunity we have to create something of our time on Earth.

I believe that in order to enjoy true happiness, we should live each moment as if it were our last. Today will never return. We may speak of the past or of the future, but the only reality we have is that of this present moment. And confronting the reality of death actually enables us to bring unlimited creativity, courage and joy into each instant of our lives”. 

D. Ikeda, Life and Death