5-16 White Ashes
When I deeply contemplate the transient nature of human existence, I realize that, form beginning to end, life is impermanent lie 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 turned into 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.
それ､ 人間の浮生なる相をつらつら観ずるに､ おほよそはかなきものはこの世の始中終､ まぼろしのごとくなる一期なり｡ さればいまだ万歳の人身を受けたりといふことをきかず､ 一生過ぎやすし｡
いまにいたりてたれか百年の形体をたもつべきや｡ われや先､ 人や先､ 今日ともしらず､ 明日ともしらず､ おくれさきだつ人はもとのしづくすゑの露よりもしげしといへり｡ されば朝には紅顔ありて夕には白骨となれる身なり｡
すでに無常の風きたりぬれば､ すなはちふたつのまなこたちまちに閉ぢ､ ひとつの息ながくたえぬれば､ 紅顔むなしく変じて桃李のよそほひを失ひぬるときは､ 六親眷属あつまりてなげきかなしめども､ さらにその甲斐あるべからず｡
さてしもあるべきことならねばとて､ 野外におくりて夜半の煙となしはてぬれば､ ただ白骨のみぞのこれり｡ あはれといふもなかなかおろかなり｡
されば人間のはかなきことは老少不定のさかひなれば､ たれの人もはやく後生の一大事を心にかけて､ 阿弥陀仏をふかくたのみまゐらせて､ 念仏申すべきものなり｡
Index of individual letters:
Letters of Rennyo: The Essence of Shin Buddhism (essay/talk by Rev. Daien T. Haseo)
Letters of Rennyo – On Youtube (presented by Rev. Sugahara Yuki)
Complete Letters of Rennyo translation by the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai follow this link to their website to download a copy.
To purchase the book ‘Letters of Rennyo’ , Translated by as part of the Hongwanji Shin Buddhism Translation Series, this is the publication information & link:
- Title ：Letters of Rennyo
- Author ：Shin Buddhism Translation Series
- Language ：English
- ISBN ：4-938490-20-X
- pages ：164
Buy from Hongwanji International Center: https://international.hongwanji.or.jp/html/c3b1p1.html
If you would like a digital copy containing more translated letters than listed above (albeit not translated by Hongwanji), you can download a PDF from the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (BDK – Amercia) website here: Link: https://bdkamerica.org/product/tannisho-passages-deploring-deviations-of-faith-and-rennyo-shonin-ofumi-the-letters-of-rennyo/
Credits: The text for the Letters of Rennyo as presented on this and subsequent pages was originally shared on the following site : http://www.yamadera.info/seiten/seiten_index.htm
Please report any broken links here