January is a cold month. I have two friends, one of them close, who lost a parent last month. It made me think a little about the cycle of life and death.
Last February, a very unusual yakuza boss, known as the Buddha of the Underworld, who I sort of admired, passed away. On the 10th, it will be the one year anniversary of his death, and a time to cease mourning.
The process of grieving is a long one. Often we’re encouraged in modern society to “get over it.” Or take an anti-depressant.
So what is the proper way to deal with death?
I’ve found it’s to try and bring a little happiness to the living. It doesn’t mean we forget those who died; it just means we try and be a little kinder in their honor.
So here is an old benediction for those lost and for those who survived.
They’re not my words.
The Buddhist philosopher Shanti Devi said them many centuries ago.
Maybe, in times of tragedy, the best we can do is look after those who remain.
The benedictions below are also the vows of a Bosatsu 菩薩, a Buddha who postpones entering Nirvana to help the world. They are, at least in spirit, the vows of a Buddhist priest in Soto Zen.
I’m too much of an arrogant jerk to uphold them, but I keep them in mind now and then.
The sentiment may be maudlin, the wish is heartfelt.
May all beings everywhere Plagued by sufferings of body and mind Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil or ever fall ill. May no one be afraid or belittled, With a mind weighed down by depression.
May the blind see forms, And the deaf hear sounds. May those whose bodies are worn with toil Be restored on finding repose.May the naked find clothing, The hungry find food. May the thirsty find water And delicious drinks.May the poor find wealth, Those weak with sorrow find joy. May the forlorn find hope, Constant happiness and prosperity.
May all who are ill or injured Quickly be freed from their ailments. Whatever diseases there are in the world, May these never occur again.
May the frightened cease to be afraid And those bound be freed. May the powerless find power And may people think of benefiting each other.
For as long as space endures And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide To dispel the misery of the world.