Conducting funerals and memorial services is one of the characteristic activities of a Japanese Buddhist temple. As a result, Buddhism is closely associated with death in the minds of many people in Japanese communities. When I became a Buddhist priest, one of my friends who had lost her mother at a young age asked me, “Isn’t it depressing to be around so much sadness all the time?”
Certainly, every encounter with death is deeply saddening. At the same time, sadness is deeply connected with the Buddha’s compassion that liberates us from suffering. Shinran Shonin shares the following reflection on compassion (jihi 慈悲) in his major work The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way:
[Concerning compassion (jihi慈悲):] To eliminate pain is termed ji 慈; to give happiness is termed hi 悲. Through ji 慈, one eliminates the pain of all sentient beings; through hi 悲, one becomes free of thoughts that do not bring them peace.
(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 169)Continue reading “Sadness and Compassion”