The issue of life and death is the root; all other problems are the leaves and branches. to ponder the question of death in this way is in itself extremely valuable. It is proof of our humanity. Generally, as people grow older and get caught up in the busy routines of daily life, they tend to gradually stop thinking about such fundamental questions.
But the question of life and death is a very important one – one that we should give deep thought to throughout our entire lives. If we compare our existence to a tree, the question of life and death is like tree’s roots. While it may seem like we have a whole variety of problems and issues to deal with in life, they are no more than the leaves and branches, which are all connected to the fundamental root issue of life and death.
If people let themselves be guided by the belief that there is no life after death, they might easily succumb to the view that they can do what they like and then when they hit a deadlock they can always just put an end to their lives and be done with it all.
Well, people who believe there is nothing after death might still make some effort so that they could live a pleasant and enjoyable life during the time they’re here but they probably wouldn’t work very hard to try to perfect themselves or to serve others.
The reality is that not everyone who thinks that death is the end lives recklessly with absolute abandon. Not only are there social restrictions against that, but deep in our hearts, I think, human beings intuitively know that life is eternal and there is a right way for us to live our lives. There are some people who say that precisely because this is our one and only lifetime – because there is no life after death – we have to make the best of the present. But not everyone thinks this way.
In today’s world the materialistic view that there is no life after death has become prevalent. I think that’s the reason that ethics and morality have degenerated into mere pretense. In fact, the way of the world seems to be heading in the direction of belief that we are living in a world where anything goes as long as you don’t get caught.
We are beings who search for meaning in life. As long as we have a meaning, we can withstand any suffering. But without a meaning in life, we can have everything we want and still be completely empty, our spirit slowly dying. Just as you have to adopt the larger perspective of your entire high school career to give meaning to your first year you have to adopt a larger perspective to see the meaning of your life. That larger perspective is the perspective of this lifetime and what happens after death. Without that perspective, you won’t be able to appreciate the true meaning of your life. This is why a person’s understanding of life and death is so important.
Though an individual life merges back into the life of the universe, its identity does not disappear. That individual life does not cease to exist; when it encounters the right conditions, it will once again be manifested. But if you ask whether that life exists as a tangible thing, the answer is absolutely not. We cannot locate it here or there in the universe. It has become one with the universe as a whole. It is neither existence nor non-existence.
Let us use a metaphor for a better understanding. Today, radio waves in infinite numbers are criss-crossing the globe. Right here and now there are radio waves of all different frequencies – for radio and television broadcasts and the like – flying all around us. Though we may say those waves exist, we can neither see nor hear them. We can’t smell or touch them. But if we have a radio or a TV set or some other appropriate receiver, and we tune to it to the right frequency, we can hear the sounds and even see the images the waves carry.
We could perhaps call this the wave’s transition from death to life, of course, this is just a metaphor. But in much the same way, individual lives upon death and by the same token, they don’t ride on someone’s back or hold hands. Each becomes one with the universe yet retains its individuality.
The life of a person whose basic tendency while alive is the state of hell will after death, merge into the state of hell of the universe. The state of hell exists in our own lives, but we can’t say that it is any particular place within us. Just because you have a toothache, you can’t really say that the state of hell is in your tooth. Your whole being is in pain, and your whole being is in hell. In the same way, when a person whose basic life-tendency is the state of hell dies, the whole universe for that individual becomes hell. That sure is a great motivation for doing our human revolution while we’re still alive!
A person’s basic life-tendency becomes most clearly visible at the moment of death. At that moment, neither fame nor money, knowledge or status can help you. Your friends and family can’t help you. You must face the truth of yourself alone. Death is truly strict; it is uncompromising. And the self that exists at that moment of death is the one that will continue throughout the state of death and beyond into the next life.
We must therefore do our utmost to cultivate and enrich our lives as human beings. Nothing is more important in life than doing our human revolution. And the younger you are, the easier it is to accomplish.