Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 17: Making the Most of Each Day [17.3]
17.3 “Now Is the Last Moment of One’s Life”
In “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “For one who summons up one’s faith and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the profound insight that now is the last moment of one’s life, the sutra [Lotus Sutra] proclaims: ‘When the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas, who will free them from all fear and keep them from falling into the evil paths of existence’ [LSOC28, 363]” (WND-1, 216). Based on this passage, President Ikeda discusses the ultimate spirit of faith.
“With the profound insight that now is the last moment of one’s life” (WND-1, 216) doesn’t simply mean being ready or resolved. “With profound insight” means recognizing and fully comprehending that this is the real nature of life.
We all think that we have plenty of time left in our lives. But none of us knows when death may overtake us. We may die in the next instant. That is the true reality of life.
Even if we were to be guaranteed another 20, 30, or even 50 years of life, such time spans are, in the context of eternity, no more than fleeting moments. This is another sense of the insight that “now is the last moment of one’s life” (WND-1, 216).
Any thoughtful person, having understood this, cannot help feeling the profound significance of being alive now and practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Such things as worldly power, fame, and riches are irrelevant. To accumulate good fortune that will not perish with death and for the sake of the eternal future, we cannot but focus on the true purpose of life while exerting ourselves wholeheartedly in our Buddhist practice.
This is the ultimate spirit of faith. Even so, as Buddhists and as members of human society, we are not meant to literally renounce or sacrifice everything of this world. Rather, when we exert ourselves earnestly in faith and practice with the great objective of kosen-rufu, everything in our lives is put to good use based on the Mystic Law. That is the essence of our commitment to live with the awareness that “now is the last moment of one’s life.”
When we live each moment of our life with this commitment, we “will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas, who will free [us] from all fear and keep [us] from falling into the evil paths of existence” (LSOC28, 363). That means that we attain a state of complete security and never fall into the evil paths of existence—namely, the worlds of hell, hungry spirits, animals, and asuras.1
On a superficial level, the passage “When the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas” (LSOC28, 363) seems to suggest that this takes place at the moment of death, but on a more profound level, “come to an end” refers to each successive moment in life. In that sense, it is describing a state that we can actually attain while still alive.
The phrase “now is the last moment of one’s life” urges us to put our entire being into the present moment. It means living each day wholeheartedly. It means to strive our hardest and give our all to achieve kosen-rufu and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.
Even when it comes to sharing Buddhism with someone, if you allow the present opportunity to slip by, you never know if you will ever have another chance to talk to that person at length. Also, if you interact with people in earnest, based on the awareness that this is your only chance to help them transform their karma, you are already living with the spirit that “now is the last moment of one’s life.”
Whether you are chanting to the Gohonzon, engaged in Buddhist study, or writing words of encouragement to your friends and fellow members—the crucial thing is to devote yourself to that activity fully and wholly each moment.
Upon reflection, life is nothing more than the accumulation of each present moment. If you are unable to make today fulfilling, you won’t reap any positive results tomorrow. You can make the grandest long-term plans, but if you can’t treasure each moment, those plans will just end as empty pipe dreams. Past causes and future results are all encapsulated in the true aspect of all phenomena2 in the present moment, and a transformation in that single moment of life can both extinguish karmic impediments from the distant past and ensure good fortune that will continue into the eternal future.
This important passage from the Daishonin’s writings teaches the principle for changing our karma, the key to which lies in establishing solid faith based on the insight that “now is the last moment of one’s life.”
From a lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, April 1977.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1The worlds of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras are known together as the four evil paths. Considered the lowest four of the Ten Worlds, they are called evil because they are characterized by suffering.
- *2True aspect of all phenomena: The ultimate truth or reality that permeates all phenomena and is in no way separate from them. Through the explanation of the ten factors, the “Expedient Means” (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra teaches that all people are inherently endowed with the potential to become Buddhas, and clarifies the truth that they can tap and manifest this potential.