The Important Issue of the Afterlife
The purpose of Buddhism is to solve the important issue of the afterlife, and so practitioners should attach great importance to this issue.
What does the “important issue of the afterlife” mean? "The afterlife" refers to the world of the future life, as opposed to "the past life" and "the present life". Past life refers to the life before birth; the present life refers to the period from birth to death; and afterlife refers to any rebirth after death. The general terms are the past life, the present life, and the future life, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The solution to the important issue of the afterlife lies in this life, so it is the most crucial aspect and the purpose of this life. In short, the purpose of our lives is to resolve the important issue of the afterlife. Living without understanding the purpose of our lives is meaningless.
The Buddhist doctrine is based on the causality connecting the three lives. The cause in the previous life is manifested in this life, and the karma created in this life becomes the main factor determining the next life. Therefore, whether one will fall into hell or go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the future depends on whether one has prepared for it in this life.
This life only lasts for a few decades or a hundred years, while rebirth is an endless succession of lives. Whether we will fall into hell or be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the endless afterlife should be our main concern. If this issue is not solved, we will lose the value of being human beings. Therefore, learning the Buddhist teachings should be an urgent matter in this life in order to solve the major issue of rebirth as soon as possible. Thus, the saying goes “As the Grim Reaper will knock at your door any moment, life and death becomes our major concern. As we draw our last breath, we will be transmigrating for endless kalpas.”
Although there are previous or next lives, we can only learn and practice the Dharma in this life. We are foolish and wicked mortals transmigrating in the Three-life Wheel of samsara. Thus, we must believe in and accept Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance so that the karmic obstacles of the past, present, and future lifetimes will be eliminated at once, and we will at once attain the karma of assurance and achieve non-retrogression in this life. Hence, the solution to the great issue of rebirth depends on whether one believes in the Buddha and recites Namo Amituofo in this life.
If you don't know the major issue of the afterlife, you haven't started learning Buddhism yet. If you know the great issue of the afterlife, you will have a sense of crisis, like stepping into “ the fire pit of the three evils”, and anxiety, distress, and darkness will fill your heart every moment. The Infinite Life Sutra says, “Their minds are closed, and they refuse to listen to others’ teachings.” If you want to open up your closed mind, the only way is to believe in the Buddha and learn Buddhism.
“If not in this life, in which life shall we seek deliverance?” If you do not achieve your goal [of resolving the important issue of rebirth] in this life, you will never have another chance of being delivered. In the Infinite Life Sutra, the Buddha said, “Even if a great fire were to fill the universe, you should pass through it to hear this Dharma.” Because of the great issue of rebirth, we must learn and practice the Dharma even if we have to go through the great fire to hear the Dharma, have faith in the Buddha, and recite the Buddha’s name to solve the great issue of rebirth.
If the major issue of the afterlife is not solved, life will end in tragedy. Life without knowing the Dharma will not end well.
The Right Mindfulness at Life’s Final Moment says: “The most important thing in this world is life and death, and if one can’t catch the next breath, one enters the next life. If one thought is wrong, one will fall into samsara.”
Master Chewu said: “Although you can exhale at this moment, that doesn’t guarantee you can inhale next. Once you stop breathing, your next life begins. An ill thought will bring you into the evil realms. The chance of gaining a human body compared with losing a human body is like comparing the amount of soil in the fingernails to the soil covering the entire earth.”
Life and death are great issues in life. Where does life come from, and where does one go after death? How can we ignore such a significant issue in our lives?
The purpose of life is “universal and common to everybody.” Human life weighs more than the Planet Earth. It is so valuable because of the significance of life's purpose.
“Death can come anytime thus making life and death very important issues.” Human life is rare to have, and now we have it. If we know that dealing with the most urgent matter first is our top priority, we will naturally not care about insignificant and trivial things.
However, some people believe that the major issue of rebirth is the problem after death; emphasizing it now is dodging reality. This is a big fallacy because the separation between life and death is only one breath, and our lives are extremely impermanent. The so-called “being able to exhale this moment does not guarantee we can inhale the next. When our breathing stops, we will enter the afterlife.” Another saying goes like this: “The beauty at sunrise turns into a white skeleton at dusk.” One will fall into the three evil realms as soon as the Grim Reaper arrives. The wise know they should trust and accept the deliverance of Amituofo to gain peace of mind as soon as possible. Therefore, emphasizing the afterlife is not an escape from reality but a positive and vigilant motto. Buddhists should pay great attention to it and always keep it in mind.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings