My grandmother commited suicide. Mother always felt very guilty. I think that she thought that she had not done enough for her mother to make her mother want to stay in this world. However, I think my mother was mistaken in feeling this way. I think that Grandmother, really, it was not that she rejected or hated this world. It was that she wanted to be with her husband who had died very shortly before.
You don't have to have a particularly strong or clear view or doctrine or idea of the Other World in order to want to be there with those that you love.
My father was in the military during the second world war. He took a lot of risks and ended up with many medals for bravery. I'm sure my father was brave, but at the same time, I think some of his risk-taking was because he had a sense that he didn't mind dying; more than that, part of him wanted to die, because he wanted to be with his fallen comrades. He had some very close friends in the military and they had already died. So, again, there is this phenomenon of wanting to be in the Other World rather than wanting to be in this World.
Buddhism was established in Japan by Prince Shotoku. Shotoku is generally regarded in Japan as a great bodhisattva. He was a Buddhist teacher in his own right. He had a Korean Buddhist teacher, Hui Tzu. Hui Tzu and Shotoku were very close. They loved each other dearly. Hui Tzu, in fact, outlived Prince Shotoku, but when he heard that Prince Shotoku had died, he was very sad. He died soon afterwards, and it is generally thought that he wanted to be with Shotoku in the Pure Land.
In the history of Pureland Buddhism one of the most important events was the establishment in the year 402 by a group of 123 practitioners at Mount Lu in China of what was called The White Lotus Society, and The White Lotus Society was built around a vow by this 123 people that, through their practice of devotion to Amitabha, they would be born together one day in the Pure Land.
So, this desire to be together in the Pure Land is a very deep thing. It's not just a theory, it's not just an idea built on doctrine. It's something that people feel deeply in their hearts, that people very close to me have deeply felt in their hearts.
When you are close to a birth or close to a death the Other World feels much more real. When you're in the midst of the busy-ness of life in this world, then it can take all your attention and you can think that this world is all there is, but people throughout time have always had a sense of another realm; and sometimes they would rather be in that realm, sometimes they have a longing for that realm; and often this is because the people that they love are already in that realm. When I was a social worker, I met many elderly people for whom this would be true.
One day we shall me again with our loved ones in the Pure Land. I'm sure about this.
Thank you very much.
Namo Amida Bu