Becoming a Buddha at the Very End of Our Lives

JA8119 at Itami Airport 1984 - By Harcmac60 [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( ) or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons. Source:

Sangha Family Service

October 1, 2017
Rev. Shindo Nishiyama

Today, I would like to share with you about becoming a Buddha at the very end of our lives. As you know Buddha means, “Awakened one” or “Enlightened one”. So, Buddha means, “A Person who is truly awakened and knows what the most important thing in his life is”.

The question is, “What is the most important thing in your life?” Is it your physical life? Is it your high social status in your community? Is it how much money you have? Is it a big nice house? Your wife? Your husband? Your family? Is it your membership in Jikoen?” Yes, we have many important things in our lives and we are always depending on all of them. However, all things are not truly dependable due to the Universal Law of impermanence. So, the next question is, what is the most important thing in our lives that is dependable?”  Is it becoming a Buddha at the end of our lives?

On Aug. 12, 1985, the Japan Airlines Flight 123 suffered mechanical failures after departing from Tokyo, Haneda. It struggled for 32 minutes in the air but finally crashed into Mount Osutakayama, killing 520 people. The crash remains the deadliest single-plane accident in world history. For me, I have very clear memories about this very shocking news that came into my home TV around 8:00 pm on August 12, 1985. It was the day   I flew in early, the same day from Osaka to Fukuoka by JAL for our Bon Family Gathering in my home town in Fukuoka.

After a week had passed after this tragedy, among the debris was found the company diary of a 52-year-old shipping manager Hirotsugu Kawaguchi. Apparently, he had spent the fateful half hour composing a seven-page letter to his family.  The following was found in his letter to his family:

Mariko, Tsuyoshi, Chiyoko — Please get along well with each other and help your mama. Papa feels very sorry I won’t survive. I don’t know the reason. Five minutes have passed. …

Dear God, please help me. I didn’t imagine that yesterday’s dinner was going to be the last one with you all. …

Something seems to have exploded in the airplane. Smoke is coming out. … Airplane is going down. I don’t know where we are going and what is going to happen. …

Tsuyoshi — I do really count on you.  Honey, (to his wife), I feel very sorry about what is happening to me. Goodbye. Please take care of our children. It’s six-thirty now. The airplane is spinning and going down quickly. …

Dear everyone, I’m very thankful to you that I got to have a happy life up to now.

The late, Mr. Kawaguchi was a father of two children and was a very hard-working person for his family. I am very sure he didn’t want to die, he didn’t want to separate from his children and wife, and I am very sure he wanted to see his children glow with pride and success as they grew into adulthood. However, his life must be ended at the age of 52 by an unexpected incident.

Life is very undependable and impermanent due to causes and conditions that are beyond our control.   Thus, Shakyamuni Buddha emphasizes to us to see what is the Dharma, the true and real workings of our daily lives. The Dharma is showing us the kind of world we are living in.  Buddhism is not to become a great person or to become a perfect loving person, or to become a perfect smart person and to become a wise one.

Buddhism is the teaching to become an awakened one who appreciates his own unrepeatable and precious life and is grateful for all the seen and unseen blessings which sustain his life.

The late, Mr. Kawaguchi’s life was discontinued by the incident but he became a Buddha at the very end of his life because he awakened to the most important thing in his life. It was the appreciation and gratitude he expressed as he faced the last moment of his life.  His last two sentences said, “Dear everyone, I’m very thankful to you that I got to have a happy life up to now.”

Buddhism is the teachings for us to see what is the most important thing in our lives. Our life is not “I have to go to school, or I have to go to work, or I have to take my mom to the doctor, or I have to take out the trash away, or I have to meet an unpleasant person.  Our life should be, “I get to go to school, or I get to go to work today, or I get to eat with my family, I get to drive in rush hour, I get to see an unpleasant parson and I got to receive all blessings for as I am.

If we live in the world of Okagesamade and Arigato, we are able to become a Buddha, an awakened one, anytime and anywhere. Mr. Kawaguchi became a Buddha at the very end of life, because he awakened most important thing in his life. I repeat again what he said, “Dear everyone, I’m very thankful to you that I got to have a happy life up to now.”

We are born in the land of Samsara, the world of delusion and sufferings, however the Buddha Dharma will illuminate our lives to transform to the awakening world which we call Nirvana, Life and Light of Universal Wisdom and Compassion.

Namo Amida Butsu