Posted inOther Teachings

People do not Die, by Yamada Ryoun

October 16, 2015

To put it very simply we can say that Shakyamuni’s discovery was that we are not born.


Written by YAMADA Ryoun, the Abbot of the Sanbo Zen, from the “Opening Comments” of Kyôshô (Sanbô-Zen’s official magazine) 341, 2010 (Mar./Apr.).

The New Year of 2010 has begun. I am sure that all of you have greeted the New Year with many different thoughts. The atmosphere surrounding the economic, financial, and industrial sectors continues to be very difficult.

For myself who, besides directing Zen, am also engaged in industrial management, this year is shaping up to be a big challenge especially with regard to management. Politically also the situation the world over will most likely continue to be unstable. In Japan where the Democratic Party of Japan wrested power from the Liberal Democratic Party after 54 years they have stumbled because of money-politics scandals and have as yet not surfaced as a stable political power. Political concerns cast their shadow on the economy and will probably increase the difficulties in an already difficult economic sector. This year, not only in Japan, but also on a scale the world over, politics and economics will certainly continue in a state of rapid fluctuation.

However, in the midst of such rapid change there is one thing that does not even quiver a little. At this New Year I want to re-affirm that one thing. What is it that in the midst of rapid change does not even budge a little, does not change at all, no matter how much time passes?

It goes without saying that it is the essential self. The essential self, in the midst of any and all changes, does not change even a little.

The one who first discovered this was Shakyamuni. He made this discovery at the age of 35, by my calculations, 2438 years ago. To put it very simply we can say that Shakyamuni’s discovery was that we do not die. No matter what the passage of time, no matter what the changes in environment, our essential nature does not change even a little. And, of course, this means not dying.

   I think that the discovery that we do not die is the most valuable and important discovery made in the history of the human race. Is there any other discovery that can match it? Even to call it the most valuable and important world heritage is insufficient. However, unfortunately, most of the great number of people living in the world do not know of this great discovery. Whenever the New Year comes people think they have grown a year older and a year closer to death. But this is a big mistake. Where is that which has grown a year older, where is that which has made another step toward death?

Shakyamuni pursued this question relentlessly. And he realized that this thing called the self had neither shadow nor form nor color nor smell nor weight nor anything at all. He realized that this self was no more than an image that human beings had arbitrarily produced in their heads. If “self” and “person” are no more than concepts, then the death of a person is no more than a concept formed from the workings of the mind. One speaks of dying but the one dying does not exist. To put it clearly, from the start death itself does not exist.

   And, to push the argument even further, what has just been said about death applies in just the same way to life. If death does not exist, then one cannot say that life exists. In the statement above I made about Shakyamuni’s discovery let me replace the word “death” with life.

To put it very simply we can say that Shakyamuni’s discovery was that we are not born.

Life and death are concepts; life and death have no substance. Nevertheless, most people find this hard to believe. Yet, life and death really do not exist. To express the essence of life and death, one can say being happy is life and being sad is death. Being in pain is life and being content is death. Walking is life and running is death. The rain falling is life and good weather is death. Mountains are life and rivers are death.

Granted the rapid changes in the political and economic spheres of the world, the activities of the whole universe are really life and death themselves, the form in which our essential nature, which never changes, unfolds.

People do not die. It is the mission of the Sanbo-Kyodan to spread to as many people as possible this marvelous discovery of Shakyamuni. It is only through Zazen that one can share this discovery. Shall we not do our utmost this year to accomplish this mission?

Translated by Jerome CUSUMANO with the assistance of SATO Migaku. Taken from

Image: Solar System Emergence, by Wikilmages, CC0 Public Domain, from
Featured Image: Silhouette, by Geralt, CC0 Public Domain, from

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