Returning to Kami (Life & Death)
As everything is made from particles in the universe, so everything is a part of Kami.
A drop of water taken from the ocean may have its own shape, yet it is still part of the ocean. When we are born, a “drop” of Kami is given a physical body made from the earth, much like a sandcastle. Just as a sandcastle is made by gathering grains of sand from the beach and given solidity by water, so human bodies are made by the combination of nutrients and water from the earth and made whole by spirit. If water is taken out of the sandcastle, the individual grains will crumble and return to be part of the beach. If the sand is taken away, the remaining water will return to the ocean or evaporate into air. Only in the moments both sand and water are combined does the sandcastle exist.
Within these physical bodies we live our lives on earth, and when time corrodes our castle walls, our physical form returns to the beach, and the water returns to the ocean. Looking at the laws of nature and the universe, great trees also fall, and become nursing logs for the next generation of trees. Everything growing and living on earth begins in the earth, is given a distinct form, and then returns to the earth by various means to become nutrients for the next generation. This is not what people might call “reincarnation,” but more a continuation of life. As our Founder once explained, “When people die, they are reunited with Kami. The body dies, but the soul keeps on living. The body, which was taken from Earth, will return to Earth. And the soul, which was bestowed by
Heaven [Kami], returns to Heaven [Kami]. Dying is when your body and soul separate” (GII: Nanba Ko,13:2-3).
We do not believe that there is a “heavenly realm”––a distant place spirits go to after they leave the body. Nor do we believe there is a “hell”––a dungeon-like place where spirits suffer eternally. When we die, we only return to the universe. In the words of our Founder, “Whether you are living or dead, Heaven and Earth [the universe] will always be your home” (GI:Sato Norio, 21:20). The universe works to sustain life. Whether we create a heaven or hell out of this beautiful earth where we live, all depends on where our hearts are. The Altar dedicated to spirits in our churches serve the same function as the Altar for Kami: they give us a focal point for our prayers. After completing a life of working for the benefit of our family, our children and grandchildren, wouldn’t we be happy if they recognized the sacrifices and efforts we made for them? In praying for our ancestors, we are acknowledging that we could not be where we are without them, and we are expressing our appreciation to them. We also nurture and support them in their spiritual lives through our prayers.
Many people are skeptical of what happens to a person after death. Yet most people cannot deny that after a loved one passes away, sometimes they can still feel his or her presence. They do not leave us. They reside within the universe, and like thoughts, they do not “take up space” but are there whenever we think of them.
As our ancestral spirits continue to protect and guide us in our lives, they become our foundation. Our Founder said, “Place fertilizer at the roots of a tree, then its branches will grow lush. Respect our ancestors and parents, then you will prosper” (GII:Takahashi Tomie, 33). A tree is dependent upon its roots to grow, and its roots are dependent upon the leaves and branches for nutrients from the sun. Here again, Interdependence is evident. Though spirits cannot be seen, we must acknowledge that they are there, like roots hidden by soil. We must strengthen them so that all of us may prosper as one.
Passing on Divine Virtue. Divine Virtue is the trust Kami has placed in us. Like wealth or reputation, if our family has worked for generations to gain it, and we work to add to it, it will always be there for our use and benefit.
However, if we do not work, are lazy and selfish, using it only for our pleasure, then what our predecessors worked so hard for will quickly disappear; we may even go into debt, ending in hard times for ourselves and our future generations. Working daily to gain Kami’s trust, we can pass our virtue on to our children and grandchildren, so that they can live in comfort and with peace of mind. Our grandchildren can then continue to pass it on to their children. Just as with people’s trust, we must work hard to gain it, and once we have, it is easier to maintain; but once we lose it, it is very hard to regain their trust.
What we pass on to our children will greatly affect their quality of life.The descendants of those who listen to Konko Daijin’s words and practice faith will live without worry. Teaching your children how to live without worry is practicing true faith. (GI: Yamamoto Sadajiro, 68:1)