Life and death, joy and sorrow

Human beings usually see life and death in a rather short perspective.  What meaning can the birth of spring and the death of autumn have for this grass?  People think that life is joy and death is sadness, but the rice seed, lying within the earth and sending out shoots in spring, its leaves and stems withering in the fall, still holds within its tiny core the full joy of life.  The joy of life does not depart in death.  Death is no more than a momentary passing.

Wouldn’t you say that this rice, because it possesses the full joyousness of life, does not know the sorrow of death?

The same thing that happens to rice and barley goes on continuously within the human body.  Day by day hair and nails grow, tens of thousands of cells die, ten of thousands more are born; the blood in the body a month ago is not the same blood today.  When you think that your own characteristics will be propagated in the bodies of your children and grandchildren, you could say that you are dying and being reborn each day, and yet will live on for many generations after death.

If participation in this cycle can be experienced and savored each day, nothing more is necessary.  But most people are not able to enjoy life as it passes and changes from day to day.  They cling to life as they have already experienced it, and this habitual attachment brings fear of death.  Paying attention only to the past, which has already gone, or to the future, which has yet to come, they forget that they are living on the earth here and now. Struggling in confusion, they watch their lives pass as in a dream.

– Masanobu Fukuoka “The One-Straw Revolution” pgs 161-62


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