The End of the World
Have you ever wondered what is going to happen to the world? Of course the major religions have their own answers—the End of Times, the Last Judgment in which all non-believers suffer terrible pain and destruction, or maybe just a handful of the Chosen Ones will survive. All of these theories have their loyal followers. What do you think?

Now scientists are making their own predictions. As reported in the Globe and Mail (Tuesday, May 3, 2007) a professor from Princeton University declared that there four possibilities for the end of the world: 1) We humans might remain in our present form and condition for billions of years until the sun dies. 2) We might become extinct exactly like 99.99 percent of all, the species that have arisen on earth. This is the most probable prediction. 3) We might adapt, grow in intelligence, and get wiser. 4) We might evolve into another species altogether. This is possible given Darwin’s theories.

Mahayana Buddhism does predict the coming of a corrupt age that lasts for thousands of years. Finally though, Maitreya, the future Buddha, will appear. His/her name means loving-friendship. This Buddha’s teachings will bring a new and better time for humanity.

This Maitreya is important for shin Buddhism: “A person of shinjin always and already resides in the Pure Land. That is to say, this person is the same as Maitreya.” This is a quote from one of Shinran’s letters!! It implies that in shinjin of the Vow we have experienced already within ourselves the future that is yet to come. We represent what Maitreya represents, Buddhas of the Future! Becoming part of this future now is available to everyone.

What a difference there is between the realization of shinjin and the theories presented at the beginning!

In his most important book, Kyo-gyo-shin-sho, Shinran concludes with the following quote:

My wish is that those who have attained birth may lead those who come after them, and those who aspire for birth may follow those who came before them. Thus, they follow one after another endlessly and uninterruptedly until the vast sea of birth-suffering-death is exhausted.

Everyone who has received shinjin makes it possible for others to follow so that the world is emptied of suffering beings! Thus there is a way out of the confusing mess of beliefs concerning the future. Shinjin is an actual inner experience that strangely warms the heart. We have the sense of being carried by the Ship (the Vow) to the Other Shore (the future).

Remember the movie "The Titanic"? The people in the lower decks were locked in and they all drowned. The people on the upper decks had to fight for the lifeboats which were in very short supply. Only a very few were saved. This movie is very much like the religious theories about the End of Times. Maybe that is why the story of the Titanic was so popular?

In our faith there are enough lifeboats for everybody. Now one is locked out. No one abandoned for any reason. The Bodhisattva Vow is often called the ship to the other shore. Those who make it, come back over and over again to fetch those left behind, until the world is emptied of suffering beings.

So don’t let all these conflicting theories upset you. And don’t let the scientists’ inability to find a positive message for us upset you, either. Amida Buddha’s voice is calling you from the Other Shore. The teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha are urging you from this shore to go ahead. They both actually provide you with a means to get there. The next time you see a picture of Maitreya, or hear the name, smile a little. And enjoy the ride!

Sensei Ulrich

October 21, 2007