A fragment from the One Straw Revolution book - by Masanobu Fukuoka
I Was Born to Go to Nursery SchoolAmong the tens of thousands of scriptures, the one to be most grateful for, the one where all the important points are made is the Heart Sutra. According to this sutra, The Lord Buddha declared,
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Matter and the spirit are one, but all is void. Man is not alive, is not dead, is unborn and undying, without old age and disease, without increase and without decrease.
The other day while we were cutting the rice, I said to the youths, who were resting against a big pile of straw, "I was thinking that when rice is planted in the spring, the seed sends out living shoots, and now, as we are reaping, it appears to die.
The fact that this ritual is repeated year after year means that life continues in this field and the yearly death is itself yearly birth. You could say that the rice we are cutting now lives continuously.
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, tens 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 savoured 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.
-If life and death are realities, isn't human suffering inescapable?
- There is no life or death.
- How can you say that?
The world itself is a unity of matter within the flow of experience, but people's minds divide phenomena into dualities such as life and death, yin and yang, being and emptiness. The mind comes to believe in the absolute validity of what the senses perceive and then, for the first time, matter as it is turns into objects as human beings normally perceive them.
The forms of the material world, concepts of life and death, health and disease, joy and sorrow, all originate in the human mind. In the sutra, when Buddha said that all is void, he was not only denying intrinsic reality to anything which is constructed by human intellect, but he was also declaring that human emotions are illusions.
- You mean all is illusion. There's nothing left?
- Nothing left? The concept of 'void' remains in your mind apparently. I said to the youth. If you don't know where you came from or where you're going, then how can you be sure you're here, standing in front of me? Is existence meaningless?
The other morning I heard a four-year -old girl ask her mother, "Why was I born into this world? To go to nursery school?"
Naturally, her mother could not honestly say, "Yes, that's right, so off you go."
And yet, you could say that people these days are born to go to nursery school.
Right up through college people study diligently to learn why they were born.
Scholars and philosopher, even if they ruin their lives in the attempt, say, they will be satisfied to understand this one thing.
Originally, human beings had no purpose. Now, dreaming up some purpose or other, they struggle away trying to find the meaning of life. It is a one -man wrestling match. There is no purpose one has to think about, or go out in search of. You would do well to ask the children whether or not a life without purpose is meaningless.