“As life ends, regret and fear occur by turns.” These words from the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life surely sum up the frame of mind of the pilot as his plane crashes into the sea. Just as for an airplane there is no worse fate than a crash, so in life there is no event of greater consequence than death. That is why Buddhism speaks of the “crucial matter of birth- and-death”, or the “crucial matter of the afterlife”.
We have squandered our days. We have sought the wrong objectives. Talent, property, and power have earned us the respect of others without affording us either joy or satisfaction. Why have we not rather sought happiness to satisfy the soul? We are left with nothing but sighs of regret. So wrote Seneca, a Roman philosopher who lived in the first century. This lament can only be the regret of someone taken aback by the blackness of his prospects after death (darkness of mind).
This is the pitfall that no one sees coming until the last curtain of life. Perhaps that is what prompted Russian writer Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) to write, “Life is a vexatious trap.”
In the Large Sutra of Infinite Life we also read, “People of this world are shallow and vulgar, struggling over things of no urgency.” In other words, completely distracted by what is in front of their noses, people do not realize the essential task of life.
This task is taken up in detail in the bestselling book on Buddhism “You Were Born for a Reason”.