I have heard that True Pure Land Buddhism teaches of two deaths and two funerals. What does this mean?
The two deaths are the death of the mind and the death of the body. This is also referred to as the “two funerals.” Master Shinran said that when we are saved by Amida Buddha, the self-power mind dies, and simultaneously the other-power mind is born. In Gutoku’s Notes he expounded on this as follows: Revelation of the Primal Vow means the former mind dies (in the former-moment).
Gaining instantaneous salvation means the birth of the latter mind (in the latter-moment).
When we are saved by Amida’s Vow, the life of the self-power mind ends. At the same time, the mind of other-power is born. Master Shinran says that in the ichinen revelation of Amida’s Vow, the former mind (the mind of illusion that has transmigrated for untold aeons) dies. The “former mind” refers to the mind of self-power that has transmigrated for endless aeons since the distant past, the mind of darkness that is ignorant of what will happen after death. This self-power mind of illusion is killed by the sharp sword of Namu Amida Butsu. Thus an eternity of illusion is brought to an end. Concerning this, Master Kakunyo wrote, When, during this life, you listen to the teachings of the true Buddhist masters and encounter Amida’s ichinen salvation, that means the end, the final passing, of illusion.
----Notes on Steadfast Holding
As you can see from these passages, the death of the mind or the funeral of the soul refer to salvation by Amida. The death of the body, and the funeral for the remains, are widely understood so I will pass over them without comment. True Pure Land Buddhism lays special emphasis on the death of the mind and the funeral of the soul. That is because one’s fate for aeons to come hinges on whether or not one has encountered the salvation of Amida in this life. After I die, throw my body in the Kamo River and feed it to the fishes. ----Notes Rectifying Heresy Master Shinran surely left these instructions because, the funeral for his soul having already taken place, the funeral for his body was of no great significance.
One’s fate for aeons to come: Whether one gains eternal happiness or undergoes many lifetimes of further suffering