Comparative Studies

Pure Land Practice with Samatha & Vipassana Meditation

Pure Land Vs Samatha on Deathbed

The practice of Samatha meditation on the deathbed might not be as easy as one imagines it would be. This is because it is usually relatively easier to concentrate or even enter the jhanas when physically well, thus harder when we are not. Sometimes, we take our physical well-being for granted. The truth is, there are many factors needed for physical well-being to be possible, just as there are many factors needed for mental well-being in terms of the jhanas. When we are sick, many of these physical and mental factors of well-being might be not present, thus making it hard to enter the jhanas – even if one might easily enter them during normal days.

As such, the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha is useful as an alternative – for it does not depend on the body at all. This is in contrast with Samatha meditation by method of Anapanasati meditation – which requires mindfulness of breathing, which is also likely to be affected when one is sick. One might even be out of breath. Mindfulness of Buddha requires only the mind, not the body.

If one is on the deathbed, ‘struggling’ to practise Samatha, this is an effort of total self-reliance. In contrast is the practice of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha instead, which allows the Buddha’s merits and blessings to overflow to us, securing a good rebirth in Pureland for oneself. This is in contrast with successful birth in normal jhanic heavens, where enlightenment is not always guaranteed, while one might fall to the lower realms at the end of a heavenly rebirth, when one’s limited merits are depleted.

Pure Land Vs Vipassana on Deathbed

Similarly, the practice of Vipassana meditation on the deathbed might not be as easy as one imagines it would be. This is also because it is usually relatively easier to practise it when physically well, thus harder when we are not. Likewise, there are many factors needed for mental well-being – in terms of being able to be sufficiently mindful of one’s body and mind. When we are sick, many of these physical and mental factors of well-being might be not present, thus making it hard to maintain mindfulness on changing bodily and mental states – even if one might easily be mindful of them during normal days.

As such, the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha is useful as an alternative – for it does not depend on the body at all. There is also no need to watch one’s changing mind states, as all one has to do is be mindful of the name of Amitabha Buddha. One’s mind states during dying might be chaotic and difficult to watch without being lost in them. Mindfulness of Buddha requires only to be mindful of Amitabha Buddha; to forgo all other disturbing thoughts.

If one is on the deathbed, ‘struggling’ to practise Vipassana, this is an effort of total self-reliance too. In contrast is the practice of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha instead, which allows the Buddha’s merits and blessings to overflow to us, securing a good rebirth in Pure Land for oneself. This is in contrast with rebirth elsewhere, where enlightenment is not always guaranteed.

Special Note

The above does not imply that Samatha or Vipassana meditation is ineffective on the deathbed, but that the Pure Land method is relatively easier to practise for the average person. In fact, when Samatha or Vipassana meditation is practised well in everyday life, this aids practice of the Pure Land method. Likewise, when the Pure Land method is practised well in everyday life, this aids practice of Samatha or Vipassana meditation. The effects of concentration and insight, which are usually associated with Samatha and Vipassana meditation respectively can also be realised when one practises the Pure Land method well. Generally, when one practises different methods well, they should foster, and not contradict or obstruct one another. This is because they are all methods leading towards liberation.

Share This:

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!