Q&A

Right Aspiration When Severely Sick

Question: Should I aspire to be healed or to be born in Pure Land if I get very sick?

Answer: From the ‘Excerpts of Selected Essays’(文钞摘录: http://ygjtxx.com/article/72/940.html) by the 13th Chinese Pure Land Patriarch Great Master Yinguang (净宗十三祖印光大师), he gives a very clear answer:

‘你若肯放下一切,一心念佛,
若世寿未尽,就会速好。
若世寿已尽,即往生西方。

‘If you are willing to let go of [attachment to] everything, and be mindful of [Amitabha] Buddha [Amituofo] single-mindedly, and if your worldly lifespan is not at its end, you will be swiftly healed. If your worldly lifespan is at its end, you will be swiftly in the Western Pure Land.’

‘然不可求病速愈,只可求速往生。
求病愈,若寿尽,便不得往生。
求往生,若寿未尽,则速得痊愈。’

‘However, you should not aspire for swift healing from illness, and only aspire for swift birth in Pure Land. Aspiring for healing from illness, and if your lifespan is at its end, you cannot thus be born in Pure Land. Aspiring for birth in Pure Land, and if your lifespan is not at its end, you can thus be swiftly and fully healed.’

In other words, to aspire for birth in Pure Land when very sick is more skilful than to aspire to be healed – because it always creates a win-win situation. Those who can be healed will be healed, while those who should go to Pure Land will be born there. To aspire to be healed, however, might create a lose-lose situation. Those who cannot be healed will not be healed, while those who should go to Pure Land will not reach there as they did not generate the right aspiration accordingly. To aspire to be healed reflects attachment to Samsara, which is the opposite of aspiring to be born in Pure Land.

The limits of one’s worldly lifespan depends on one’s karma. While proper mindfulness of Amituofo creates immense merits able to dilute negative karma to effect healing and lengthening of life, one might not have enough time or ability to practise properly and adequately when very sick. This is why we should practise diligently and regularly when alive and well – to be ready for the possibility of being very sick in the future. The more well-practised we are in everyday life, the easier it will be to practise when unwell. One should also not hanker on healing only in terms of this body, as birth in Pure Land is the best form of healing.

Q: How do I persuade those sick and fearful of death to be mindful of Amituofo?

A: A skilful means we can use is to share the ideas in this poem:

What’s Useful On My Deathbed?

On my deathbed…

mindfulness of doctors isn’t going to help.
mindfulness of loved ones isn’t going to help.
mindfulness of wealth isn’t going to help.
mindfulness of status isn’t going to help.
mindfulness of regrets isn’t going to help.

On my deathbed…

mindfulness of Buddha is the best help.
mindfulness of Buddha is the safest.
mindfulness of Buddha is the best refuge.
mindfulness of Buddha is the kindest for me.
mindfulness of Buddha is the wisest for me.

On my deathbed…

by the practice of single-minded mindfulness of Buddha,
by the power of Buddha’s blessings –
If I can recover, may I recover swiftly.
If I cannot recover, may I be reborn in Pure Land swiftly,
so that I may be liberated swiftly, and return to liberate all swiftly.

Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo
Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo
Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo
Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo… (chant along).

Q: Do the last lines contradict Master Yinguang’s advice to aspire only for healing?

A: Those lines are to offer solace to those dying, who are attached to being healed without dying. They present the possibility of being healed, while urging the entrusting of one’s life and death to Amituofo. The poem helps them reflect on the reality that mindfulness of the mundane is no longer helpful, and encourages them to practise mindfulness of Amituofo. It also offers hope in an open-ended approach as they can be healed, or be born in Pure Land.

However, we should emphasise that ‘the practice of single-minded mindfulness of Buddha‘ in the second last stanza means to be mindful of nothing other than Amituofo. Since one has entrusted oneself to Amituofo, one should also let go of the wish to be healed, so as to be single-mindedly mindful of Amituofo. Any thought other than Amituofo’s name would be a distraction.

When the person is more ready, Master Yinguang’s advice above can be shared – to further urge true single-minded mindfulness of Amituofo based on the aspiration to be born in Pure Land. (It remains true that this person might be healed.) There is no need to think about the aspiration for birth in Pure Land during mindfulness of Amituofo – as long as the practice is based on this right aspiration, which is in turn based on right faith. (Faith, Aspiration and Practice are the Three Provisions needed for reaching Pure Land.)

Related Article:
Birth In Pure Land As Total Healing
http://purelanders.com/2011/12/15/birth-in-pure-land-as-total-healing/

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!