Growing up in an environment with Theravada Buddhism practices, I learnt that the Buddha’s teachings stress on cultivation of one’s mental state through meditation. Previously, I never felt comfortable attending Mahayana prayers because of its many rituals and rules. However, after having attended seven years of annual ‘100 Million Om Mani Padme Hung’ retreats, which included basic teachings about the benefits of chanting the mantra, I became curious as to why many Buddhists are very serious about chanting ‘Amituofo’, often involving the elderly and dying, as well as during funeral rituals and prayers. The ‘Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra’ course (http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/01/course-understanding-amituofo-via-the-amitabha-sutra-9th-run; See http://thedailyenlightenment.com/category/06 for next run) attracted me to find out more. During the course, the Dharma teacher (Shen Shi’an) shared numerous miraculous events linked to faithful chanting of Amituofo for the dying and deceased.
Once, he invited a Dharma brother to share his experiences (http://purelander.com/2010/03/15/my-mother%E2%80%99s-birth-in-pureland-testimony-11/) of chanting Amituofo with strong faith. It was then that I recalled an incident from 15 years ago, when I was doing home care nursing. I was helping Po Po, an old, bedridden lady of above 80 years. She was being taken care of by two spinster daughters who were around 60 years old. I was asked to check on their Mother’s bed sores. Po Po had huge deep bedsores on both hips. The wounds were so deep that I could see her hip bones and ligaments. I gave her painkillers and rubbed some medication on her gums. I put up an infusion unit and hydrated her under the abdomen skin. According to her daughters, Po Po had been unconscious for many years. Their home was well-decorated with Catholic pictures and a statue of Mother Mary. They were obviously Catholics. However, Po Po wore a bead bracelet on one wrist and her daughters confirmed that she was a Buddhist.
The following day, I returned to their house. They were amazed that their Mother was actually conscious and responded to them. I repeated all the nursing procedures I did the day before. I then politely asked them for permission to play chanting of Amituofo’s name on tape. Their daughters were compassionate and allowed me to do it for their Mother. While the tape was playing, I sat very close to Po Po and whispered into her ear, ‘Po Po, pay attention to the chanting. Let go of all your pain and discomfort. You will be alright.’
I had to be very careful with my behavior as I went in as a nurse rather than a Dharma practitioner. However, I was sure that both her daughters were supportive of what I did. They were surprised that Po Po responded by turning her head slightly. I then suggested that they play the Amituofo chant continuously. As it was Friday, I gave some simple instructions on how to take care of Po Po during the weekend and promised to visit them again the following Monday. On Monday morning, I learnt that Po Po had passed away. Two weeks later, the two daughters came to the clinic where I worked and thanked me for what I did for their Mother.
That was not the only case that I used Amituofo chanting for the ill, elderly or dying. There were at least another three cases in which I was involved. After hearing the chanting, the persons involved passed away peacefully within three days, after long years of suffering.
Namo Amituofo, Yasa
Even if it might not always be absolutely certain that the above people reached Amituofo’s Pure Land, what is definitely certain is that mindfulness of Amituofo’s name helped them to at least have a peaceful and thus fortunate rebirth. Is it possible for the old lady to have reached Pure Land? For reaching Pure Land, the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice are needed. As she was already a Buddhist, she probably already had some understanding and Faith in Amituofo, and thus readily followed the advice given to her.
If she did the Practice of mindfulness of Amituofo sincerely in her mind, she might have connected to Amituofo and his blessings, who thus inspired her to give rise to the Aspiration to reach Pure Land. This is a good example of how we should never assume someone cannot connect to Amituofo. Even if unconscious, the consciousness of patients might still be around, which makes continual support-chanting and encouraging of chanting still useful. We should simply do our best.
It is interesting to note that before her eventual smooth passing after prolonged suffering, the name of Amituofo helped her to heal to some extent, by regaining enough consciousness to respond. As complete healing is not always possible due to strong karmic conditions linked to the failing body, the right Aspiration to have when severely sick should also be learnt, as advised by Great Master Yin Guang: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/15/right-aspiration-when-severely-sick/. (In the Theravada tradition, there is also the practice of mindfulness of Buddha, although this might not be as well known today: http://purelanders.com/2010/04/01/buddha-mindfulness-in-the-dhammapada/)
More Inspirational Pure Land Testimonials:
1. My Relative’s Birth in Pure Land
2. How I Saw Amituofo
3. How I Joined the Pure Land Path
4. How Amituofo Saved My Life
5. Gratitude to Amituofo
6. My Mother’s Birth in Pure Land
7. How Mindfulness of Amituofo Comforted My Uncle
8. How Three Dogs Helped Me To Be Mindful of Amituofo
9. An Unexpected Group Practice Session
10. My Grandfather’s Deathbed Experience
11. Just Nianfo: How Buddha Mindfulness is Healing My Mental Illness
12. How Our Father Reached Pure Land
Animated Pure Land Testimonials (Must-see)
Experience of the ‘People’ of Pure Land
How a Chicken Went to Pure Land
Story of My Father’s Rebirth
Amituofo’s Wake-up Call?
Another Wake-up Call
Yet Another Wake-up Call
Another Pure Land Retreat Reflection