Q&A

How To Handle Pain With Nianfo? 如何以念佛降伏病痛?

Question: A common fear among many people in general, including beginner Nianfo practitioners (of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’), is the possibility of having great pain when sick or dying. What if this proves disturbing enough to distract from Nianfo then? How can this worry be allayed?

Answer: The answer is surprisingly straightforward and simple. Pain should be handled with Nianfo directly, as these verses further explain. This applies to all other kinds of distracting (and thus stray) thoughts and sensations too:

If with pain that cannot be relieved physically,
do not keep being mindful of the pain or for even an instant.
As what you focus upon can grow in intensity,
fretting over physical pain creates mental pain.

Fussing over pain is to forget about Amituofo,
that brings about more pain instead.
The more pain there is, the more wholehearted Nianfo there should be.
Not being mindful of Amituofo in desperate times is to lack faith in him.

If with pain that cannot be relieved physically,
do keep being mindful of Amituofo faithfully, sincerely, wholeheartedly.
As who you focus upon can grow in connection,
mindfulness of Amituofo alleviates all pain (physical and mental).

Focusing on Amituofo is to forget about pain,
that brings about bliss instead.
The more pain there is, the more wholehearted Nianfo there should be.
Being mindful of Amituofo in desperate times is to have faith in him.

The above is assured by Amituofo’s Vow in the ‘Immeasurable Life Sutra’:

第三十三蒙光触身获益愿:

设我得佛,十方无量不可思议诸佛世界众生之类,蒙我光明触其体者,身心柔软,超过天人,若不尔者,不取正觉。

Vow #33: Receiving Light That Benefits Upon Touching The Body:

If I [Dharmakara Bodhisattva] attain Buddhahood [as Amituofo, who is already so], sentient beings of all kinds, in all immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha Lands of the ten directions, [including this world here] who receive my bright light that touches their bodies [when they are mindful of my name ‘Amituofo’ wholeheartedly], will have tenderness [suppleness; peace and bliss] of body and mind, that surpasses that of gods and humans. If not so, [I shall] not attain right awakening [Buddhahood].

Such receiving of Amituofo’s light of blessings occurs during sincere Nianfo, whether alive, dying or deceased. For the departed away from and with no more physical body, but with only the consciousness, the mind will still experience peace and bliss. A sliding scale of bliss is experienceable now, according to the degree of wholeheartedness during Nianfo. Nianfo is thus meant to be a blissful practice, with overall increasing bliss till Pure Land is reached, where we continue blissfully advancing to the ultimate bliss of Buddhahood.

If Nianfo is not yet blissful, it means more wholehearted practice is needed, as powered by stronger faith and aspiration, via further learning and contemplation. Depending on depth of connection, the light is not always seen, yet it still has healing effects. For example, infra-red light is invisible but has clear effects when remote controls are used. For the dying or just deceased, the effects of successful support-chanting with Amituofo’s name can be seen through their final clearly blissful expressions, in contrast to earlier painful appearances.

Amituofo’s light is with the light of purity (清净光) for eradicating greed (attachment), the light of joy (欢喜光) for eradicating hatred (aversion, including towards pain) and the light of wisdom (智慧光) for eradicating delusion (ignorance). These blessings are crucial as it is with the three poisons above that we create and sustain our pain. While our negative karma ripening causes pain and our present poor attitude conditions it, Nianfo relieves it as connecting to Amituofo’s light of blessings dilutes such karma while purifying our attitude. It should be noted that ultimate healing is by reaching Pure Land, where there is no more sickness and death. In this life and the next, Amituofo is the ‘Great King Of Healers’ (阿弥陀佛大医王)!

Also, on handling pain, as recorded in ‘The Pure Land Passport: The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death (临终三大要)’:

‘The dying person should be encouraged to be sincerely mindful only of Āmítuófó (Niànfó), and not be mindful of any pain, which can ‘worsen’ with frustrations. Mindfulness of Āmítuófó instead not only takes the mind off the pain (as the mind can only have one thought at a time), it also connects to Āmítuófó’s blessings, which will lessen the pain, and even gives rise to bliss – which is why those who Niànfó often depart with peaceful smiles.

Sincere Niànfó also swiftens birth in Pure Land instead of letting pain prolong. As the person might be too distracted and discouraged by pain, there should be more sincere guidance and support-chanting to encourage the dying person to Niànfó to be reborn in Pure Land swiftly. Merits from Niànfó should also be shared for relief of suffering.’

The below verses summarise the above concepts and techniques:

念佛除痛偈

烦此身心痛,
身心更加痛。
念佛不念痛,
安乐离诸痛。

Verse Of Mindfulness Of Buddha For Eradication Of Pain

Being frustrated with this body and mind’s pain,
the body and mind will have even more pain.
Being mindful of Amituofo without mindfulness of pain,
there is peace and bliss that departs from all pain.
– Stonepeace

离苦求乐偈

厌离娑婆一切苦,
放下身心与世界。
欣求极乐一切乐,
提起佛号安住去。

Verse Of Renunciation Of Suffering & Aspiration For Bliss

With revulsed renunciation of all suffering of the Saha World,
let go of [attachment to] your body, mind and this world.
With joyful aspiration for all the bliss of ‘The Land Of Ultimate Bliss’,
Uphold Amituofo’s name and peacefully abide upon it to go there.
– Stonepeace

Related Book:
The Pure Land Passport: The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death
(临终三大要)
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/12/apply-for-the-pure-land-passport-here

Related Article:
Testimonial: How Nianfo Alleviated My Suffering
http://purelanders.com/2016/04/13/testimonial-how-nianfo-alleviated-my-suffering

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!