We did not expect our journey as first-time parents to turn out this way. With devastation, we lost our baby prematurely at the 15th week of pregnancy. Yet, with rejoice, we guided our baby to Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land. As we had this baby after years of marriage, we were extremely elated. Family members were happy for us too.
From the 10th week, we began nights of storytelling to our baby. With a book on the story of Sakyamuni Buddha for children, I described the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment, his teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. I also shared on cause and effect.
During the 12th week, we went for a routine ultrasound scan, that marked transition to the second trimester. Then came the first shock. We were told that our baby had developed physical defects. We were given the option of early termination as the prognosis was not favourable. This hit us mercilessly. We were on cloud nine before the scan; now we were at rock bottom. Our hopes to become parents were dashed. We had a big cry when we reached home. This was the beginning of us accepting the truth. We continued with our storytelling. Every night, we also continued with our chanting of the Amitabha Sutra with Nianfo practice (of mindfulness of the name of ‘Amituofo’).
At the 14th week, we went for a follow-up scan. The defects had continued to grow. The doctor also observed new defects that did not surface earlier. The possibility of a full-term pregnancy was now very bleak. At the 15th week, we went to a private clinic for a second opinion. Just when the doctor started scanning, he revealed that there was no heartbeat. The verdict was out. We had lost our baby. Somehow, my wife’s maternal instinct told her she should not rush down to the hospital to remove our baby. We decided to compose ourselves before deciding the next course of action.
Immediately, I knew that I had to call Teacher (Shen) Shi’an for advice. This was the best decision that we had made for our baby. Teacher Shi’an advised us to manage the passing of our baby just as we would manage the passing of an adult family member. We should also assume the death to be very recent although its timing is uncertain. I immediately knew what I needed to do, from the knowledge gained from Teacher Shi’an’s first run of the ‘Destination Pureland’ course (from May to June 2014): http://thedailyenlightenment.
My wife and I started to Nianfo (as support-chanting) for the next 8 hours by ourselves. The first hour was extremely difficult as the loss felt excruciating, although we had been mentally prepared for this day since the 12th week’s scan. Tears kept rolling as the sorrow was overwhelming. We reminded ourselves to detach from these attachments, and to wholeheartedly concentrate on Nianfo as this was going to be the last gift that we could give to our baby as Buddhist parents. Our wish now was to guide our baby to swiftly reach Amituofo’s Pure Land.
Something amazing started to happen when we were in the third hour of Nianfo. Suddenly, in the midst of the Nianfo track being played from Youtube on our TV, my wife heard mass-chanting of Amituofo’s name approaching her left ear. It was clearly a different set of chanting! Knowing that Amituofo and his assembly have arrived, she prayed earnestly to our baby, to sincerely Nianfo along, and follow Amituofo quickly, without hesitation.
Suddenly, she felt a nudge at her right elbow, followed by a joyous experience… While the mass-chanting continued at her left, she heard a very distinct voice of a young man chanting along too. She could sense the great bliss in this voice that chanted thrice – ‘Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo’. She thus received these auspicious signs of ‘heavenly music filling the sky’ (天乐盈空) with ‘co-chanting of our baby’, knowing our baby is now in the good hands of Amituofo. She continued to Nianfo till the last hour. Another auspicious sign, of ‘extraordinary fragrance filling the room’ (异香满堂) revealed itself unexpectedly when she went to the master bedroom’s toilet to freshen up half an hour before the session ended. There was an inexplicable fragrance just before she entered! It was different from the lemongrass that we had placed in there too.
We completed the 8 hours of Nianfo, feeling exhausted but fulfilled. My wife described all these auspicious signs to me after we had completed our Nianfo. She, being a very rational person, it was clear to us that they were not due to her imagination. There were tears of rejoice and our faith in Amituofo was very much strengthened.
For the next few days, things happened unexpectedly smoothly. We could only explain all these as due to the blessings of Amituofo. My wife had a very smooth and quick delivery of our already reborn child, that lasted for only 15 minutes. The moment there was Nianfo, the slight pain subsided and she was at peace. Prior to this, as this was her first pregnancy, medical personnel told us that she might have to go through long hours of labour pain.
A Chinese nurse agreed to help me to scatter the Sand Of Golden Light (金光明沙) on our baby’s body for offering blessings and protection right after the delivery without questioning. (My request was initially rejected by a senior nurse before delivery.) I managed to find an undertaker without much difficulty, giving our baby a simple and yet dignified Buddhist funeral. A Rebirth Blanket (往生被), also for blessings and protection was also used to wrap the casket, before sea burial after cremation later. All was done in the midst of chanting. My wife also discharged from hospital after two nights of stay without any complications.
To be honest, we are still managing our grief. However, we are also at peace with ourselves. We have consolidated our reflections on this journey.
 Parental Relationship: The loss of our baby does not mean that we have ended the parent-child relationship. We have only lost our baby physically. The relationship continues. We will gather to meet in Pure Land later!
 Buddhist Affinity: We helped to create strong Buddhist affinity with our baby. Before we discovered the defects, we already began to share Buddhism with our baby, and continued all the way. We also told our baby of the splendours of Amituofo’s Pure Land and how to go there. We let our baby’s karma bear fruit naturally, while practising Nianfo to lighten the suffering, and for smooth and swift passage to Pure Land.
 Good Fortune: Our baby’s suffering due to ripening of karmic debts lasted for about three weeks, while not needing to go through further suffering in this mundane world for decades to come, by going to Amituofo’s Pure Land. As all of us will face departure from this life one day, in a sense, our baby is much more fortunate than us by reaching Pure Land first.
 Precious Opportunity: Our baby had given us a very precious opportunity to practise loving-kindness and compassion. The greatest form of love that we could offer was parental love. Although we were given the option of termination, we did not do so. We kept assuring that we would support our baby as far as possible. We also told our baby to let go of this body, and to Nianfo to reach Pure Land if attachment to the body was too painful. In retrospect, we are glad that we had made the right decision by following Teacher Shi’an’s advice against abortion. The outcome would have been very different if we had aborted our baby.
 Continual Practice: As I am writing, although there is great assurance already, to play safe, and to not be complacent, we are still observing the advised Buddhist practices within 49 days of our baby’s passing. We still practise Nianfo and dedicate merits to our baby and possible karmic creditors every night. We also make contributions for animal liberation and printing of sutras, and have vegetarian meals daily – so as to create more merits for dedication. Surely, many other beings can benefit from our practice too.
– Namo Amituofo: Nagasati
(pen name used for privacy)
19 July 2016
Further notes from Shi’an: In the ‘Destination Pureland’ course, I emphasised that all should be prepared to handle death as soon as possible, as it will arrive, and it can arrive at any time, be it for ourselves or loved ones. In Nagasati’s case, it was indeed unexpected, as it was his child’s passing, which occurred even before being fully born. For a baby to come into being, there must be strong karmic affinity with the parents, which should never be made worse by premature killing. Whether already born through us or not, in the many interconnected rounds of rebirth, we have all been family members too, with whom we share collective karma, for better or worse, as dependent on how compassionately and wisely we face and handle it. Your baby was like a Bodhisattva who came to offer a great opportunity to practise Nianfo sincerely, and to increase your faith in Amituofo! Excellent! And how very moving! Thank you for your great courage and efforts to truly spiritually deliver a sentient being!
Further notes from Nagasati: We greatly appreciated your timely advice on what to do. Thanks so much! You have helped us to accomplish a future-Buddha! It also gave us a chance to have a proper and dignified closure with our baby. Through our sharing, we hope to help those who are going through similar losses like ours, to find hope, strength and comfort. More importantly, to have faith in the great vows of Amituofo, that he will surely come to guide and receive all with the right Faith, Aspiration and Practice.
Should Sick Babies Be Aborted?
Important Guidelines After Dying
What Should Be Chanted During & After A Funeral?
What Should Be Done During Cremation (Or Burial)?
Why Do Buddhists Avoid Meat-Eating & Practise Animal Liberation?
How To Practise Repentance After Abortion?