Q&A

Will There Be Many Distracting Karmic Obstacles When Dying?

Question: Is it so that when dying, there will be many karmic obstacles manifesting, that makes it hard to do Nianfo (practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) to be born in his Pure Land?

Answer: If one’s negative karma is very strong, coupled with lack of the Three Provisions (of Faith, Aspiration and Practice), it might be so. However, what we should focus on now is to ensure that these provisions are adequate by then. With sincere, diligent and regular Nianfo in everyday life, much negative karma can be eradicated too, thus lessening or totally eliminating deathbed obstacles.

Especially with lifelong aspiration expressed with dedication of meritorious virtues (merits) to reach Pure Land, there will be no conflicting tempting karmic manifestations that distract us from reaching Pure Land swiftly. As long as the name of Amituofo is abided upon sincerely, especially once dying and till Pure Land is reached, there will not be karmic ‘tests’. This is so as the Buddha’s immeasurable pure power of blessings is greater than our limited negative karma.

Q: What about the case of an ancient monk who created much merits while practising much Nianfo, who experienced signs of a potential heavenly rebirth?

A: Here is the actual case of the monk, Master Seng Zang as summarised… Despite cultivating much meritorious virtues with Nianfo, he had the firm aspiration to reach Pure Land. When his life was about to end, he saw many heavenly beings appear to welcome him to the various heavens. However, as his aspiration was firm, he declined. Soon, he told those present that he has just been to Amituofo’s Pure Land, and saw many beings of superior goodness there, with scattered fragrant flowers filling the sky, after which he joined his palms and departed for Pure Land again. (The actual record can be read below in Chinese, along with its simplified version.)

What noteworthy is that the record did not say he was practising Nianfo just before the heavenly beings appeared. This means their appearance was not despite Nianfo, but before Nianfo. This is similar to concerned friends visiting one before one does Nianfo in the actual dying process. Anyway, as Master Seng Zang’s aspiration was firm, the heavenly temptations did not move him the slightest. In fact, his Nianfo practice was already so good, that he swiftly made it to Pure Land, returned and announced what he saw to inspire all survivors, before finally departing for it again. It is never such, that despite sincere Nianfo, that the immeasurably compassionate Amituofo does not swiftly come to guide and receive one to the safety of his Pure Land. When the Three Provisions are adequate, he will always immediately arrive.

《净土圣贤录》 

僧藏。西河人。幼出家。屈己事人。一切恭敬。不辞劳苦。见他僧衣故。则潜为澣濯而缝纫之。天暑。脱衣坐草中。以身血肉施诸蚊蚋。日念佛号。不纪其数。确志冥心。未尝少废。及报尽。见诸天次第来迎。皆不赴。俄告人曰。适往净土。见诸上善人。散华空中。乃合掌念佛而化(宋高僧传)。

《净土圣贤录白话解释》 慧律法师讲述

僧藏。山西西河人,幼年出家,谦卑自己奉事他人,对一切人都非常恭敬有礼,从不推辞抱怨一切的艰劳辛苦。凡是看到别人的僧服破旧了,就偷偷地把它拿去清洗乾净,然後加以缝纫修补。每到夏天天气炎热时,则脱去衣服坐在草丛之中,以自己身体的血肉布施给一切蚊蟲。整日精进持念佛号,数目多得不可计算,坚定志向澄寂心念,如此地精进修行,不曾有稍微的间断中止。等到业报将尽的时候,看到诸天的天人,一一次第地来迎请,僧藏都不愿意跟随而去。不久之後僧藏告诉大家说:「我刚才往生西方净土去了,见到了诸上善人,并且看到散落的香华遍满虚空」说完即恭敬合掌,念佛往生。(宋高僧传)

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