A close relative passed away during March 2007 due to cancer. He had no Buddhist background, other than occasionally accompanying his wife to pray to ancestors during some festivals. After being diagnosed with cancer around November 2006, several relatives and myself managed to talk him into seeking refuge in the Triple Gem. He agreed without needing much persuasion – even though we did not think that he had ‘faith’ in Triple Gem then. After the taking refuge around December 2006, his health started to deteriorate. By Lunar New Year, his cancer got worse – so much that he couldn’t eat without throwing up. Some parts of his body began to swell, and he had to take morphine in regular and increased doses – which had side effects. There were times when the pain was so unbearable that he wanted to commit suicide.
Seeing him in so much pain, many of us helped to persuade his wife to allow a group of Buddhist friends to come over to his house to recite the ‘Earth Store Sutra’ (Di Zhang Jing) for about three times. At the same time, we passed him DVDs of recorded Buddhists talks to help him increase his faith in Amitabha Buddha and to seek repentence. And most importantly, to encourage him to Nianfo (practise mindfulness of Amituofo) to overcome his fear. Around the end of February, he decided to use part of his savings for animal liberation, as well as for contributing of tile costs to a temple’s building fund. His wife, on several occasions, did animal liberation on his behalf, especially when he was hospitalised and in great pain. Some friends also went to the hospital and recited Amitabha Sutra for him.
Several times, I have witnessed that his pain decreased, as he felt more at peace during or after the recitation. The last time he returned home from hospital, another group of friends who are Pure Land practioners (and relatives) came over to recite ‘中峰三时系念’ (Zhongfeng Sanshi Xinian), as well as having more regular Nianfo sessions. Nearing his end, he was able to predict his passing. Two weeks before his passing, he told his wife that he was going ‘home’ (though he was ‘already’ at home). Hearing this, she was taken aback, thinking he was ‘hallucinating’, before quickly realizing that he might be refering to his passing. She ‘played along’ and asked him when that would be… and he showed her two fingers. She marked the date on a calendar. Exactly two weeks later, with the blessings of the Triple Gem and with the aid of many friends who came over to do ‘help-chanting’ (zhunian) for several nights consecutively, he left for Pure Land after bidding his wife ‘Amituofo’ (instead of ‘Goodbye’) at around midnight. After his departure, there were many positive signs that he had reached Pure Land.
Many friends and relatives who have witnessed his passing and the positive signs rejoiced, and were truly touched by the immense compassion of Amituofo and his vows. He had only got to know Amituofo for barely a few short months, yet he was able to attain birth in Pure Land. Based on this observation, it seems that even though we might have strong faith in Amituofo, we shouldn’t be overly ‘confident’ – as we do not know how much merits we have. Therefore, regular ‘merit-making’ (e.g. such as practising animal liberation) is very important, which would definitely aid our birth in Pure Land. Also, I don’t see how any of us who has started to Nianfo for some time now could not to go to Pure Land – as long as we continue to sincerely get down to ‘just do it’. Amituofo!