Another wonderful experience to share, from a group member. Amituofo.
SS: Can you share your Pure Land-related experience? I think it can help to inspire many fellow Pure Land practitioners.
BK: Looks like I am going to disappoint you. Actually, I know very little about Buddhism. With regard to the vision of the Three Saints (of Western Pure Land), it caught me by surprise.
SS: That makes your experience more interesting. Can you share more? A friend (Song), who did not know much about Buddhism, had a ‘Pure Land experience’ too (see http://tinyurl.com/Amituofo6) This means your experiences were not based on preconceived ideas – which makes them even the more genuine and inspirational.
BK: It began with my mother, who was a Buddhist who frequented temples and took the precepts. On her deathbed, she had a wish to go to Pure Land. With the understanding that a sick person usually has poor concentration, I wanted to help her. So, I subsequently stood by her to remind her of practice and helped her to recite Amituofo.
On one of the days at the wake in daytime, I was standing by the side of my mother’s casket, looking at her I while reciting. Suddenly, I saw three Buddha images standing near the casket above her head. At that very moment, just when I tried to take another look, the images vanished. I was stunned for quite a while, but I felt comforted, and very much regretted not being able to take a longer look. Hopefully, this experience can help inspire some. Namo Amituofo.
SS: Thank you. Can I check – was it a vision of three Buddhas or one Buddha plus two Bodhisattvas?
BK: You might laugh at my ignorance – because to me then, a Bodhisattva was a Buddha. I was not capable of differentiating. All that I saw were ‘Buddha’ forms in white standing side by side. It was after sometime, when I spoke to someone close, that I learnt that the middle one is Amitabha Buddha and that the other two are Guanyin Bodhisattva and Great Strength Bodhisattva.
SS: This experience demonstrates how help-chanting not only helps the ones we are encouraging to chant, it helps the persons doing the help-chanting too. Just as help-chanting guides and urges the dying to be mindful of Amitabha Buddha, it is also an opportunity for the ones doing help-chanting to practise seriously. When Pure Land practice groups do regular chanting together, it is also a form of ‘help-chanting’ – as everyone in the group motivates one another to practise well.
The best gift we can give to those departing from this life is to guide them to be reborn in the safest place in the next life, where Nirvana is guaranteed – in Pure Land. This is so since we cannot ‘give’ them Nirvana! Likewise, when we are departing, the best gift we can leave behind for our loved ones is the assurance that we are born in Pure Land, and that they can do it too.
The experience also shows that even when Pure Land practitioners do not yet have deep understanding of the Pure Land teachings, or even Buddhist teachings in general, the Pure Land method can still work well – as long as one practises sincerely. While we might think that great sincerity arises from great faith, great faith can also arise from great sincerity. From great sincerity, great faith arises, which leads to greater aspiration to have greater practice of the Pure Land teachings. With this greater practice, birth in Pure Land is further assured.
The experience illustrates a seemingly typically short-lived Pure Land experience. However, this should not be seen as disheartening – because it is indeed difficult to maintain purity of mind for extended periods of time to tune to the enlightened. This is why we need to practise. This is also why birth in Pure Land is precious and important – as the pure environment of Pure Land helps us to sustain enough purity of mind, while we work towards ending all delusions by total purification of the mind. As such, even if a Pure Land experience in this life is brief, it is invaluable – as proof to us that the Pure Land teachings are always valid and true.
Not differentiating the Three Saints and thus seeing or thinking they are the same is interesting – especially when BK did not know who the Three Saints were individually. This experience might have parallels to Song’s experience of seeing all people as similar to the Buddhas. Just as Song was most likely ‘seeing’ the Buddha-nature of different people with a sense of equanimity, BK could had taken a glimpse of the same Buddha-nature of all Three Saints. It is also believed that great Bodhisattvas are compassionate re-manifestations of ancient Buddhas. The Buddhas too, can see the Buddha-nature of all unenlightened beings. Together with Song’s experience, BK’s experience shows that Pure Land experiences are archetypal in nature – having similar characteristics. This is further proof of the universality of Pure Land experiences.