5th March 2003 diary entry: “On 28th October 2001, I [Lucille (her real name protected for privacy), age 47] discovered a lump in my left breast. I was shocked! ‘What should I do?’ I asked myself. Every day I said prayers, and chanted the name of Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha), asking the Buddha for help. Every day and every night, I applied mentholatum, as I continued to say my prayers. Even though I was going through a difficult time, I watched myself mindfully every day. I already had much faith in the Buddha, and I knew he would help me in some way. I didn’t feel well, but with mindfulness of Buddha, I managed to struggle through each day.
I didn’t believe doctors could help me then. I only believed in the Buddha. I told myself to accept anything that might happen to me. ‘I will accept it. I will accept it.’ These practices continued… To my surprise, about a year later, the lump disappeared (around November to December 2002). I was very happy, and thanked the Buddha. Although my health is not completely good, I now feel much better than in the past. Again, I need to thank the Buddha for saving me. Amituofo!”
After much thought, over the course of seven years, Lucille decided to share the above on 2nd April 2009, because she realised that her personal testimony on the efficacy of mindfulness of Buddha could help many more. As a prelude to her experience, she became more serious about learning the Dharma when her husband suffered from a stroke in 1991. Though he was unable to speak, she gave him prayer beads and urged him to practise mindfulness of Buddha, even if he could only do it silently in his mind. To her surprise, he eventually managed to utter ‘Amituofo’ aloud once. He passed away peacefully three years later (in 1994), which urged her to study and practise the Dharma even more diligently.
Some time after the healing incident above, one of Lucille’s Buddhist friends contracted breast cancer. However, it seemed that she was very much attached to life, to wanting to be healed conventionally, and perhaps consulted too many doctors. This was while she did not seem to have adequate faith in the power of faithful mindfulness of Buddha, despite trying to practise. Perhaps her faith was disproportionally placed despite the desperation of her situation – with confidence more in worldly healing than spiritual healing. Her last days were painful as the cancer spread to the other breast with decay setting in. However, she had many good Dharma friends, who chanted much for her during her seven-day funeral, after which her elder son had an auspicious dream of her telling him that she had become a practising Bodhisattva in Amituofo’s Pure Land. It is likely that the power of support-chanting from her friends significantly urged her to be equally faithfully mindful of Buddha, thus making rebirth in Pure Land possible.
In Lucille’s case, she was ready to renounce all attachment to life (and death) and seek birth in Pure Land, while she had full confidence that Amituofo is the ‘Great King of Healing’ (大医王 : ‘Dayiwang’), thus entrusting herself totally to his blessings with sincere mindfulness, without any trace of doubt. Though doctors’ advice ought to be sought for professional advice when needed, we should realise that medicine is powerless against very strong negative karma and the inevitability of death. The healthy attitude to have when facing a possibly fatal illness is to just do what is needed medically and spiritually, while not being attached to specific results, because things do not always turn out as we wish. This open-hearted state of mind is reflected in the third stanza of the verses ‘What’s Useful on My Deathbed?’ below.
Lucille’s experience reminds us that the Pure Land practice has curative effects for ailments too, as Amituofo has boundless great merits to share with all beings – if only we connect to him adequately via Faith, Aspiration and Practice to let him help. However, the chief goal of Pure Land practice is still to seek birth in Pure Land, to learn from Amituofo directly, so as to become enlightened Bodhisattvas and swiftly return to Samsara to aid others in suffering.