Question: Can one who passes away in a coma state be reborn in Pure Land?
Answer: One can still be born in Pure Land despite passing away in a coma, as long as one’s mind practises mindfulness of Amituofo with the Three Provisions (Faith, Aspiration and Practice) accordingly. This person should ideally have some understanding of the Pure Land teachings too. A ‘crash course’ can be given at the deathbed by reciting or explaining at least the Amitabha Sutra (as it is not ‘too long’). If one is deceased and already in the bardo state, one has the power to read the mind of the reciter who has right understanding to pick up the essential teachings.
We should not confuse being in a coma as the mind being asleep or ‘dead’, as mind activity cannot always be measured physically in terms of brain activity and such, and will always ‘go on and on’ (within this life and from life to life) till one transcends both mind and matter to become enlightened. One’s mind might not even be within the body during the dying process. E.g. One might be having an Out-of-Body Experience. If the consciousness is far away, that person might not know there is help offered; if the consciousness is near, one will know and possibly heed the advice of practising mindfulness of Amituofo. Thus, being bodily (physically) alive but unconscious does not mean being deceased or already reborn. (However, when the consciousness is out of the body for too long, the body naturally dies.)
Even if the mind exits the body and enters the bardo (intermediate) state at death, one can still practise mindfulness of Amituofo, though it might be relatively more challenging, since entering the bardo state means there is still attachment to the life that just transpired. This attachment makes it harder to be willing to let go, to aspire and practise to be born in Pure Land.
In short, there is always hope that one can be reborn in Pure Land – as long as one is not reborn elsewhere yet. Even after one is reborn in another realm, one can still practise there and then to be reborn in Pure Land in the immediate next life – if one has the conditions to remember or re-learn about mindfulness of Amituofo, such that the Three Provisions become adequate.
If one is (suspected to be) in a bardo state after death, Dharma friends can gather, at the wake for instance (and beyond), to practise mindfulness of Amituofo aloud to better guide the consciousness of the deceased to do the same, so as to be reborn in Pure Land. Even if that person is already reborn elsewhere (in an unfortunate realm), this practice is beneficial as its merits can be shared to alleviate suffering in the new life and assist in more swiftly having a more fortunate rebirth. However, to be reborn in Pure Land still requires some personal Self-power practice, to link with the Other-power of Amituofo.
Dynamics of Karma in Pure Land Practice When Dying (While Sleeping)
Mindfulness of Buddha While in a Dream