Question: Someone else asked, ‘One person earnestly recites the buddha-name (Amituofo) his whole life, but on the brink of death regresses for a moment, and consequently does not get to go to the Pure Land. One person piles up evil his whole life, but on the brink of death aspires to enlightenment and recites the buddha-name, and consequently gets to go to the Pure Land. Why should the good person lose and the evil person gain?’
Answer: Ah! Only one person in a million accumulates evil his whole life and then achieves correct mindfulness on the brink of death. Without the roots of goodness from past lives, on his deathbed he will be harried by pain and suffering and plunged into darkness and confusion: how would he be able to generate correct mindfulness? Again, among good people, only one in a million regresses on the brink of death. If there is such a person, it must be that his lifelong buddha-name recitation was done casually and in vain: it was not pure and earnest.
‘Pure’ means that his mind was not chaotic and mixed [with other concerns as he recited the buddha-name]. ‘Earnest’ means that there were no mental interruptions or breaks [to his recitation]. So [if his recitation was pure and earnest], how could any regression occur? This being so, those who do evil should come to their senses quickly, and not falsely imagine that they will have this kind of undeserved good fortune on the brink of death. Those who seek the Pure Land with a genuine mind should be ever more pure and earnest, and not worry that on the brink of death they will regress.
– Master Zhuhong (8th Patriarch of Pure Land Tradition)