Question: Someone I know recently spends a lot of time chanting. She says she is tired of this life, that she wishes to go to Pure Land, that she is really going soon. She would even chant when down with a serious sore throat, believing that this is good as she is clearing her negative karma. She told her family to minimise talking to her, while she mostly keeps to herself in a room to chant. Is this normal?
Answer: It is good to to practise diligently, provided that it is not at the expense of fulfilling other important responsibilities. For those who practise Buddha mindfulness (nianfo) well, they learn to make peace with the hardships of life. In fact, they deal better with life’s problems with more compassion and wisdom in a more graciously accepting and even possibly joyful manner.It is natural for Pure Land practitioners to aspire to reach Pure Land. But if one keeps lamenting that life is terrible while not taking sufficient care of the one’s responsibilities, it is hard to reach Pure Land. This is so as beyond the main practice of nianfo, we should practise the Three Acts of Merit in everyday life when possible (see Three Acts Of Merit True Causes For Pure Karma), which include helping others.For many, it is difficult to take care of all loose ends before dying, due to not being physically and spiritually prepared. But for those who practise nianfo well, they often leave with everything in order, in an inspiring way. If one’s ‘practice’ seems to make things disagreeable to many, perhaps there is lack of understanding that Dharma practice is meant to be all-rounded, to harmoniously benefit oneself and others.
It is possible at times, for karmic obstacles to arise when practising the Dharma. But if the sore throat is indeed serious, she should stop, and chant silently or mentally instead. She must have the wisdom to know when she should not overpush herself – or diligence without wisdom might become self-mortification and backfire, making it harder to nianfo properly in future.Those who practise well and are truly confident can tell in advance the date and time of their passing, before they depart blissfully with no suffering. It is hard to tell if she is really ready to go or not if the above is not announced and met in time. If there are more concerns about whether she is practising nianfo properly, it might be good to get Buddhist teachers and friends with right understanding to discuss with her.