When our Father Mr. Y.C. Koh (1918 – 2011, age 93) was about 14 years old, he already considered himself a Buddhist. He took refuge through Venerable Hong Choon of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. His daily recitation practices included Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra; Chapter on the Universal Door of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva (Pumenpin); Diamond Sutra; Amitabha Sutra; Contemplation Sutra (Guan Wuliangshoufojing); Great Compassion Mantra; Heart Sutra and Amitabha Buddha’s name (Amituofo). At different phases of his life, he concentrated on reciting different sutras. During the later part of his life when his health deteriorated, he focused on Ksitigarbaha Bodhisattva Sutra; Great Compassionate Mantra; the Six-Syllable Mantra (Om Mani Padme Hum); Amitabha Sutra; the 48 Vows of Amitabha Buddha and his name.
He suffered from a weak heart and deteriorating memory – mainly age-related conditions. A few days before his passing, he complained of pain in the heart. About 4 months before his passing, he had a tumour removed from his bladder and recovered well, though he had to use a urinary bag then. He had severe eczema on his lower legs, feet and bottom. Apart from the above, he generally enjoyed good health for a man in his 90’s. Every day, he did stretching, walking and light exercises.He was a compassionate man. In his younger days, when my mother bought fish and meat, he would sprinkle Dabeishui (water consecrated with the Great Compassion Mantra) over them and say prayers in the hope that they can have better rebirths. When he read of unnatural deaths and disasters in the papers, he would spend a whole day in a temple, at our neighbourhood park, or our flat’s void deck to pray and dedicate merits to the affected strangers. When we were young, he took us all, his children, to take refuge with Venerable Yen Pei. He said it was to ‘plant the seeds’, for us to be never be apart from the Triple Gem.
On Monday morning, 10 October 2011 at 7.30 am, our domestic helper discovered that he had passed on. He was lying on his side facing West, with his hands near his face and his prayer beads nearby. She helped to clean him as there was some excreta, with minimum disturbance to his body, and applied the Sand of Bright Golden Light on his crown, forehead, throat, heart, navel, palms, knees and soles, then laid mantra wheel papers on his chest, and covered his body, except for his face, with the Rebirth Blanket (Wangshengbei). She then called to inform us.By 9.30 am, recitation of Amituofo had begun by his bedside, led by one of his grandchildren, before ending at about 8 pm. Near the beginning of the chanting, as I was the next to join in, I verbally comforted and reassured our Father that all our family members would be well, united and take care of one another. I told him not to worry about us, especially our bedridden Mother, who has dementia. I advised him to let go of us, of everything here, and to seek birth in Amituofo’s Pure Land. I encouraged him to concentrate on his name, to chant together with us, and that he should, without hesitation, upon Amituofo’s appearance, follow him to his Pure Land, where there is no more suffering of old age and sickness. I advised him to go first, that he will be the trailblazer for us, that we will follow when it is our time.For those who could not resist their tears, I gestured them to leave the room, to re-enter when they are composed. As such, there was no noisy wailing or crying. Touching his body was strongly discouraged. We did not do embalming, so as to minimise disturbance.
- His body and face bore a radiant golden-yellow hue.
- His body was soft and supple.
- His expression was as if peacefully asleep.
- The left corner of his mouth was slightly drooped in the morning but by evening, it was gone.
- His lips bore their natural colour (not black or pale).
- Though half his teeth in his upper jaw were extracted, his mouth and lips appeared full and without indentation, even without dentures.
- About one week before his passing, the upper part of his feet were more full than normal. The bunions and pain at his feet had disappeared, and his feet were no longer out of shape due to the bunions.
- A few weeks before his passing, his stubborn eczema and skin problems had healed.
- Verbatim account from his granddaughter, who left her workplace for his house to initiate the chanting:“I was in a traffic jam for about 1 hour and 15 minutes in a cab, which cost $44.60 (usual fare is $25). Throughout the journey, I could not stop crying and used up the box of tissues that the driver offered me. When I reached Ah Gong’s (grandfather’s) house, my tears had dried up. The driver told me just before I alighted that in his years of being a driver, he had never been in such a bad jam during such heavy downpour (from Upper East Coast to Jurong). He asked me why it turned out this way. It took me a second to collect my thoughts. I said that it’s a divine arrangement to ensure I am done with initial stages of grieving, to get over the shock (his departure), so that by the time I arrive, I would be composed enough to do prayers for Ah Gong. He affirmed with me and said that’s what he thought as well! He also comforted me that Ah Gong departed at a ripe old age, that the heavens are also sad with his passing.
- On Friday night, 7 October, before she left for an overseas trip, his youngest daughter who lives with him, enquired after his heart condition and his mouth ulcers. He replied that he would be well in 3 days’ time. She overheard him saying his prayer, ‘Let us together repent and take refuge in the Triple Gem. You all repeat after me. We vow to be reborn in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land.’ (On hindsight, he already knew, and was announcing his departure in advance, saying that he will be free of illness forever when he reaches Pure Land. Perhaps, he had a vision of Amitabha Buddha, and wanted us to take refuge together, as a final reminder to be born in his Pure Land.)
- On Saturday afternoon, 8 October, he asked for coffee and bread from the domestic helper. He prayed before he ate. (This was ‘extra’ diligence.) Usually, he did not pray before snack time, and only did prior to main meals which contains non-vegetarian foods. Because of his recent operation, he consumed some fish, while he had already been vegetarian for a few years. He also told the helper, ‘Lagi tiga hari, you kerja senang’ (translation: ‘3 more days, and your job would be easier.’)
- On Sunday night, 9 October, he prayed past 12.30 am (Monday morning), which was later than usual. The domestic helper informed him that she would like to retire to bed before noting the time. (This again, was ‘extra’ diligence – as it was his final practice session in this life.)
- On Monday night at the wake, the youngest and third daughters smelt incense near Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s (whom he greatly admired) image, which was quite near the casket. (The smell of extraordinary fragrance that cannot be physically traced is a sign of auspicious rebirth.)
- On Tuesday morning, 11 October, the domestic helper smelt incense in her room only. (She sleeps with our Mother in another room.) No one lit incense in the house that morning.
- On Friday morning, at about 5.30 am, the youngest daughter and a granddaughter smelt fragrance of flowers near Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s image.
- After cremation, we found ‘sharira flowers’ (se li hua) of various colours on his bones such as white, green, quartz-pink, coral-hue, black…
Namo Amituofo: Koh Sisters