Question: I have been holding a very sick relative’s hand while he practises nianfo (mindfulness of Amituofo’s name). Is this alright? If he suddenly departs, would I be ‘holding’ him back?
Answer: If the patient is still doing okay, as in not exactly dying yet, it is best to let go his hand gradually, until there is no holding at all. This will help him lessen attachment to you and your presence. However, do let him know you are near by doing nianfo together regularly.
We should avoid touching the body of the dying and that of the newly deceased (for at least eight hours upon physical death), as this can be very painful due to the magnification of physical sensitivity when the mind frees itself of the body, or if it still resides in it. Touching the body might also be interpreted as asking the dying not to leave, which might disrupt a smooth departure. We should simply focus on nianfo.
It is good to work towards encouraging him to nianfo regularly by himself too – because during the actual moments of departure, there might be no one else around to do supportive-chanting. Amituofo’s name can be played constantly in the background as a reminder and facilitator.