Question: Is there any way to help someone with dementia reach Pure Land? Will it work if the children chant and share the merits with him or her?
Answer: The way to help is to encourage understanding and chanting of Amituofo. There should be simplified and repeated sharing, due to the person’s forgetfulness and scatter-mindedness, using the same words to summarise the Pure Land teachings to hopefully get the message across, for it to be firmly planted in the person’s mind, to give rise to some faith and aspiration. Family members can take turns to do so too, in everyday life.
There should be chanting along with the person or even near the person if the person is not interested at first– on a regular or daily basis – also for firmly planting Amituofo’s name in the person’s mind. Even if the person hears the name of Amituofo repeatedly only, it is better than not doing so. Some occasional or momentary mindfulness of Amituofo is always better than none. A seed of affinity planted shallowly instead of deeply is better than not planting a seed at all.
The name of Amituofo is said to be a vajra (indestructible) seed that will grow in good time when conditions are available later, be it in this or a future life. The person should be made to associate Amituofo’s name with goodness, peace, compassion, wisdom and other virtues. Others chanting for the person in terms of creating and sharing merits is good, but the person must eventually personally give rise to the Three Provisions (Faith, Aspiration and Practice) to reach Pure Land, when past heard teachings fall into place upon reconnection.
Q: When a person with dementia dies, will he or she be able to recognise Amituofo if he comes to receive him or her?
A: It is highly possible that those with mental illness conditioned by brain defects or deterioration will have some clarity of mind in terms of well-being without the illness, as habitually before becoming ill, upon the mind’s departure and thus disconnection from the body. However, clarity might paradoxically be confusing. This is so for the average person without mental illness, and could be more so for those not used to clarity due to having been ill for a long time.
Thus, support-chanting is all the more important to aid those with mental illness – to readily remind and guide mindfulness of Buddha – which would avert confusion for clear and strong connection to Amituofo’s blessings for reaching Pure Land. If a mental illness is conditioned more by the mind itself, over the brain, theperson might still be habitually confused upon leaving the body.
However, in any case, we should start creating affinity with Amituofo by repeatedly sharing about Amituofo and chanting Amituofo with or near the person now, as soon as possible, way before death. The objective is to nurture as much remembrance and mindfulness of Amituofo as possible, so that upon dying, the person is able to muster enough wholehearted mindfulness of him, to be able to see Amituofo and go with him to his Pure Land.
Can Those With Dementia Practise Buddha Mindfulness?