Hi Shi’an, in our most recent Zhunian (support-chanting) session, Brother Kee and I had a wonderful experience, and we would like to share it with you. On the afternoon of 29.04.14, we were informed by Sister YJ (a support-chanting group leader) to attend a Linzhong Zhunian (support-chanting when approaching death) session for an old lady at Ang Mo Kio (AMK). Shortly after, another message informed us that the AMK session would be led by another person, and that Yujuan’s group will go to National University Hospital (NUH) instead because a critically ill man there was more in need of her assistance. So, we decided to go to NUH.
When we arrived at NUH, we were ushered into a Quiet Room, where a thin and pale young man of perhaps 40, Mr. C.T. Tan, was propped up on his bed and covered from chest down with a Wangshengbei (Rebirth Blanket: for protection and blessing). As he had difficulty breathing, he wore an oxygen mask, while his chest trembled at regular intervals. He had several tubes attached to his body. His eyes were closed in pain.
A few relatives and family members in the room were not doing Nianfo but just staring at him, with tears welling up in their eyes. One was fiddling with her phone. Only Yujuan, her friend, Mr. Tan’s Aunts, Brother Kee, two friends whom we brought and I were doing Zhunian.
After about half an hour, Mr. Tan suddenly opened his eyes, looked around the room, and looked intently for a few minutes at Amituofo’s picture that was hung right in front of his bed, before gesturing that he wished to speak to his Sister. When his Sister came close, he tried to speak through the oxygen mask with rather strong gesticulations, but it was difficult to understand him. I only heard ‘100 percent! 100 percent!’ He was given a pencil with paper, with which he wrote a note.
Mr. Tan then put his palms together, looked at Amituofo’s picture and did Nianfo aloud, despite having tubes and the mask attached. Everyone in the room was very touched, and immediately put their palms together too, and did Nianfo loudly to support him. How wonderful!
We found out later that Mr. Tan’s message was – ‘I have 100 percent faith in Amituofo [Amitabha Buddha]. I want to go to his Pure Land all the way – 100 percent! Dear family members and relatives who are not Buddhists, please help to chant Amituofo’s name with me.’
We left the hospital an hour later when more people arrived to Zhunian. Mr. Tan seemed to be sleeping then but was still breathing heavily into his mask. Brother Kee and I were happy that so many people were there to Nianfo with him to fulfil his last wishes. Even Mr. Tan’s Sister, who is a Christian, acceded to his request and did Nianfo with him.
When we reached our car, we received a text message that the old lady at AMK had just passed away. I thought, ‘This young man lasted longer than the old lady, but I’m still glad that I went to NUH to witness this wonderful incident.’ It made my faith in Amituofo even stronger! Two hours later, Yujuan informed us that Mr. Tan has passed away. Good for Mr. Tan, for he knew what to do in his final hours! As Yujuan put it, ‘Amituofo’s Pure Land has a new migrant from Singapore – Mr. C.T. Tan.’
Mr. Tan’s case reminds us of these important lessons:
- Just as he approached death when relatively young, probably without earlier expectation of this, we too should not expect that we will all live to a ripe old age, as how our karma will unfold is difficult to predict. This is why we must all practise Nianfo regularly and diligently, so as to fortify our Three Provisions well in everyday life in case we run out of time.
- Towards the moment of death, due to a final burst of energy, a dying person might have some moments with sudden physical strength and mental clarity. As this is not true recovery and might not last long, support-chanting should not stop.
- Perhaps due to the support-chanting, he was reminded of his faith in Amituofo in time. Despite his great physical difficulties, he was willing to, as a last and wonderful teaching to everyone present, express his Three Provisions of great Faith, Aspiration and Practice with unwavering determination and enthusiasm. This unified and inspired those otherwise lost and uninterested, which in turn helps their Three Provisions to arise too.
- As it is difficult to ensure we will not have karmic obstacles of pain and uneasiness ripening when we are dying, we must mindfully practise the avoiding of evil and the doing of more good in everyday life to benefit others with compassion, to accumulate positive karma to dissolve existing negative karma, so as to better facilitate smooth and swift rebirth in Amituofo’s Pure Land.
Amituofo! Jac & Kee
(With notes by Shen Shi’an)