Question: During support-chanting for the deceased, if there are auspicious signs, how do we know if the connection (感应道交) is between Amituofo and the deceased, or between Amituofo and the support-chanters?
Answer: According to Great Master Yinguang (the 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition) in ‘The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death’, the definite sign to look out for is final warmth on the crown of the head, which is a sign of having departed for Pure Land. He taught that this sign cannot be ‘forcibly falsified’. Another sign we can look out for would be expression of the deceased. Has it transformed from neutral or even better – to one with definite bliss?
The absolute best sign is ‘to know in advance the time of departure’ (预知时至). Does the deceased depart on time as announced earlier? Other auspicious signs indeed, might be due to the support-chanters’ own experiences only, due to their sincere Nianfo (practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’). In brief, the more signs there are, the more convincing it is on the whole that both the support-chanters and the deceased practised well.
The Third Great Essential When Approaching Death (on warmth of crown)