[50] How I Prepared My Mother For Reaching Pure Land

Hi Brother Shi’an, Amituofo (阿弥陀佛). I would like to share a little about how attending your ‘Destination Pureland: How To Have The Best Rebirth’ course two years ago (https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2017/06/destination-pureland-how-to-have-the-best-rebirth-7th-run which introduced use of the instructions in ‘The Pure Land Passport: The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death’: purelanders.com/passport) greatly benefited my Mother and family.

My main impetus to attend the course was to find out what I could do to prepare for the eventual passing of my 90+ year old Mother, to help her reach Pure Land.

Around June July 2016, my Mother’s health deteriorated such that she had a very high tendency of tripping and falling. Desperate, and fearful that karmic forces might be catching up with her, we pretty much dragged her on a wheelchair to attend 3 days of chanting the name of Amituofo (Nianfo) at a temple. As a way of persuading her to focus on sincere Nianfo, I told her that this would be an excellent opportunity for her to create and dedicate the merits of her Nianfo to her parents (whom she did not have an opportunity to see them again when she was married off). Surprisingly, this skilful means worked well. She chanted using her beads for at least 30 minutes in each session. After that trip, her health gradually improved, thanks to the immeasurable compassion of Amituofo. This also greatly increased my faith in Amituofo and Nianfo too.

After completing the course, I did the following…

[1] I kept a set of the Rebirth Blanket (往生被) with her. [2] I sat beside her to chant Amituofo together for 5-10 minutes whenever I visited her, as she could not concentrate longer, and always wanted to tell me old stories. [3] I encouraged her to Nianfo, so that she can reach Pure Land, to return one day, as a ‘small Buddha’ (i.e. Bodhisattva) to ‘bless her children and grandchildren’ (保佑子孙). That was the only incentive that she could readily understand and accept. [4] I prepared my siblings on what to do for her eventual passing. E.g. offering of guidance, no crying and touching, being prepared to chant Amituofo for eight hours, usage of the Rebirth Blanket etc. [5] I increased my chanting’s concentration to last for at least one hour for each round.

On the day of her passing five months ago, my Mother complained about chest pains. At the hospital, the doctor advised us to start an IV drip with anti-clotting medicine due to her heart attack symptoms. My younger sister asked her to continue chanting of Amituofo as the nurse prepared the drip. But she passed away before the drip even begun.

By the time we brought her home, it was almost five hours later. Two Buddhist family members put on the Rebirth Blanket and started chanting Amituofo. Very fortunately, her Chinese TCM physician, a pious member of a Pure Land Buddhist society came to conduct the support-chanting (助念). A complete stranger with very tenuous link to my Mother but with a lot of support-chanting experience then showed up at midnight to take turns with the physician. I rushed back from an overseas business trip early the next morning, and all of us continued chanting – for a total of about 12 hrs. My Mother’s body was very supple and soft, such that we had no problems helping to change her clothing. She looked very peaceful, as if in deep sleep.

Mother had taken refuge 20 years ago but did not understand anything about the sutras. However, the physician assured us that my Mother should have gone to Pure Land immediately due to her long years of chanting Amituofo, as he heard so often during her TCM visits, to ‘follow Amituofo to go’ (跟着佛走).

On the second day of the wake, my youngest sister encountered a unique fragrance for about 15 minutes in the living room where we gathered to do Nianfo around my Mother’s casket. The fragrance was distinctively different from that of incense. (Extraordinary fragrance filling the room [异香满堂] is an auspicious sign too.) Several months later, she experienced a very similar fragrance while doing Nianfo while walking during a 3-day Nianfo retreat (佛三) at Singapore Buddhist Lodge.

During the 5-day wake, almost all family members took turns to chant Amituofo non-stop for 24 hours. Throughout, it was very calm and peaceful. I kept telling everyone that we should all be very happy that she passed away in such a peaceful manner, which is a great blessing.

Personally, there was a strong sense of relief, that I had done every little filial part to help in my Mother’s path to Pure Land. I switched to vegetarianism a year ago after reading about its benefits for the deceased in the Ksitigarbha Sutra (地藏经). I also insisted on not having meat dishes at the wake and on the seven seventh days (七七) just to please the palates of some relatives. Sometimes I wonder if my Mother had ‘waited’ these many years until I finally became a practising Buddhist.

Regards, BG
4 April 2018


Among other lessons, there were two important skilful means shared, on how to encourage the elderly and less learned in Buddhism to Nianfo –

[1] Urge them to Nianfo sincerely for benefiting THEIR deceased loved ones (i.e. ancestors), such as their own parents, with merits accumulated and dedicated for their well-being.

[2] Urge them to Nianfo sincerely for benefiting THEIR descendants, such and children and grandchildren, with the aspiration to reach Pure Land, so as to be able to continue looking after them, without forgetting their past life connections.

As the elderly are often more concerned about family members than themselves, the above ways to motivate, by ‘looking backwards’ (to care for the deceased), and by ‘looking forward’ (to care for the living) can be very useful.

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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