How Should Pure Land Practitioners View The Intermediate State?

Question: Will those reaching Pure Land, heaven or hell enter the bardo (intermediate) state?

Answer: As the question is broadly asked, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer will not do. ONLY three kinds of beings will not go through the bardo state. [1] Those who are VERY proficient Pure Land practitioners – so much so, that they depart for Pure Land directly from their bodies before, during or right after death. [2] Those whose karma is so VERY positive, AND are willing to let go of the transpired life, to ascend to a heaven. [3] Those whose karma is so VERY negative, that they are forced to descend to a hell.

NOT all who EVENTUALLY reach Pure Land, a heaven or hell depart for so immediately, without going through the intermediate state. [i] Some average practitioners might depart from the body, and enter the bardo state, but eventually receive enough guidance with support-chanting to be adequately mindful of Amituofo to reach Pure Land. It is NOT true that birth for Pure Land is only upon end of physical life in terms of end of breathing, as it is possible to reach Pure Land before, during and after expiry of breath.

[ii] Some might be attached to the transpired life, despite having quite a bit of positive karma, and enter the bardo state, but eventually let go, and accord with the karma to reach a heaven. [iii] Some might have quite a bit of negative karma, enter the bardo state, and with some aggravation, eventually fall into a hell. To summarise, unless of the special cases, as in [1], [2] and [3], there are other cases, as in [i], [ii] and [iii](It is also possible to be reborn as hungry ghosts, animals, asuras and humans.)  

Question: What should we note about transitional states when dying and after death?

Answer: Pure Land practitioners need NOT bother about these – not because all will not go through them, but that before death, when dying and even after death, as long as Pure Land is not yet reached, all should only practise mindfulness of Amituofo’s name (Nianfo) as sincerely as possible, till Amituofo is connected to, for guiding to his Pure Land. Since all transitional experiences (e.g. dissolution of the elements, various lights, and changing bardo states) are NOT the subjects for focus, they should be ignored, to avoid being distracted from sincere Nianfo – which is the most skilful way to reach Pure Land.

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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