Hi Shi’an Laoshi, I missed the previous lesson on ‘The 48 Great Vows of Āmítuófó’ as I was on a business trip in Shanghai. Two nights ago, I was sleeping alone on the king-sized bed in a hotel room. In the middle of the night, I heard noises of someone beside me, beating the mattress.
I remember the feeling of fear. I tried to Niànfó (i.e. chant the name of Amitā[bha] Buddha – ‘Āmítuófó’) aloud, with my eyes closed as I was afraid. But somehow, I was slurring, such that my Niànfó was not loud and clear. I persisted for a few times, before I could Niànfó once clearly.
When I was able to do that, the sound of the beating stopped, and the fear just vanished. I continued to Niànfó until I fell asleep again. Thank you for your guidance on Niànfó. I am looking forward to attending more courses to learn more about Buddhism from you.
Namo Amituofo : Pepo
(Name changed for privacy)
 It is not uncommon that there might be haunted hotel rooms, due to the high transitional volume of both seen and unseen beings, with some of the seen (human) beings becoming unseen ones while in the room, if they died there, who are still attached. Wandering spirits from elsewhere might come in to stay too, who might see themselves as the ‘owners’ of the room, with us being the intruders.
 As such, it makes good sense to knock on the door before one’s first entry, saying ‘Āmítuófó’ respectfully, as a way of expressing good will, and to let known of one’s entry. This is basic courtesy, just as we would prefer others to let their presence be known before entering our rooms. With less a sense of rudeness or intrusion, there should be less or no disturbance, if haunted. It is also for protection. Of course, rooms should be changed if they are too challenging to stay in.
 If fearful, one should Niànfó immediately for the mindful protection of all Buddhas, and if less fearful, even offer simple words of guidance to compassionately encourage sincere Niànfó till Āmítuófó is seen, to follow him for reaching his Pure Land, where there is no more suffering, only with bliss.
 For more peace of mind, Niànfó should also be done by itself while awake, while doing other things in the room, and when going to sleep. Āmítuófó’s name can be played aloud too, to remind oneself and any possibly present beings to Niànfó. Remember though, that played recordings by themselves do not offer power of protection or motivation, while ‘live’ guidance and Niànfó that functions like support-chanting does.
 Mental Niànfó done sincerely will do, if due to fear, or some unknown reason, there is difficulty to recite verbally. Likewise, on the deathbed, we are likely to eventually become too weak to Niànfó aloud. With more sincere and regular Niànfó practice in everyday life, the easier it will be to Niànfó swiftly in emergencies too – be it aloud or silent.
 There was fear, that led to sincere Niànfó, still with some fear, after which fear dissipated upon connection to Āmítuófó’s blessings – after even just a single chant. This is a good reminder that the key state of mind to Niànfó with is sincerity. This is while some mistake that they must be in a very calm or highly concentrated state to Niànfó for connecting to Āmítuófó.
 The truth is, unless already a very good practitioner, it is not easy for the average person to Niànfó very calmly, or with high concentration when dying, due to possibly much pain and fear present. Yet, it is still possible to Niànfó very sincerely, when it is realised that there is no better way to handle the pain and fear. It is upon connection to Āmítuófó that pain and fear subsides, not before, or there would be less need to Niànfó. Of course, even if without pain and fear, there should be Niànfó to reach Pure Land for the swiftest progress to Buddhahood.
 Is this case due to sleep paralysis? As sleep paralysis is caused by waking up before the brain is ready to function the body fully, it is usually with immobility with inability to speak – but there was ability to move and chant in this case. Though there are cases of sleep paralysis with auditory hallucination, what heard were very location specific sounds, not those usually reported. Even if this case was really a version of sleep paralysis, what matters is that the sudden fear was genuine, and that Niànfó vanquished this fear swiftly. Niànfó can vanquish fear, from both inner or outer sources.
 As above, even one single recitation of Āmítuófó’s name can be powerful when sincere, enabling connection to his blessings for protection. With this same principle, we know that Pure Land can be reached within one chant too. This is as taught by Śākyamuni Buddha in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra (无量寿经) –
‘All sentient beings, [who] hear his name [i.e. Āmítuófó], [with the] mind [of] FAITH rejoice, even if [for] ONE THOUGHT, [with the] SINCERE mind dedicating, ASPIRING [to be] born in that [Pure] Land [of his, they will] immediately attain rebirth there, [to] abide [in] non-retrogression [i.e. only with progression towards Buddhahood].
Only excluded [are those with the] Five Heinous Transgressions [i.e. killing of Father, killing of Mother, killing of Arhat, causing Buddha to bleed, creating schism in the Saṅgha], [who] slander [the] right Dharma, [especially the Pure Land teachings, unless they repent in time].’
 The key reason we are not received to be in Pure Land NOW, despite many recitations of Āmítuófó’s name, is that we have not expressed the ‘sincere mind dedicating, aspiring to be born’ there NOW, wishing to go later instead, perhaps when older and when very sick, when there is no other reason to stay and suffer.