Question: Is it such that when one is born, one’s fate is predestined?
Answer: The answers can be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It is more or less ‘yes’, if one does not do anything significantly good or evil, to change the course of life that karmically unfolds, based on past karma. It is more or less ‘no’, if one actively does much good and avoids evil (or vice versa), to change the course of life that karmically unfolds when interacting with the new karma created.
Question: Is it such that once karmic creditors are repaid, one can depart from this life?
Answer: The bad news is that we all have many karmic creditors due to our many past lives and much misdeeds done. This makes it extremely difficult to ensure all karmic debts are paid in this present lifetime.
The good news is that karmic creditors do not all manifest in this present life, due to limits of karmic conditions that allow so at any one point in time. Thus, it is not so that all karmic debts have to be repaid before death or reaching of Pure Land. The truly complete repayment of karmic creditors can be done by reaching Pure Land, to train well as Bodhisattvas there, so as to guide them also to Pure Land.
More importantly, there are the continual practices for creating merits, expressing repentance and dedicating merits to all beings, including karmic creditors, to keep paying off our debts in everyday life. Nianfo (practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) is perhaps the easiest way to accumulate merits for dedication. It can also be done to express repentance. There is also the protection of all Buddhas from karmic creditors when there is sincere mindfulness of Amituofo.
Question: When practising Nianfo sincerely, as powered by the Three Provisions (of Faith, Aspiration and Practice), as one will be able to carry one’s negative karma to be reborn in Pure Land, does this make one no longer predestined by one’s karmic debts, able to choose the time of departure?
Answer: Those able to choose are those already with strong connection to Amituofo well before death, while others can still connect to Amituofo during or after death. When one’s mixed karma (with the positive and the negative) is connected firmly to Amituofo’s immense merits (which dilutes the negative), the time can be chosen with his blessings.
We should not overestimate the great but still limited power of our negative karma, while underestimating the immeasurable power of Amituofo’s blessings. To do so is to lack Faith, to be weak in the first provision, what more the other two.