Birth in Pure Land is accomplished immediately when there is the true Practice (实行) of mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name (阿弥陀佛) with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿). (Hereafter, these Three Provisions being expressed is summarised as ‘sincere Niànfó’ [至心念佛].) Most Pure Land practitioners already have Faith, Aspiration and Practice to some extent in daily life now. What usually missing is utmost sincere Aspiration to reach Pure Land immediately, while having a default habitual sense of ‘waiting’, to see how life goes, even when sick and dying.
The average person in the dying phase might experience increasing pain nearer to death. While this pain can become a distraction from sincere Niànfó, there should be thought transformation then, by seeing the pain as a serious reminder, to have even stronger motivation, to have even more sincere Niànfó. After all, it is precisely sincere Niànfó that can alleviate pain, even before reaching Pure Land. If healthy ‘desperation’ that spurs this thinking does not arise naturally, there should be in advance and ongoing guidance, to remind the patient to have this attitude.
Even without any pain, there can be great discomfort, frustration and exhaustion in the dying process, that subtly make it more challenging to express the Three Provisions adequately. However, once there is death, with the mind disconnected from the body’s ill constraints, since there will be no more physical discomfort, frustration and exhaustion, it can be easier to have sincere Niànfó then. This is why support-chanting from the dying phase to the post-death phase should be seamless, without interruption, and with enough time.
Thus, with ongoing guidance and support-chanting, as long as the dying person does his or her best to Niànfó as sincerely as possible, all the way until death and even beyond, there is no reason the person cannot reach Pure Land eventually. If the Three Provisions are already there when alive, what left to do is to fully pump up sincere Aspiration, to want to reach Pure Land NOW, and not later, or there might be rebirth elsewhere. With no sense of ‘waiting’ at all, it is there and then, that there will be firm connection to Āmítuófó, to be received and guided to his Pure Land.
The above are reasons why many depart for Pure Land upon or even after death. They are also why it is more ideal to depart for Pure Land when well, before becoming very sick, to enter the dying phase – as this fully avoids the physical challenges mentioned. However, it is also proportionally more spiritually challenging to have utmost sincere Niànfó when well. Note that what crucial to have is great sincerity, not high concentration. Of course, it would be even better to have both, but the first is priority. Truly high concentration will after all arise later, upon connection to Āmítuófó.
How To Reach Pure Land Sooner Or Later