One recent evening, I received a call from a cousin, informing me that her seriously ill Mother (i.e. my Aunt) is in very bad condition. He asked if I can recommend a funeral service provider. After giving a contact, I proceeded to the hospital to visit, and later to my Aunt’s house, as she had requested to go home.
I brought along a Rebirth Blanket (往生被), Blessed Sand Of Golden Bright Light (金光明沙), Niànfó device (念佛机) and a picture of the Three Sages Of The Western Pure Land (西方三圣) – in case they can be used with support-chanting (助念), as none of my Aunt‘s children are Buddhists, thus not knowing how to help.
Upon reaching her home, I could see her drifting in and out of consciousness, with her eyes staring upwards. All her children and grandchildren were standing around, looking very sad and worried, trying their best to make her comfortable.
I knew that the best thing we could do is to provide support-chanting as soon as possible. However, I hesitated, as I was unsure of how receptive my cousins were. Yet, deep within, I knew that as a practising Buddhist, I just could not see someone dying without helping (见死不救), or I will definitely regret.
I told my Aunt’s eldest daughter that in my religion‘s practice, we would start support-chanting in such a situation, to provide protection to the dying from karmic creditors (冤亲债主), and to guide for connection with Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛) to be born in his Pure Land (净土). To my surprise, she was very open and asked me to proceed.
I proceeded to prepare, briefing everyone around on what I will be doing, making sure that once the support-chanting started, there should be no touching of the dying, even after the passing, for at least eight hours. We should also be prepared to chant for as long as needed, rotating on shifts.
I also got my cousin to ensure that the room was kept free from crying or talking relatives. All are encouraged to join in the chanting. After putting the sand and covering with the blanket, we paid homage to Āmítuófó’s image, chanted the Repentance Verse (忏悔偈) and offered guidance (开示), before support-chanting.
About two hours into the chanting, my Aunt took three final deep breaths. It was so uneventful that I did not notice. My sister saw her ending her last breath with a blissful smile. Indeed, her last expression was with the most blissful smile I had ever seen. We then took turns to continue chanting for 12 hours, officially ending by again paying homage to the Buddha, chanting the Repentance Verse and dedicating merits.
My cousins were most grateful that their Mother passed on blissfully, and I was truly grateful to be able to help. It strengthened my faith, and judging by the questions asked, I am glad that it created interest in Buddhism. I thus took the opportunity to encourage joining the courses conducted by teacher Shi’an.
I am truly grateful to be able to learn from a knowledgeable and skilful teacher, without which I would not be able to offer any meaningful help, or progress in my practice. Thank you, teacher Shi’an. To conclude, the key lesson I learnt, is to always gladly offer help. If the family refuses it, as I had tried, I will not have regrets. Otherwise, it may be a missed opportunity to guide someone to Pure Land. May merits from this sharing be dedicated to Madam SK Toh. May she be reborn in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land.
Námó Āmítuófó: KM
26 June 2018
(Names abbreviated for privacy)