[75] How I Did Group Cultivation With Niànfó Alone 独自共修念佛记

Testimony: Āmítuófó! (阿弥陀佛) 🙏🙏🙏 Great thanks, to all Dharma brothers and sisters, who practised Niànfó (念佛) to dedicate merits (回向功德) to me during my double bypass surgery (at National University Hospital in December 2020), which resulted from a ‘casual’ visit to a polyclinic for a blood test.

I would like to share a Niànfó experience during my post-operation recovery-monitoring phase in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). After breakfast, I would close my eyes to practise silent (i.e. mental) Niànfó (默念) in my mind. On the second morning, something unusual happened…

As you know, there is only one patient per ICU room. However, in my head then, the sound of the Āmítuófó’s name became louder and louder, until it became unbearable. I had to open my eyes before the sound of my Niànfó became normal again.

The proof was literally ‘loud and clear’, that I was not doing Niànfó alone; as there were many others also doing Niànfó together with me, with its blessings coming from many directions. (Perhaps, the extra loud volume was to advise me to Niànfó with my eyes open, to prevent possible drowsiness, especially just after eating?)

With this amazing experience, I truly believe that with sincere daily Niànfó, we are in the good hands of Āmítuófó and various other Dharma Protectors (护法), both seen and unseen.

My operation went very smoothly. With only three nights spent in the ICU, and one night in a normal ward, (which is together a shorter stay than the usual seven days), I returned home after that. Such is the power of Niànfó. Thank you again!

Āmítuófó, 🙏🙏🙏 D. Yee
16 February 2021

Notes: [1] The wonderful experience is an inner variation of the outer phenomenon of ‘Heavenly Music Filling The Sky (or Room)’ (天乐盈空/室), with the ‘music’ being the name of Āmítuófó’s name, and the ‘sky’ (or ‘room’) being the mind. (This can perhaps be called ‘The Buddha’s Name Filling The Whole Mind’ [佛号满心].)

This is an encouraging auspicious sign (瑞相), that can be experienced when well and alive during daily practice too, not only during support-chanting (助念) for the dying and recently departed.

[2] When we are setting a good example by doing our best to practise Niànfó sincerely, other than connecting (感应) to Āmítuófó, it is natural to also incidentally connect to some other noble beings (i.e. 圣者: Enlightened Ones) and ordinary beings (i.e. 凡夫: Unenlightened Ones), whom we have karmic affinity with (有缘), seen and unseen, to inspire them to also practise sincerely, and to support us sincerely. Even when we are not yet medically dying, their chanting along is also a form of support-chanting, to encourage our everyday practice, (although we are all technically dying gradually, once reborn here).

Even with silent Niànfó, our minds doing so can be read by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas (菩萨), Pratyekabuddhas (缘觉), Arhats (罗汉), gods (神), ghosts (鬼) and beings in the bardo state (中阴身众生). Āmítuófó’s light can also be seen by them, with its many blessings (for healing and such), and for protection from all evil beings.

Knowing this, we should have great peace (大安) and bliss (乐) when we practise Niànfó with a deep sense of refuge for life (皈命), with no need to have any fear at all. Connecting to the great blessings of Āmítuófó, who is also connected to all other Buddhas, many Great Bodhisattvas (大菩萨) and good gods (善神), Niànfó is the safest spiritual practice possible.

[3] Even without such auspicious experiences (yet), what described can still be happening without our knowledge when we practise Niànfó sincerely. Such experiences however, do further assure us that we are practising correctly.

Unless already naturally spiritually sensitive, such inspiring experiences usually will not be ‘enabled’ often by Āmítuófó or Dharma Protectors, lest they ‘distract’ us and accidentally ‘create’ spiritual complacency and arrogance in us.

Such special experiences should not be pined for, as such greed will distract from sincere Niànfó and make us susceptible to demonic disturbances. Only with them occurring naturally during sincere Niànfó are they genuine.

A genuinely auspicious experience will only encourage more sincere Niànfó; never ‘hinting’ that is already enough, or that it should end. This must be noted for Pure Land (净土) to be reached.

[4] The experience offers great assurance that we need not worry about dying old and alone due to accidents or sickness – if we have sincere and regular Niànfó practice in everyday life. This is so as there will be constant connection to Āmítuófó and various other Dharma Protectors, in terms of Bodhisattvas and good gods, (who can also assist like helpful Bodhisattvas to some extent, even if unenlightened).

Also, with evil karma (恶业) lessened and protection increased by having Niànfó practice, sincere practitioners are less likely to have untimely deaths (横死) unprepared for. Even if without human support-chanters, there will be unseen support-chanters reminding us to Niànfó in time.

[5] Although there is the formal practice of dedication of merits after Niànfó practice, when we practise Niànfó sincerely, for specific persons in mind, there is already instant and direct dedication of merits with each recitation.

As such, there is no need to practise Niànfó with ‘interruptions’ of many formal dedications, especially during extended support-chanting, when there should be more direct Niànfó (after offering encouraging guidance), to facilitate sincere Niànfó of the dying or deceased. Formal articulation of dedication is still useful and important. It can be done after longer periods of practice, in private, if to not interrupt support-chanting.

[6] Some encouraging advice shared by the editor before surgery: ‘Take care tomorrow for your surgery! Just relax and Niànfó sincerely in your mind… till you “fall asleep” for the surgery. And while recovering after surgery, do your best to treat it like a retreat, to just Niànfó as much as possible. Remember to opt for vegan meals. Hope there will not be much pain. If there is pain, just see it as a reminder to Niànfó. Don’t focus on pain. Rest well and retreat well!’ (A balanced Whole Food Plant-Based [i.e. vegan] Diet [WFPBD] can prevent and clear clogged blood vessels, while expediting healing.)

[7] The editor had a similar experience in November 2017… When practising silent Niànfó in Dōnglín Monastery (东林寺) during a ten-day retreat in broad daylight one morning, he was with his back to a wall, away from any window, within a solitary retreat room, that was one of many, sandwiched in a single-storey stretch of male-only rooms, when up in the air on the left was a clear and distinct female voice practising Niànfó with the same tune and pace, while also helping with the pacing in a calm and consistent manner.

The accent that did not seem local (from Singapore) or foreign (from China or elsewhere), with no similar voice ever heard before and after. It was down-to-earth yet transcendental, seemingly near middle-age yet motherly. Could it be Guānshìyīn Bodhisattva (观世音菩萨), who is usually featured standing on the left of Āmítuófó, both of whom he felt close to since young? Whether so or otherwise, it was still an inspiring, encouraging and assuring experience, that increased Faith and confidence in Niànfó.

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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