I would like to share an encouraging experience that my Father just shared with me early this morning. My Father, who is a no-nonsense, practical, logic and evidence-based kind of person, texted me in the wee hours to tell me that he was woken up from sleep by the experience of deep, strong and fresh ‘floral incense’ infused in the bedroom, while my Mother was still sleeping quietly. He then got up and went to the kitchen to have a drink before going back to bed. Lasting about 20 minutes, as the scent gradually lessened, the air in the bedroom returned to normal.
I responded to him, saying that this ‘extraordinary fragrance that fills the room’ (异香满堂) is a reassuring auspicious sign (瑞相) from Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛: Amitābha Buddha) and his Pure Land (净土), to let him know that he is doing well in his practice, and to encourage him to continue to Niànfó (念佛) sincerely in his daily life, so as to deepen his Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行). This is so as with wholehearted regular Niànfó, Āmítuófó’s blessings will always be present.
(From his 48 great vows, as taught in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿经》, Āmítuófó’s 32nd great vow states that all the objects in his Pure Land will have a hundred thousand kinds of fragrances that surpass everything heavenly and human, that universally perfume worlds everywhere, such that when practising Bodhisattvas smell them, they will all cultivate the Buddhas’ practices: https://purelanders.com/2020/04/28/05-fifth-chapter-on-giving-rise-to-great-vows.) I also reminded my Father to not pine for more auspicious signs, as this might taint the pure intention to practise sincerely. Anyway, only auspicious signs that manifest naturally without greedy pining are genuine.
As I no longer live with my parents, I do get quite anxious about their spiritual cultivation at times. Just last night, I was wondering about how my Father’s Niànfó practice was coming along… with him having this wonderful experience mere hours later. Isn’t this amazing? My Father can be difficult to convince otherwise once he stood resolute on what he believed in (or not). As such, deep down, I always worried that he might not practise as well and as much as my Mother.
What more, my Mother already had her own inspiring auspicious experience, with seeing and feeling of the blissful golden light of Āmítuófó (见佛光) almost 4 years ago (in September of 2017): https://purelanders.com/2017/09/27/how-my-prayers-for-true-dharma-were-answered. Although on separate occasions, the experiences of my Father and Mother were literally those of Niànfó practitioners by ‘fragrance and light adorned’ (香光庄严), as taught in ‘Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha《大势至菩萨念佛圆通章》: purelanders.com/yuantong.
(Āmítuófó’s 12th great vow states that his immeasurable bright light of blessings will illuminate countless worlds, while his 33rd great vow states that all beings everywhere, who are touched by his light will have ‘bodies and minds gentle and soft’ [身心柔软], which is to have physical and mental peace and bliss, that surpass that of gods and humans.)
Āmítuófó must have ‘heard’ my concern about my Father, thus giving me a reassuring ‘pat on my shoulder’ through his experience. It is also assurance for my Father, letting him know that his practice is bearing fruit. May it further inspire my Mother too! Right now, as I am writing this, I feel truly happy and at ease, because I know that Āmítuófó will be there for my Mom and Dad. As their child, this is the greatest reassurance from Āmítuófó for me too. As a younger Purelander, I do hope that my Father’s experience can inspire more young Purelanders to practise Niànfó sincerely, to dedicate its merits to their parents, to be inspired to live their lives dedicated for rebirth in Pure Land too.
My parents usually practise Niànfó in the evening before retiring for the night. I had encouraged them to always ‘check in’ with Āmítuófó daily. When sharing on the importance of practising seated Niànfó with patience and dedication, I explained that if it is done too briefly, such as for only five minutes, it would be like expecting a good friend, but only waiting for a short while. This might be not so sincere. After all, although life can end sooner than expected, the older we become, with time surely further running out, we should practice more Niànfó, with increasing sincerity!
Námó Āmítuófó : Esther
(Pen name used for privacy)
24 April 2021