Can Practising Buddhists Still Have ‘Tragic’ Sicknesses [And] Deaths?
[Original Letter (With Questions)]:
[I] now have a question, [hereby] requesting [the] senior Dharma Master [to, with] loving-kindness [and] compassion, inspire [and] teach [on it. Your] disciple [has been] eating [as a] veg[etari]an [and practising] mindfulness [of] Buddha], already [for] many years. Because those people [with] faith [in the] Buddha, [are] by [the] ten directions’ three periods’ all Buddhas those mindfully protected, [by] heaven [beings’ and] dragons’ eight divisions, [and] great powerful god kings, constantly followed, [to] help [and] protect [them, their] past lives’ evil karma, [will] also [be] gradually eliminated. Even if having enemies [and] opponents, [they are] not able [to] do [them] harm. [As] these thus, [are in the] Buddha’s sūtras that said, [they are] definitely without false speech.
How [is it that] within three months’ period, [as] received [from a] Shànghǎi relative’s place, came an obituary, connected [to] an extremely faithful Buddhist, Madam Zhāng, [who had been] eating [as a] veg[etari]an, already [for] more [than] twenty years, [also] often going [to the] lay Buddhist lodge [to] listen [to] sūtras. [When] encountering people, [she] would encourage [practising] mindfulness [of] Buddha [and] eating [as] veg[etari]ans, [with her] mind’s utmost loving-kindness [and] compassion practising good.
Unexpectedly one day, [when] delivering veg[etarian] dishes, [to] give [them to a] certain Dharma brother, on [a] road walking, [she was] by [a] car crushed [to] death. Later by [a] police station collected away, until three days later, [with] her family’s children [and] grandchildren knowing, only then going [to] retrieve [her body, to be] returned [for] peaceful encoffining.
I, hearing that after, [my] mind within [was] very fearful, until now [with] doubts [and] confusions, not understanding [this]. Moreover, [the] Buddhist assembly within, [has] people hearing this, [who are] also equally uneasy. Thus specially writing [this] letter, [to] entreat [the] senior Dharma Master [to] inspire [and] guide, [to] point out [the] reasons [for] this thus. How is it that [there was] approaching [of life’s] end [with] such ‘suffering’? In the end, [is she] able [to be] reborn [in the] Western [Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss] or not? [If] speaking [on] this [for] understanding, [which] can enable everyone [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha [with a] settled mind, [we will have the] utmost of unsurpassable gratitude [for your] kindness.
[Reply Letter (With Answers)]:
 [Principles Of Evil Karma (Being) Extremely Much And Heavier Karma (With) Lighter Retribution]
[Having] received [your] letter, [then] knowing [that] your excellency, of [the] Buddha’s teachings’ principles, [have] still yet [to attain] true understanding. We from beginninglessness since, [of] that created evil karma, [is] immeasurable [and] boundless. [The] Flower Adornment Sūtra says, ‘If evil karmas have that [of] substantial forms, [the] ten directions’ empty space [will] not [be] able [to] contain [and] receive [them].’
[It] must [be] known [that the] practice of people, if truly sincere [and] without falseness, [is] then able [to] transform [evil] karma. Transforming heavier retribution [with] later retribution, as present retribution [with] lighter retribution. Ordinary beings’ flesh eyes, [are] only able [to] see auspicious [and] inauspicious ‘facts’ [in the] immediate moment, not able [to] know [the] hows [of the] causes [and] effects, of [the] past and future.
[Note 1: For the full teaching in the sūtra, see https://purelanders.com/2020/05/31/04-the-fourth-great-vow-repenting-of-karmic-obstacles-of-universal-virtues-practices-and-vows-chapter.]
 [Public Case Of Madam Zhāng]
This elderly lady, [with] many years [of] diligent cultivation, immediately ‘tragically’ dying, [is] perhaps due [to] this suffering’s retribution, then able [to] eliminate [the] retribution of those created [evil karma, of the] three realms’ evil paths, then attaining birth [in a] good path.
Perhaps when living, having true Faith [and] Aspiration, [she] also can [be] reborn [in the] Western [Pure Land]. However, since we [are] without [the] path’s eye [of knowing] others’ minds, [we do] not dare [to] assume, [to] say [she is] definitely reborn [there], and definitely not reborn [elsewhere].
That [which] can [be] definitive, [is that] doing good definitely has good rewards, [and] doing evil definitely has evil retribution. Doing good yet ‘attaining’ evil retribution, [is] thus [the] effect [of] retribution of past lives’ evil karma, not [the] effect [of] retribution of present [life’s] good karma.
You [and] all other people, [when] see this elderly person, attaining this effect [of] retribution, [your] minds within then have [the] evil views that doing good [is] without blessings, [and that] good [is] not worth doing, thus leading [to] fear, doubts [and] confusions. This ‘understanding’, with those [of] people yet [to] hear [the] Buddha’s teachings, have what difference?
If [with] profound faith [in the] Buddha’s words, [then] definitely not with this matter, acting [with] this manner of fear, doubts [and] confusions. [This is] with matters of causes [and] effects, overlapping endlessly, [with] this cause yet [to] bear fruit [i.e. effect], [with] that fruit first ripening. Like planting rice thus, that earlier planted [is] earlier harvested. Like owing debts thus, that stronger first leads [to be ‘repaid’].
 [Public Case Of King Aśoka Monastery’s Monk]
[In] ancient [times, there] are those [for] all of [their] lives doing good, [when] approaching [life’s] end [with a] ‘bad’ death, with [this] eliminating past [evil] karma, [in their] next lives then attaining wealth, honour [and] glory.
Like [in the] Sòng [Dynasty], King Aśoka Monastery [had] a monk, [who] desired [to] repair [its] Śarīra Hall. Considering [that] Prince Yí had power, [he went] towards [him to] collect funds. [As that] donated [was] very little, [with] indignation utmost, with [an] axe before [the] Śarīra Hall, [he] severed his arm, [with] blood flowing then dying.
Immediately, that Prince birthed a son, [who] cried unceasingly. [When his] wet nurse carried him [and] walked around, reaching [a] place hanging [with the] Śarīra Hall’s picture, then not crying. [When] leaving, again crying. Thereupon with that picture taken down, [with his] wet nurse constantly towards [him] holding it, then [with him] never crying.
[The] Prince, hearing [this], then [thought] it [was] unusual, thereupon ordering men [to go] towards [King] Aśoka [Monastery to] ask [about] that monk, [who had] then, [on] his son’s birthday, severed [his] arm, [with] blood flowing then dying. That Prince thereupon independently repaired [the] Śarīra Hall.
Reaching twenty years [of age, when Emperor] Níngzōng died, [as he was] without [a] son, thereupon decreeing that [son to be] given for adoption, [he was] as [an] Emperor [for] forty-one years, then [as] Sòng [Dynasty’s Emperor] Lǐzōng.
[The] death of this monk, also belonged [to a] ‘tragic’ death. If without constant crying unceasing, [and] seeing [the] Śarīra Hall’s picture then not crying, which person [will] know [that] this son, is thus [the] later body [of] this monk, [who] severed [his] arm [with a] ‘tragic’ death? This matter [is] recorded [in] King Aśoka’s Mountain Gazette, [with Yìn]guāng, [in] Guāngxù’s twenty-first year [i.e. 1895 C.E.], [when] prostrating [to] śarīras [for] ten days, seeing this.
[Note 2: This case is not to promote angry self-harming or suicide, as the monk had great focused determination to repair the hall, and most probably knew that his ‘manifested sacrifice’ will be worth it. We know that he was not an ordinary practitioner as most who kill themselves in anger will be reborn in hell directly.]
 [Understanding Principles (Of) Cause (And) Effect]
Of people [who] understand [these] principles, [with] whatever that [is] encountered, [they] definitely [will] not doubt, [thinking that] causes [and] effects [i.e. the law of karma] have mistakes, [and that the] Buddha’s words [are] perhaps false. Not understanding [these] principles, [and] attached inflexibly [to ‘simple] rules’, yet not knowing causes’ [and] effects’ complexities, thereupon leading [to] false arising [of] doubts [and] contentions, all because [their] minds [are] without Right Views thus.
Like that said, of people [with] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [they will] have [the] Triple Gem’s help [and] protection, [with] dragons’ [and] heavenly [beings’] protection [and] blessings. [As] this [is] connected [to] definitive principles, [they] absolutely [will] not [be] likely, [to] perhaps have [doubt of this as] false. Thus, of [the] principles of transforming heavier retribution [with] later retribution, as present retribution [with] lighter retribution, [those] yet able [to] understand [these] clearly, thus unavoidably have this kind of unreasonable doubts [and] contentions.
 [Public Case Of Treatise Master Jièxián]
[In the] past, [the] Western Region’s Treatise Master Jièxián [i.e. Śīlabhadra: Precepts’ Virtue], [was with] virtues high [for his] whole life, [with his practice of the] path ‘shaking’ India. Due [to] past [evil] karma thus, [as his] body suffered [from a] terrible sickness, [with] his suffering extreme, [he was] not able [to] bear [it, and] desired [to] kill himself.
Just [then], seeing Mañjuśrī, Universal Virtue [and] Contemplator [Of The] World’s Sounds, [these] three Bodhisattvas, saying, ‘You, within past kalpas, [with] many [lives] as kings, [who] maliciously harmed sentient beings, should [for a] long [time] fall [into] evil paths. Due [to] your great propagation [of the] Buddha’s teachings, thus with this human world’s little suffering, eliminating [the] suffering of long kalpas [in] hell, you should bear [it. The] Great Táng [Dynasty] has [a] monk named Xuánzàng. When passing three years, [he will] come here [to] receive [the] Dharma.’
[When the] Treatise Master Jièxián heard this, [he] thereupon endured [the] suffering [with] repentance. [After] a long time, [he was] thereupon healed. Reaching three years later, [when] Xuánzàng reached there, [the] honourable [Master] Jièxián ordered [a] disciple [to] speak [of the] conditions of his sickness [and] suffering. [When] that person [was] speaking of [his] suffering, [as he was] choking [with] sobbing [and] flowing [with] tears, [it] can [be] known [that] his suffering [was] very extreme.
[Note 3: It is possible to be without ‘tragic’ sicknesses and deaths. However, this extreme example reminds us that since most of us are not even great practitioners, we should not expect ourselves to be totally free from all sicknesses, to have the perfectly smooth departure from this life. And even if there is extreme suffering from sicknesses, before or during dying, we should never even entertain one thought of suicide, the committing of which, breaking the First Precept against killing life, would worsen suffering tremendously, by leaping ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ (of probable hell). There should only be all the more sincerely repentant and diligent practice of mindfulness of Buddha, to ‘dilute’ evil karma, and to more swiftly reach his Pure Land, if it is time.]
 [Causes’ (And) Effects’ Complexities]
If not understanding [the] causes of past lives, people will say Jièxián [was] not [a] high monastic [who] attained [the] path. Perhaps will [there be those] saying [that, ‘With] these such great practitioners, still attaining these such ‘tragic’ sicknesses, [the] Buddha’s teachings [can] have what efficacious connections [and] benefits?’
You [and] others, [in your] minds within, [with] that known little, thus [when] slightly seeing ‘abnormal’ forms, then give rise [to] fear [and] doubts. People without good roots, thereupon [have] retrogression [of their] path’s mind. If people who created evil appear [to] attain blessed rewards, [this] likewise thus gives rise [to] evil views’ mind.
Not knowing [that] all are [with] past causes [as] later effects, and (i) transforming [of] later retribution [with] heavier retribution, as present retribution [with] lighter retribution, and (ii) transforming [of] present retribution [with] lighter retribution, as later retribution [with] heavier retribution, [and] others, [with] all kinds of complexities not equal thus.
[Note 4: (i) This refers to the principle of ‘dilution’ of evil karma with more good (and pure) karma. (ii) This refers to the principle of ‘dilution’ of good karma with more evil karma.]
[Note 5: As in the ‘Verses On Karmic Retribution’ (业报偈)…
On ‘Heavy Karma With Heavier Retribution’ (重业重报), ‘All heavy evil karma, without repentance, without mindfulness of Buddha, are all with heavier retribution (with even more transgressions).’ (凡重业，无忏悔，无念佛，皆重报。)
On ‘Heavy Karma With Lighter Retribution’ (重业轻报), ‘All heavy evil karma, all with repentance, all with mindfulness of Buddha, are all with lighter retribution (with no more transgressions).’ (凡重业，皆忏悔，皆念佛，皆轻报。)]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Reply Letter [To] Layperson Zhōu Sòngyáo [Attached (With) Original Letter])
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
 Consolation For Those Suffering From Sickness
Can Diligent Pure Land Practitioners With Great Pain When Departing Reach Pure Land?
How A Great Master Overcame Suffering From Terrible Sicknesses
How Mindfulness Of Āmítuófó Protects From Evil Unseen Beings
When Can There Be Rebirth In Pure Land?