Which Light Should We Follow When Deceased?
Question: Which light should I follow upon death?
Answer: According to the Tibetan Buddhist teachings, for the average person, who is not reborn immediately, after death but before rebirth, in the bardo (intermediate: 中阴) state, there will be seeing of dazzling lights of different colours on different days representing various Buddhas (and our Buddha-nature). They can be so bright that they can hardly be looked at, although they should be followed (for progress towards Buddhahood).
Negative karma and habits can also cause fear of these bright lights. At the same time, dull but more ‘comforting’ lights representing the six realms on different days appear mixed together too, with distracted following of which will lead back to saṃsāric rebirth. Thus, to be able to follow the right light in time is both counterintuitively difficult and karmically challenging. (If it is easy to practise accordingly, we would long be enlightened already.)
This contrasts with the streamlined Chinese practice of sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó, till he comes (with his golden light too), to guide us to his Pure Land. (This should not be confused with him being depicted with red light in Tibetan culture.) This connection can swiftly occur in the dying phase, with no need to wait for death or post-death for further practice. If already deceased, we should simply continue practising until he comes.
Thus, for the greatest safety, instead of looking out for different lights on different days in the precarious bardo state to follow a right one, it is better to have direct, wholehearted and continual mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name (阿弥陀佛) with deep Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿), so as to connect to him in person, and to follow him, for the best rebirth in his Pure Land, where the swiftest progress towards Buddhahood is guaranteed.
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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!