The Auspicious Sign Of The Body And Mind Being Gentle And Soft
Testimony: The late Mr. Lai was a free-thinker. It was until the last stage of his life that he chose to have a Buddhist funeral. This perhaps represented his taking of refuge in the Buddha’s teachings. Michael, who is a friend and a previous Pure Land class participant, with the help of Lai’s sister, managed to offer post-death guidance (开示) and a few hours of support-chanting (助念) for him.
It was noticed hours later, that his initially not fully closed eyes and mouth became totally closed, with his expression looking natural and ample (丰满), not sick. This was in contrast with the expression of another friend who departed with the same sickness recently, who looked sunken at the eye sockets and cheeks.
The next day, when the Buddhist undertaker informed Michael that he had done a good job, Michael was unsure of what he meant. He then realised that Lai’s body was tender and supple instead of being hard and stiff with rigor mortis, which is the usual case for the average person and those who depart with pain and suffering. This is the auspicious sign (瑞相) of the ‘body and mind being gentle and soft’ (身心柔软). – Bro. Ho
Explanation: According to Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) ‘Thirty-Third Vow Of Receiving Light That Touches Body For Obtaining Benefits’ (第三十三：蒙光触身获益愿), he vowed that, ‘If I attain Buddhahood, of the ten directions’ immeasurable and inconceivable all Buddha worlds’ kinds of sentient beings, those who receive my bright light that touches their bodies, will have bodies and minds gentle and soft, that surpass those of heavenly beings. If it is not thus, I shall not obtain Right Awakening.’ (设我得佛，十方无量不可思议诸佛世界众生之类，蒙我光明触其身者，身心柔软，超过天人。若不尔者，不取正觉。)
Since Āmítuófó already attained Buddhahood ten kalpas ago, this vow is fully working for all beings everywhere, including human beings in our world. With sincere mindfulness of his name, there will be connection to his light of blessings, with which there is attainment of physical peace and mental bliss, as expressed by the body and mind becoming gentle and soft. This is known when cleaning and changing the body, then with some bending of joints at the neck, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes. This sign does not only occur to those dying and deceased. When we practise mindfulness of Buddha (念佛) sincerely in everyday life when alive and well, we can experience such Dharma joy (法喜) too.
This joy is so refined and wonderful (微妙), as always experienced in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land (净土) that it exceeds the dhyānic (i.e. jhānic) meditative bliss experienced by all gods in the heavens. (Thus, the Pure Land’s blessings transcends all heavens’ benefits.) This is also why the sign of the ‘body and mind being gentle and soft’ is usually accompanied by the auspicious sign of the ‘facial appearance as if alive’ (面相如生).
This is the final expression of as if sleeping peacefully, still alive, looking better than alive, perhaps ample with the glow of healthy rosiness, majestic, younger and in the prime. Once agape eyes and mouths can close naturally too, without frowns and such, with a gentle but definite smile instead. This auspicious sign can be seen upon death. It is naturally sustained until cremation or burial, without embalmment, reshaping or make-up.
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