[98] How I Became Confident Of Niànfó During My Last Moments 我如何对临终念佛有了信心

[98] How I Became Confident Of Niànfó During My Last Moments

Good evening to Shi’an Laoshi and fellow practitioners (of Pureland Practice Fellowship).

Perhaps like many others, I was previously worried that I could not Niànfó (念佛: be mindful of Āmítuófó’s name [阿弥陀佛]) on my deathbed, when sick and suffering, during my last moments.

One ‘auspicious’ night, while sleeping, I felt someone (perhaps an unseen karmic creditor [冤亲债主]?) strangle me, trying to suffocate me.

I struggled to no avail.
Neither could I shout for help.
I was overwhelmed by weakness, feeling defenceless.

At the height of distress, I heard myself reciting ‘Āmítuófó’. Instantaneously, the assaulter disappeared and I was released.

I truly believe this incident to be somehow manifested by Āmítuófó, to assure me that I can Niànfó, and connect to his blessings, even if in a state with terrible agony.

Thank you, Purelanders, for this opportunity to share, to further strengthen our Faith together!

Námó Āmítuófó : Janet T.
21 April 2023


[1] Remedy For Worry: It is indeed a common fear, that despite having the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) in everyday life, one might not be able to successfully Niànfó during the most crucial moments, right before taking rebirth, as distracted by pain and such.

The direct way to transform this fear to be confidence is to continually increase the Three Provisions in everyday life via further sincere learning and practice (修学). This is how there will be adequate preparation for all kinds of possible challenges that might arise, including that shared.

It would be foolish to do otherwise – which is to only fret endlessly, while not actively learning and practising to gain the necessary confidence. We must not be self-defeating, thinking that ‘no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough’. If we think this way, we will not even have the conviction to become confident, much less to be more diligent in learning and practice, to gain the actual confidence.

As Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts… dyed by the colour of its thoughts.’ If our minds are pervaded by the Three Provisions more and more profoundly, our ability to connect to the Buddha despite any challenging conditions will only increase.

(Somewhat a consolation, even after death, so long as yet to be reborn, one can still Niànfó with one’s consciousness. With the end of physical pain as the consciousness is disconnected from the body, and with no need to stay attached, to feel through it, this state will not be distracted by any pain. However, there should not be waiting for death before taking one’s ‘own sweet time’ to Niànfó, as the law of karma can force one in this precarious bardo [i.e. intermediate (中阴)] state to be reborn elsewhere suddenly, at any time.)

[2] Thought Transformation: Even the seemingly ‘inauspicious’ can turn out to be auspicious if we respond appropriately, as if passing a test, to become stronger in conviction and confidence.

Being deluded in the cycle of birth and death, this life is already like a recurring dream. However, dreams when asleep can offer extra fantastic tests, that even present life-threatening situations, functioning like rehearsals for facing death, to express (and increase) our faith in mindfulness of Āmítuófó (when we experience his swift response). Dreams let us check how we might respond in various (normal and extreme) situations, that might or might not occur in real life.

[3] Sleep Attacks: The experience of being throttled, hit, pushed, pulled or touched when sleeping or dreaming by unseen beings is not uncommon, as during these moments, the mind tends to be weaker, thus being more susceptible to physical and mental harm. This might explain how some die ‘suddenly’ in their ‘sleep’, perhaps due to shock trauma, leading to a heart attack. (Beyond causing fear, the worst karmic creditors can also cause death.)

Thus, it can be a good practice, especially for the fearful and those already frequently disturbed, to recite Āmítuófó’s name till they fall asleep naturally. Here are four reasons why.

[i] No Fear: Creating peace of mind, Niànfó eliminates fear of sleeping, while facilitating better sleep quality for good rest.

[ii] Less Nightmares: With Āmítuófó’s name being the last thought before sleeping, this is less likely for nightmares to arise. (In fact, there might even be auspicious dreams if there was good practice.)

[iii] More Permeation: There will be greater ‘seeping’ of blessings from Āmítuófó’s name into any potential dream state.

[iv] Instinctive Mindfulness: Even if there is inadequate permeation, with the practice becoming habitual, it will more likely arise instinctively when needed during nightmarish conditions.

However, there should also be Niànfó practice when not tired, when wide awake; not only when about to sleep. This is to prevent Niànfó functioning like a ‘lullaby’ only, habitually associated with tapering away of mindfulness. Niànfó should lead to greater mindfulness (or wakefulness) in everyday life too. If Āmítuófó’s name becomes associated only with better sleep, when there is support-chanting (助念), instead of being a call for more sincere and diligent mindfulness, hearing it might lull one towards drowsiness.

[4] Freedom Of Mind: The principles of Niànfó are equally applicable when awake or asleep (i.e. dreaming). Even when physically trapped, deprived of physical strength, unable to call another human for help, we still have the freedom of our minds, to choose what or who to be mindful of. This is our constantly available freedom, even when in danger and dying.

Even if unable to recite verbally, it is possible to do so mentally. There should not be attachment to reciting verbally only, with this then possibly leading to mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name unable to take ‘form’ completely, to be expressed, even in the mind, what more aloud.

[5] Test Of Stress: Even under great (dis)stress, we are able to summon our willpower (意志力), to readily respond in the way we know we should – provided that this response is already an inseparable part of our life, as reinforced with habitual practice. This is transformation of desperation to dedication.

[6] Immediacy Of Response: The instant speed of response upon sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name, when awake or asleep, as shared in many other cases too, bears testimony to the truth that he responds extremely swiftly for offering rescue, protection, (reception and guidance [接引] when departing at life’s end).

In some cases, there seems to be connection only after more recitations. This could be due to (partially) interrupted or incomplete expression of Faith and Aspiration (信愿) at first. As taught in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿经》, it is possible to connect to Āmítuófó even with one to ten thoughts (or recitations, be they expressed verbally or mentally).


All sentient beings, who hear his name [Āmítuófó], with the faithful mind joyful, and even with one thought, with the sincere mind dedicate, aspire to be born in that land, will immediately attain rebirth there, and abide in non-retrogression. Only excluded are those with the Five Heinous Transgressions, who slander the right Dharma.


[Āmítuófó‘s Eighteenth Vow Of Those With Ten Thoughts All Born In My Land]: If I attain Buddhahood, should the ten directions’ sentient beings, with the sincere mind of joyful Faith, desiring birth in my land, and even with ten thoughts, if there are those not born there, I shall not obtain right awakening. Only excluded are those with the Five Heinous Transgressions, who slandered the right Dharma.

[7] Possible Manifestation: It is difficult to know if the experience was manifested by Āmítuófó or not. However, it is indeed possible for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to manifest seemingly ‘wrathful forms’ (愤怒相) and actions as great skilful means (方便) when appropriate, to offer important lessons to those with affinity.

[8] Strengthening Of Faith: Such wonderful sharing, even though brief, is important and much appreciated, as it aids in increasing the Faith of everyone who comes across this, to help allay the common fear mentioned. With this fear allayed, there is great peace of mind throughout the rest of this life – because if even fears of death and rebirth are vanquished, what other great existential fears can there be?

Related Testimony:

[99] How Āmítuófó Saved Me From An Unknown Force

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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