Must There Be Mindfulness Of Buddha Before Rebirth To Reach Pure Land? 往生前是否须要念佛才能生净土?

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Must There Be Mindfulness Of Buddha Before Rebirth To Reach Pure Land?

Question [1]: Must the last thought (最后一念) be with mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) name (with Faith and Aspiration [信愿]) to reach his Pure Land (净土)?

Answer: Yes, as the easiest way to be mindful of the Buddha. (There can be recollection of the Buddha [忆佛] to reach his Pure Land too, but this is more complex.)

Question [2]: Why is it that the last thought not being on Āmítuófó will not work?

Answer: If one’s last thought is on other subjects, such as with attachment to a family member, wealth or status, as these are worldly thoughts, karmically, one will be connected to the worldly, not to Āmítuófó, thus not able to reach his world-transcending Pure Land.

Also, if there is no need to have the last thought on Āmítuófó, there will be no need to learn about and practise support-chanting when approaching life’s end (临终助念). This will also make regular (i.e. repeated) everyday life practice pointless. Obviously, it should not be so.

Question [3]: When does the actual last thought arise?

Answer: The actual last thought is the one before taking rebirth, which is not necessarily the last thought right before physical death, as the average person will not be reborn directly upon death. This is another reason why there should be (extended) support-chanting after death (往生助念), to urge the deceased person’s consciousness, if present, to give rise to mindfulness of Āmítuófó, to connect to him.

Question [4]: Was it not taught that one to ten thoughts of mindfulness of Āmítuófó with Faith and Aspiration, or for one to seven days will be enough for reaching his Pure Land?

Answer: Yes, with the differing numbers depending on how long it takes to connect to him, or with sustained Practice.

Question [5]: Was it taught that such mindfulness must be in terms of the last thought(s) too?

Answer: Based on the universal law of death (or rebirth) proximate karma in [2] above and the reasons stated, it has to be so too. Also, it was not taught in any sūtra that the thought before rebirth need not be in terms of Āmítuófó.

Question [6]: Can such mindfulness still work, if not in terms of the last thought(s), but in terms of it being in everyday life’s ordinary times (平时) only?

Answer: If there is indeed adequate mindfulness of Āmítuófó with Faith and Aspiration in everyday life already, there will be adequate connection to him when about to depart, with which he will be able to ensure that our last thought(s) before taking rebirth will be inspired to be with mindfulness of him.

Āmítuófó can do this with his omniscience, knowing exactly when (i.e. gradually or suddenly) and how we will depart (i.e. with what sicknesses and symptoms), be we physically conscious or not. Even if in deep coma, his bright Flame-King Light (炎王光) can ‘awaken’ our ālaya consciousness (阿赖耶识) deep within to remind and inspire us to be mindful of him.

Question [7]: How do we ensure there is adequate mindfulness of Āmítuófó with Faith and Aspiration in everyday life?

Answer: The only way to ensure this is by having ongoing utmost sincere and diligent Practice of mindfulness of Buddha every day, to keep increasing our Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) till we reach Pure Land. This is why even the Pure Land Patriarchs (净土祖师) set the best examples by personally practising and promoting ample Practice of mindfulness of Buddha in everyday life.

Otherwise, if there is overconfidence and complacence with just a few perfunctory recitations of Āmítuófó’s name once in a while, we might turn out to not have adequate mindfulness to have adequate connection to Āmítuófó. Pure affinities should only be deepened to be more and more pure, never taken for granted.

With ongoing utmost sincere and diligent Practice of mindfulness of Buddha every day, every single recitation is like a chop on a tree, that further gets it to lean towards the West, with this representing likelihood of being born in the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (西方极乐世界). Every recitation is thus significant, never wasted. Eventually with definitely more inclination towards the West than anywhere else, this ensures final falling to the West, with habitual and final mindfulness of Āmítuófó. This principle is exemplified in the verses below.

Verses On Leaning West


People who accumulated good practices, dying without evil thoughts, are like trees to the West leaning, with falling definitely and accordingly to the West.


Relying upon Faith, Aspiration and Practice, with a lifetime of Buddha mindfulness, wholeheartedly to the West leaning, definite is birth in the Western Pure Land.

(The first verse is by the Buddha, as quoted by Great Master Tánluán in his ‘Brief Treatise On Meaning Of The Pure Land Of Peace And Bliss’《略论安乐净土义》,while the second verse links it to Pure Land practice.)

Question [8]: What if there are obstacles (障碍) on the deathbed, that obstruct mindfulness of Āmítuófó with Faith and Aspiration?

Answer: The more we practise sincere mindfulness of Buddha in everyday life, with the meritorious virtues (功德) created by us and as shared by the Buddha, that dilute and eliminate our evil karmas (恶业), the less inner (i.e. physical and mental) obstacles and outer (i.e. environmental and interpersonal) obstacles there will be, if any. With adequate connection to Āmítuófó, he will definitely have the affinity (因缘), to use his great skilful means (方便) and supernormal powers (神通) to help eliminate our obstacles.

Question [9]: Which is more important to have, quality or quantity of Practice, in terms of mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name with Faith and Aspiration?

Answer: If we really have to choose, quality is more important than quantity. However, we do not really have to choose either, by simply going for higher quantity of higher quality of Practice. After all, it is with higher quantity of Practice, that there will be higher quality of Practice, thus deepening our habitual connection to Āmítuófó. Even those already with adequate connection to Āmítuófó will all the more naturally have ongoing mindfulness of him in everyday life. Thus, even in sudden emergencies, there will be no obstacles.

Question [10]: What if there is still doubt, fear and worry on whether there can be connection to Āmítuófó to reach his Pure Land?

Answer: There is this Buddhist saying, ‘Bodhisattvas fear [creating of evil] causes; sentient beings fear [receiving of evil] effects.‘ (菩萨畏因,众生畏果) To further explain…

Bodhisattvas Fear [Creating Of Evil] Causes,

[Then Not Fearing Receiving Of Evil Effects]:


Not creating evil causes,
not receiving suffering’s effects.
Only creating good causes,
only attaining blissful effects.

Sentient Beings Fear [Receiving Of Evil] Effects,

[Yet Not Fearing Creating Of Evil Causes]:


Having already created evil causes,
personally receiving suffering’s effects.
Not creating good causes,
not attaining blissful effects.

In summary, for peace of mind now and later, there should simply be focus on sincere and diligent learning and Practice of mindfulness of Āmítuófó with Faith and Aspiration now. With these right causes (正因) being planted, what is there to doubt, fear and worry? Only those not planting them should perhaps have some valid doubt, fear and worry.

Related Teachings:

Are There Differences Between The Ten Thoughts In The Greater Sūtra And The Contemplation Sūtra?
With The Sincere Mind Of Joyful Faith, How Profound And Clear!

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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