[107] Hop On The Pure Land Travelator And Hold On Tight

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Having joined PPF (Pureland Practice Fellowship) sessions only in March 2023, I cannot over-emphasise how useful these sessions have been for my own cultivation and learning process. This applies especially to Teacher Shi’an’s Q&A sessions. Every question posed is met with a clear and succinct answer, which is what we need given the information overload and mix of misleading perspectives available on the internet.

To raise an example, being curious about the support-chanting (助念) process, I asked during a July PPF session on whether a 念佛机 (Buddha recitation device) is needed onsite or not, given the presence of support-chanters. The reply given was ‘有,好过没有。’ (It is better to have than not.) (This was followed with the key reasons why.)

And then, the causes and conditions to put my learning to practice arose naturally. On 31 July, a Buddhist friend asked for help in support-chanting for his ailing Mother who had advanced lung and brain cancer. While I had not practised support-chanting for the dying before (with the closest being chanting at my Grandmother’s wake last year), I felt prepared given that I had read Teacher Shi’an’s Pure Land Passport《净土护照》book multiple times, alongside many helpful testimonies written by fellow Purelanders at purelanders.com/testimonies.

When I went down to my friend’s location at about 10 pm, two fellow Buddhists were about to leave after reciting 南无阿弥陀佛 (Námó Āmítuófó) multiple times. Upon seeing the severely weakened state of my friend’s Mother (whom I’ve not met before), I felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow and sadness. As my friend was administering the oximeter test on his Mum, I gently reminded him to avoid touching her body (as it can cause great pain) and as the most important task on hand was to guide his Mother to a successful rebirth in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land.

There was also turning of the bedside fan away, to avoid directing the wind towards her face (as this can cause great discomfort due to magnified sensitivity when dying). Thanks to BGRAM and the detailed explanation of Great Master Yìnguāng’s (印光大师) Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death《临终三大要》contained in the Pure Land Passport, I could start support-chanting in a structured manner. My friend had also wisely prepared portraits of Āmítuófó which were clearly visible in all directions for his Mum.

After bowing to Āmítuófó, I proceeded with offering of guidance (开示) according to the Pure Land Passport. This was followed by the Repentance Verse (忏悔文), before my friend and I embarked on chanting Āmítuófó. All this while, the 念佛机 was turned on in keeping with Teacher Shi’an’s advice. This helped a lot in coordinating our chanting. It was also useful in ensuring 佛号不断 (having the Buddha’s name uninterrupted) as there were only two of us chanting, and because we occasionally broke off. As my friend had been up to keep vigil the entire day, I nudged him to take a short rest in the living room while I took the shift.

I had brought along a few packs of 香包 (scented sachet) bought from a Buddhist supplies store a few days before. (Without distracting the dying), sniffing the sachet provided an immediate kick to the senses and helped to stave off drowsiness. However, I am embarrassed to say that I lost focus at about 12.30 am and missed out on a few chants. At this point, my friend’s Mum moved her hand briefly, which jolted me awake and gave me the push to keep going.

About five minutes later, her eyes widened and she stared at the ceiling with a gaze resembling horror. Recognising this as the possible manifestation of karmic creditors (冤亲债主) as described in the Kṣitigarbha Sūtra《地藏经》, I whispered in her ear to ignore all manifestations, and to not follow anyone other than Āmítuófó, even if her ‘loved ones’ (who are not real) beckon. Instead, I reminded her to focus wholeheartedly on the chanting as Āmítuófó will surely come to receive her. As my friend’s Mother was unable to chant or respond verbally in her weakened state, she did not give any indication, but appeared to relax and half-closed her eyes again.

Another few minutes later, my friend’s Mother let out the first sound during the whole night. It was an audible word that sounded like 哎 (āi), a ‘sigh’. Subsequently, her breathing got shallower until she stopped breathing altogether. All this while, I continued with the chanting for fear of missing out during important intervention points, although I badly wanted to call out to my friend.

As I was chanting, I was staring at her bedside wall and distinctly remember thinking of an IKEA kid’s showroom with nice and inviting yellow night light, which added a warm glow to the whole place. When I finally went out to call my friend in, I was surprised to see that the room was not as well illuminated as witnessed earlier, as there was only one bedside lamp. Was it an auspicious sign (瑞相) of Āmítuófó’s golden light flooding the room? I could only marvel at how it appeared so naturally and comfortingly at the most crucial moment, only to fade away inconspicuously again.

Feeling motivated by what I had witnessed, I chanted with my friend for another eight hours, taking turns to have occasional breaks. As the deceased had a growth inside the neck which affected her facial expression, it was hard to make out any auspicious facial expression. Her mouth was slightly open (which is natural in many cases, sometimes closing later). However, when we took her temperature in the morning using an infrared contactless thermometer, the crown had a reading of 36°C, although the neck tumour location was slightly warmer at 36.2 °C. (The last warmest spot usually indicates the area from which there was or will be departure, with the location best at the crown or near.)

My friend subsequently shared that his Mother’s caretaker commented that her limbs were soft and very easy to manage when changing her attire. This is the auspicious sign of having the body and mind being soft and gentle (身心柔软), which expresses physical happiness and mental bliss. This brought great joy and comfort to him and myself. On hindsight, I felt that his Mother’s last ‘cry’ of 哎 could have been 来 (lái: come!) instead, indicating Āmítuófó has come to receive and guide (接引) her.

This was truly a remarkable experience and it has entrenched and deepened my faith in Āmítuófó. I would like to end-off by giving thanks to Teacher Shi’an’s continuous guidance, and his range of easily available resources. I sincerely hope all of us can hop onto the PPF travelator, hold tight, and enjoy the ride as we make our transit to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss (西方极乐世界)!

Related Articles:

The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death

Chanting When Dying, After Death, During And After Wakes

Why Join Pureland Practice Fellowship?

[22] Top Ten Pointers On Skilful Use Of Buddha Recitation Devices

Buddha Picture Placement For The Dying
[24] Top Ten Reasons To Prepare An Āmítuófó Picture Scroll

Guidance Texts Before Support-Chanting

(Simplified) Repentance Verse

How To Avoid Having Karmic Creditors When Dying?

Verse On Six Births
Verses For When Deceased
Verses On Warm Area

Related Testimonies:

How I Guided My Grandma To Niànfó Sincerely

[96] The Auspicious Sign Of The Body And Mind Being Gentle And Soft

Ancient And Modern Pure Land Practice Testimonies

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