[108] How We Overcame Obstacles To Successfully Guide Our Old Friend To Pure Land 我们如何克服障碍,成功引导老朋友往生净土

graphic illustration of heart pulse rate
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Introduction 介绍

While having lunch with our long-time good friend Y in January, we shared about coming to the Orchard Road area to attend Dharma classes weekly. She immediately asked if her Mum (Auntie X) could attend as she had started taking mild anti-depressants and is worried about death.

As Auntie does not understand English, we asked if Y can attend on her behalf, to share what she will learn with Auntie. Her immediate reply was ‘No way!’ We then suggested to visit Auntie on the fourth day of the lunar new year, to share what we have learnt.

On that day, Y sent a message, informing that Auntie was found unconscious in the morning, and is now in the A&E department, in coma due to massive brain bleeding. We were shocked with disbelief that impermanence struck so swiftly, before we could visit her. We immediately practised Niànfó (念佛) to dedicate merits.

Day One Of Support-Chanting 助念第一天

As we have promised to share the Dharma, we feel obligated to do so, even if Auntie is unresponsive. We consulted Teacher Shi’an and drafted the first Guidance Text (开示文) (in Chinese):

Mother of Y, Auntie X, I am H. L and I have come to motivate you. We know that you are now suffering, but please let go of everything. Together, let us be mindful of the Buddha’s name sincerely. Āmítuófó will help you to overcome this obstacle.

Y 妈妈,X 阿姨,我是 H。我和 L 来给妳打气了。我们知道妳现在很辛苦,但请妳放下一切,和我们一起诚心念佛。阿弥陀佛会帮助妳度过这个难关。

If when mindful of the Buddha, Āmítuófó comes to receive you, please do not hesitate, and just follow him. With mindfulness of Buddha within your mind, there will be peace and bliss. Follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss, where there will be no more sickness and suffering. When it is our time, we will also reach the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, to meet you there.
[This is adapted from https://purelanders.com/sign.]


Before offering guidance, we sought Y’s approval on the text. She agreed on the part encouraging her Mum to Niànfó but rejected outrightly on the part about following Āmítuófó to his Pure Land. She reasoned that her Mum has always been a fighter and that it is not her time to leave this world yet!

We explained that even with Niànfó, there is no guarantee that she will recover. If Āmítuófó appears to bring her to the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, it is the best outcome then. However, Y was still insistent on excluding the second part. Out of respect, we agreed.

We entered the ICU room and saw Auntie hooked to a mechanical ventilator, with a tube on her scalp draining off blood. We recited the Repentance Text (忏悔文) and practised Niànfó for 30 minutes by her bed, before dedicating merits (回向功德). At the end of the session, we realised that her systolic blood pressure had increased from the normal 115 mmHg to a high 180 mmHg.

Day Two Of Support-Chanting 助念第二天

We passed an old handphone to Y, preloaded with the Āmítuófó chant we use, from https://purelanders.com/mp3, advising her to keep it looping by Auntie’s bed, so that she will be reminded to recite when we were not around. When we recited the Guidance Text again, her blood pressure shot up to 180 mmHg again!

We updated Teacher and he reminded us to be extra careful in our subsequent actions, in case her family misunderstands, thinking we are putting too much pressure on Auntie to depart. He advised to offer more assuring words. Our first revision of the Guidance Text (in Chinese) is as follows, which takes Auntie’s lifelong dedication in caring for her family into consideration:

(Auntie X, I am H. L and I have come to motivate you. We know that you are now suffering, but please let go of everything. Together, let us be mindful of the Buddha’s name sincerely. Āmítuófó will help you to overcome this obstacle.

X 阿姨,我是H。我和 L 来给妳打气了。我们知道妳现在很辛苦,但请妳放下一切,和我们一起诚心念佛。阿弥陀佛会帮助妳度过这个难关。

Because Āmítuófó has immeasurable bright light [of blessings], it cannot be obstructed. You must have faith that with mindfulness of Buddha, there will be peace and bliss. With your sincere mind mindful of Buddha, you will attain the Buddha’s power of blessings, and eliminate your obstacles. Please let go of everything. There is no need to worry about your family members. Everyone will take care of one another. You should only be mindful of Buddha’s name wholeheartedly.)


Day Three Of Support-Chanting 助念第三天

We noticed that the handphone was not turned on by Auntie’s bed. Although a little disappointed, we did not ask Y about it as we did not want to impose. We continued support-chanting (助念) using the revised text. This time, we were happy that her blood pressure did not shoot up and maintained a healthy level!

Y updated that they have sought a second opinion from a neurologist in private practice and was told that the chances of her waking up was only 5%, and even if she does, she will lose much awareness and mobility. Y said her Mum had always been stressing not to become a burden for her children. Thus, she is now agreeable with us guiding her to follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land, also because her family was likely to ‘let their Mum go’.

We updated Teacher and were immediately reminded that the intubation hooked on to is considered life support, and that switching it off when oxygen is needed is similar to ‘murder’ in effect. We then forwarded articles on the subject to Y.

Day Four Of Support-Chanting 助念第四天

Y updated that she and her family have begun telling her Mum to let go of all worldly attachments, and to follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land when she sees him. We were extremely happy to see the preloaded handphone playing in the ICU room continuously. The family informed that Auntie seemed much calmer after listening to the chant. With guidance from Teacher, we did a second revision of the Guidance Text (in Chinese):

(Auntie, in this life, you have already done much for your family members. Uncle [i.e. her husband], Y, Z, and your two sons-in-law all deeply feel your love. Thus, you should have no more regrets. Please let go of all your worries, to wholeheartedly be mindful of the Buddha. When seeing Āmítuófó, do not hesitate to follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land. When you have reached the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, you will be able to learn from Āmítuófó, to become a Bodhisattva and Buddha, to continue blessing your family members. We will also reunite with you in the Land Of Ultimate Bliss later. Please do not worry about your family members, because all will be well. You only have to be mindful of the Buddha’s name wholeheartedly.)

阿姨,在妳这一生,已经为家人付出了很多。叔叔, Y, Z, 还有妳的两个女婿都深深感受到妳的爱。所以,妳此生已没有遗憾了。请妳放下所有的担心,一心念佛,看到阿弥陀佛时,不要犹豫,跟着阿弥陀佛到他的净土。到了极乐世界,妳就可以跟阿弥陀佛学习,作菩萨成佛,继续保佑家人。以后,我们也会在极乐世界与妳重逢。记得不要担心家人,因为大家都安好,只要一心念佛就可以了。

We noticed Auntie’s upper body jerked a few times when she heard the first part of the Guidance Text, which meant that she was responding, while her blood pressure maintained at a healthy level. After another round of 30-minute Niànfó, we gently reminded Auntie’s husband, Y and her younger sister to continue with Niànfó, and dedicated the merits to Auntie.

Day Five Of Support-Chanting 助念第五天

Visiting in the afternoon, we noticed that Auntie’s complexion has become much healthier looking than before. Her tongue, which was deep purple on the first day now looked normal. We repeated the Guidance Text and encouraged her to continue to Niànfó sincerely.

At the resting area outside the ICU, Y updated that her family has more or less decided to ask the doctor to turn off all life-supporting devices tomorrow. Upon hearing this, we began to worry that Auntie might not have ample time to Niànfó, to connect to and follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land.

That night, Auntie’s family members had a meeting at home and confirmed their plan. Y and her younger sister then returned to the hospital to keep their Mum company for the night.

At about 1 am, Auntie’s heartbeat slowed down gradually, before ending at 1.49 am. We heard of her passing only in the morning, some hours later. We were glad that Auntie managed to depart smoothly before life support was turned off. As we have learnt about the possible ill effects of embalmment, we immediately shared articles on it with Y.

Wake 吊唁处

We felt relieved when we saw Auntie’s expression in the open coffin. Although with embalmment done, she looked as if she was asleep. Her face looked soft, without any expression of agony. The family and us all believe that she has reached Pure Land. Āmítuófó!

Some Takeaway Lessons 学习重点

[1] Impermanence With Sudden Karmic Effects: We were supposed to meet Auntie on the day she had stroke. Impermanence in life can indeed be unpredictable, with sudden ripening of karma. We missed the chance of sharing the Dharma when she was healthy, but on hindsight, she might have been less receptive (with less sense of urgency) if she was doing better.

[2] Deep Respect: We must always remind ourselves to maintain deep respect for the dying (or deceased) and the family members concerned. The wake and funeral are their ‘show’ with ‘ceremonies’ to conduct, not ours. We are there simply to help the dying or deceased build trust in Āmítuófó, and to guide with sincere reciting of his name for birth in his Pure Land. We must never impose or bulldoze through with our views, even if they are right. If this is done, without adapting when needed, there will be unhappiness and even conflict, making the goal of guiding towards Pure Land impossible.

[3] Skilful Means: We really must open our ears and hearts to listen to the needs of the family, to offer guidance that they are comfortable with. For example, the initial Guidance Text offered had to omit the part urging letting go of worldly attachments to reach Pure Land. We only kept to guidance along the line of, ‘只要一心念佛,就会有大利益。念佛的功德,我们都会回向给妳和家人.’ (You only have to be mindful of the Buddha’s wholeheartedly for there to be great benefits. With the meritorious virtues from mindfulness of Buddha, we will dedicate them to you and your family.) We tried our best not to give the wrong impression that reciting Āmítuófó is to hasten the sick towards death.

[4] Improvisation: Teacher has lots of information online, with articles explaining concepts and methods for general readers. Thus, when we cannot use the Guidance Text of the teachings ‘wholesale’, we will have to do our best to improvise by rephrasing, without losing the essential intentions and meanings. For example, by saying ‘我(们)来给妳打气’ ([We] have come to motivate you), instead of saying ‘我们来给妳助念’ (We have come to offer support-chanting’).

[5] Persuasion: Both daughters and sons-in-law simply did not believe in any religion. When we suggested chanting Āmítuófó for Auntie to Y, she initially said they are not the religious type. L then suggested that it is not necessary to chant for 30 minutes or more, as she can break up recitation of Āmítuófó’s name, to be ten times each, and recite as many cycles as possible. The phone was put to great use, playing Āmítuófó’s name day and night. On our last visit and during the wake, the younger daughter also said that she recited Āmítuófó’s name by her Mum’s bed, and that it brought her calmness.

[6] Obstacles: Our handphone’s Āmítuófó track stopped for no clear reason during our very first 30-minute chanting session. We immediately replayed it and concentrated on recitation again. The track went out of tune during our fourth visit. We stopped, looked at each other briefly but got back in rhythm quickly. Please be mentally prepared in case there are such obstacles. We just need to keep our composure to continue with practice, and all will be fine. Even if there is no guiding track, we should still recite by ourselves.

[7] Self-Reminders And Encouragement: We must always remind ourselves that we are there to offer patients and their family members a very precious gift – with guidance and support-chanting for birth in the Land Of Ultimate Bliss. We should thus be confident in whatever we say, do and recite. H was hesitant after the first day and said to Y, ‘We are not sure if we have helped your Mum.’ L immediately asserted that of course they did, and that Auntie will definitely receive the merits and blessings. At the wake, H asked L if they should still offer another round of guidance and support-chanting as planned, as the non-religious wake had no Buddha statues or pictures, not even offerings. L affirmed that they should still do so, as Auntie will still benefit accordingly.

[8] Sincerity In Niànfó: L discovered that when he started chanting by the deathbed, there were minimal stray thoughts. In his mind, there were only the Buddha’s name and Auntie’s bedridden expression (although mindfulness of Buddha will do). 死到临头了,才会真诚地念佛!(When approaching death, then is there more truly sincere mindfulness of Buddha!) As such, we should remember our mortality to motivate ourselves to be more sincerely mindful of Buddha in everyday life.

Conclusion 结语

We could see and feel how helpless the family members were at the hospital. We strongly believe that recitation of Āmítuófó’s name helped to calm Auntie, as could be seen from her blood pressure. After looking at her gentle and peaceful final expression, we are certain that she has departed with Āmítuófó to reach his Pure Land!

Related Teachings:

What Attitude To Have When Severely Sick?

[81] How My Mother Departed For Pure Land Smoothly (Without Turning Off Life Support)

《临终三大要》: 原文·白话·详解
The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death: Original, Simplified And Explanatory Text

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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