Things to Know When Facing Death
- Those who are seriously ill should keep reciting Amitabha Buddha, and seek not recovery but rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. As our life is limited, praying for recovery is useless if our time has arrived and may bind us in samsara since we do not desire the rebirth in the Buddha-land. If we pray for rebirth, we may not die if it is not yet the time. It may speed up the recovery of the illness since Buddha recitation induces the Buddha’s blessing that eliminates our karmic obstacles. If it is our time, we will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and attain Buddhahood, precisely what we desire.
- To the patients whose illness is serious and incurable, we should skillfully explain so he would be mentally prepared and focus on the rebirth. If we conceal it and tell him instead, “you are fine, and you will get well,” we will be urging him to keep on living for the sake of his loved ones, which is an emotional, hopeless situation for the patient. Often in the end, the patient and his family know what is going on, but no one has the courage nor willingness to pierce the last layer of misguided love. So, the process of procrastination drags on, leaving the patient to die in a state of panic and confusion, losing the great opportunity to be free of samsara and attaining Buddhahood. Not only is it detrimental to the patient, but also irresponsible of his loved ones. At this critical moment, if we speak the truth with courage and love and tell him about Amitabha Buddha and his Land of Ultimate Bliss, the patient will be able to relieve his painful burden and look forward to a bright future and blissful life.
- If the patient realizes that no medical treatment can lighten his suffering, that his time has arrived, and he wishes to be home, we should tell the hospital to discharge him as soon as possible and not force him to stay in the hospital. If, for some reason, he cannot leave the hospital immediately, make sure that no invasive treatments are performed, especially those procedures to sustain his life, which only worsens his suffering, pushing him to hell.
- Do not cry when the patient is dying. It may arouse his attachment to worldly love. We must concentrate on Buddha recitation to assist him in seeking rebirth. If anyone cannot bear the grief, they should keep a reasonable distance and cry softly so he will not hear you. After having your emotions under control, come back and chant the Buddha’s name.
- After the patient dies, do not change his clothes right away or move his body because his alaya, the eighth consciousness, may not have left his body. Even a light touch of his body may cause pain. Do not have his body sent to the morgue; it would be like sending him to a Hell of Ice. If conditions allow for it, recite the Buddha’s name for the dead for at least eight hours or longer; only then can you change his clothes. If his limbs are stiff, apply a warm towel to his joints to loosen them up.
- Assisted Buddha recitation must be only “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” Recite no sutras, not The Sutra of Amitabha, nor The Kṣitigarbha Sutra (The Sutra of Earth-Treasury Bodhisattva), nor mantras, nor any other names of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Because under such urgent circumstances, only reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha can have a miraculous effect.
- Those who assist must concentrate on Buddha recitation for the dead. Speak to him and give appropriate instructions, but do not be tempted to check his countenance or body temperatures.
- Follow the “instructions to the dying” with discretion, making no lengthy discourse because, at that moment, the mental function of the dying is severely impaired, unable to comprehend a prolonged speech, and he requires the power of Buddha recitation to calm his fear and anxiety and sustain his awareness. Instructions and recitations may repeat alternatively, but the main focus is the recitation.
- When the sick are dying, their rebirth may rely on others’ help, especially the kind understanding and the benevolent help of family members. If you cannot do all the above for him, do what you can under the circumstances. But, always wholeheartedly recite the Buddha, pray that his blessing eliminates the dying’s karmic obstacles, so that he may swiftly be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
- The assisted Buddha recitation is a unique method for the rebirth of the dying who have not practiced the recitation, or who practiced to seek not rebirth but worldly blessings, or who practiced a sundry of Dharma-paths and are uncertain of rebirth upon death. It is a make-up method to help the dying let go of all mundane attachments and rely on the deliverance of Amitabha Buddha to be born in his Pure Land. It is not for people who do not practice Buddha recitation in their lifetime, only to expect rebirth by the assisted recitation of others. It should not be interpreted that recitation in a lifetime is not useful until the end of life, nor is it true that rebirth can be achieved only through assisted recitation upon death.
It should be understood that people who recite Namo Amitabha Buddha, rely on the Buddha’s vow power, and desire rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, have already secured their rebirth. It matters not if, upon death, they receive no assisted recitation or are unable to recite the name; they all will be reborn in the Land of Bliss. As Mater Shandao teaches us, “those who practice Buddha recitation solely, ‘When ten people practice (nianfo), ten will be reborn; when a hundred practice, one hundred will be reborn.”
Therefore, to achieve rebirth, we should devote our effort solely to Buddha recitation in our lifetime to assure rebirth. We must also help others and perform assisted recitation upon their death to ensure their rebirths.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Kevin Orro (Fozhu))
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings