Liberty Lawyer agency

 How Should an Amitabha-reciter Face Death?

By Master Jingyuan


Question by Fochun:

       Venerable Master Jingyuan, I would be grateful if you could enlighten us on how Buddhists, particularly those of us Amitabha-reciters, should approach the inevitable reality of death.

The Dharma Master replied:

       The question posed by this fellow practitioner delves into the Buddhist perspective on death. This is particularly relevant for us Amitabha-reciters, as our rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land is already assured in our current lifetime. Yet, we remain in this Saha world, inhabiting bodies that are impermanent assemblies of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. These bodies of karmic retribution must inevitably go through the process of dissolution, that is death.

       Personally, I consider death as the ultimate test for someone on a spiritual path. Death is the final challenge. This applies not just to ordinary people, but especially to Buddhist practitioners, and Amitabha-reciters like us. We consistently cultivate our minds and deepen our understanding of the truth that recitation of the Buddha’s name ensures our rebirth. Our ultimate goal is to shed the physical body we have acquired through our karma, attain liberation, and be reborn in Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. Death, then, is the threshold between impermanence and eternity.

       Therefore, death is not something to fear for an Amitabha-reciter. On the contrary, it’s a moment of glory, a significant honor. Speaking for myself, I actually look forward to death. The final moments for Amitabha-reciters should be a grand affair. Every time I read about some venerable person entering Nirvana in Buddhist literature, the descriptions of heavenly beings showering petals and all sorts of wonderful auspicious signs, I could really feel the profound honor and glory involved.

       The Amitabha Sutra vividly tells us what happens at that moment: Amitabha Buddha and all the great Bodhisattvas from the Land of Ultimate Bliss would come to welcome us personally. The Buddha would present us with the lotus flower, a great symbol of our supreme achievement, and in an instant, we are reborn in the Land of Bliss. This entire process is more glorious than any highlight in our lives.

       Thus, for Buddhists, particularly Amitabha-reciters who are assured of rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss within our current lifetime, we should feel a deep sense of spiritual joy when we face death.

       I recall during my school days, I encountered the seminal work “Gitanjali”, a collection of poetic verses by Rabindranath Tagore. One of the poems is a poignant piece about death entitled “When Death will Knock at Your Door.” Tagore’s perception of death in that poem deeply resonated with me, so much so that I took it upon myself to memorize it. In that poem. Tagore eloquently expresses his thought and emotions about death as follows:

On the day when Death will knock at thy door
What will you offer to him?
Oh, I will set before my guest the full vessel of my life –
I will never let him go with empty hands.
All the sweet vintage of all my autumn days and summer nights,
all the earnings and gleanings of my busy life
will I place before him at the close of my days
when Death will knock at my door.

       It’s clear that Tagore doesn't show any fear of death. Instead, he's actually cheering on its arrival because he's lived a full life — his cup is overflowing. He has reaped all the sweetness life has to offer, so the prospect of death doesn't scare him. In fact, he's ready to use the sweet nectar of his life to triumph over death, to step on its skull and ascend straight into the eternal realm. This poem really captures the dignified attitude of someone who is enlightened, facing death with nobility.

       As followers who recite Amitabha, we should adopt this approach: Why should we fear death? For we are constantly guarded by 'Namo Amitabha Buddha'. Amitabha Buddha embraces us with his light, refusing to forsake us, and provides us with unceasing, luminous protection. So, what is there to fear? From the moment we decide to recite Amitabha's name and seek rebirth, Amitabha Buddha is always there at our side, protecting us. And so there is nothing to worry about.

       Our entire lives are essentially a buildup towards death. On the Sacred Path, one must gather a vast array of wisdom, practice virtues like the paramitas, and engage in countless good deeds. This process is too extensive to finish in just one lifetime; even those committed to their practice might need countless eons to accumulate enough merit. But for us Amitabha-reciters, the recitation of the Buddha’s name is a complete practice in itself. With just one recitation, the heaviest karmic burdens are lifted. Master Yinguang put it eloquently: the mantra of “Namo Amitabha Buddha” not only facilitates enlightenment but also provides merit to spare. Hence, we're already amassing the merit necessary for liberation and awakening, allowing us to confront death without fear, as death is merely a door to bliss and Nirvana.

       For those who recite the name of Amitabha, death is almost like a game. Plato once penned a poem called "The Swan’s Song," where he notes that as swans face death, they dance. The swan dances at the moment of its demise because, to the swan, death is playful. I remember studying Indian philosophy, where the enlightened ones are referred to in Sanskrit as 'Paramahamsa', meaning 'supreme swan'. The enlightened are likened to swans because, for them, death is not an end but a leap in life, a dance of the soul.

       For us Amitabha-reciters, death is a moment of unparalleled splendor. It marks the beginning of our journey towards Buddhahood, an essential gateway into the effortless world of Nirvana. Personally, I believe that we should greet death with joy and anticipation, not with fear and dread. Of course, for someone who hasn't deeply understood the nature of impermanence and death, it's natural to fear the end. But fear won't stop us from being reborn in the Pure Land, because Amitabha Buddha will appear to comfort us in our final moments. Thus, when we see the Buddha, joy and delight will naturally arise within us.

       I would recommend taking part in assisted recitation for someone on deathbed to deepen your understanding of life's impermanence and the reality of death. Witnessing the death of others often sparks a sense of letting go, or what the Indians call 'the sense of detachment in funeral parlour.' We begin to question the value of worldly pursuits and reflect on the fleeting nature of life with deep emotions.

       This sense of detachment might not last and you might forget it after a few days. But persevere with the practice of being aware of the real nature of death, it still plants the seed of renunciation. Over time, this can transform fear of death into a joyful anticipation of death itself.

       Namo Amituofo!


(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)




  • Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
  • Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
  • Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
  • Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime

Amitabha Buddhas

The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha

If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.

Guiding Principles

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