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 A U.S. Scientist Chants Amitabha – and His Back Pain Vanishes

There is an Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha) chanting machine in my office. I leave it on all the time but keep the volume low so you really need to be attentive to hear it. Most people who come to my office don't ask about it.

Loren Berry and I have been working together for eight years. He is a young and ambitious American. He came to my office several times a week to discuss projects and science because I am his supervisor. Several years ago, Loren asked me, “What is the music you are playing”? I told him it’s not music, it’s chanting. He then asked, “What is it chanting?” I said it’s chanting “Amituofo.” He said what is Amituofo? I told him: Amituofo means the Buddha of endless light and life, the symbol of wisdom and eternal life. He is the creator of the Western Pure Land. I want to go there when my life ends. He then asked why I wanted to go there. I replied, I want to learn Buddhism and practice with Amituofo so one day when I become a Buddha, I will come back to save your soul. He said, really? I said yes, not just you of course, but you are one of them. He had this half-funny, half-serious look on his face but didn’t say anything. I then told him Amitabha Buddha is very powerful and compassionate; remember to call out to him for help when you are in danger or suffering. He will help you out! We did not have a similar conversation again.

In March last year, Loren gave a seminar. He came into my office 30 minutes before his presentation and told me he was extremely nervous and didn’t know what to do. I told him to listen to the chanting and focus on it. I suggested that he write down the scripts for his first two or three slides and read them if he is nervous. “I am going to do that,” he said, and left my office. That was the second time I mentioned the chanting to him.

In mid-September 2012, Loren told me he would take a few days off to visit his parents in Maine, where they had a vacation cabin. He once told me that some people who had visited that house could sense there were other beings around. His wife, Virginia, and his sister both sensed that.

When he came into my office before leaving, I joked: “So you are going to visit your ghost friends?” I then asked him if he believed in supernatural powers such as the Buddha or Jesus Christ, or the presence of other invisible beings. He said, “No, I don’t because I am a scientist. I need to have evidence in order to believe in something.” He paused, then added: I don’t dis-believe either, since I don’t have evidence to disprove their presence. This was the third time we touched upon something related to “religion.”

When we all came back from the Thanksgiving holidays on Nov. 29, 2012, Loren showed up in my office and asked about “ the music, the chanting.” Then he said, “Jasmine, did I tell you about my back? I injured my back two or three weeks ago.” I said no. He then told me his experience.

“I went to a hardware store two weeks before Thanksgiving to look for something,” Loren said. “When I raised my hands to reach the item, suddenly my back felt so painful. I left quickly and drove home. The pain was so great that I had to lean forward against the steering wheel from time to time. I suffered from the pain all morning and didn’t know what to do. Later I decided to chant the music in your office. I browsed the web, found the music and started chanting. My daughters (one was 6 and the other 4) chanted with me. I felt the pain lessen after a few minutes. Half an hour later, the pain was gone and I was fine.” After hearing his story, I told him, “Good for you! Amituofo helped relieve your pain.”

Loren’s wife also works in our department. I met Virginia in the kitchen a week later. I decided to ask her for more details about the episode. She is a very quiet person who usually doesn’t talk much. But this time she spoke up readily. She said Loren took analgesics and applied ointment to his back pain but nothing helped. He suffered for a few hours. “Suddenly,” Virginia recalled, “he got up and said, ‘I am going to chant the music in Jasmine’s office.’ Ava and Hanna saw their father’s serious demeanor and followed him into the room. They started chanting together. Loren’s back pain was gone after a while.”

I asked Virginia what they were chanting. She said, “Amituofo.” I was delighted. Never had I mentioned Amituofo to her. She learned the name when she heard her husband and daughters chant it. Loren called out to Amitabha when he was suffering and the Buddha reached out to him.

I have been chanting Amituofo for several years. Although I haven’t experienced his power personally, I never doubted his presence. However, Amituofo showed me his compassion and power through someone who doesn’t know him well and who called out to him for help simply because he was desperate. Loren’s experience strengthens my belief in Amituofo, my desire to go to Western Pure Land and my recitation practice.

Virginia told me she too chanted Amituofo when they visited the “ghost house” at Christmas. She followed my advice to chant Amituofo and transferred the merit therefrom to the invisible beings. She also advised them to go to the Pure Land with Amituofo. When she or her daughters were sick, Virginia chanted Amituofo as well. She even told the girls to go to their rooms to chant Amituofo when they didn’t behave. She said Ava, the six-year-old, came back with a smiley face.

May the Berry family remember to chant Amituofo from now on. May they go to Pure Land at the end of their current lives. I might have helped saved their souls without having become a Buddha.

Recorded in English by Jasmine Min-Hwa Lin, Boston, U.S.A., on Feb. 22, 2013
edited by Householder Jingtu

Characteristics

  • 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.

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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