Remote Assisted Recitation Could Lead to Rebirth in the Land of Bliss
Robert Paluch is and was my companion. He had a very kind and gentle personality. He hardly ever scolded people but loved to help others. He even took time to connect with prisoners for their emotional support. He loved animals, particularly rescued animals. We met by practicing Buddhism when we were living in New York City. At that time, I was attending Buddhist services at Fo Guang Shan in New York. I would drag Robert to attend the services. However, traditional Buddhist ceremonies are typically very boring for most Americans. During that time there was a monk stationed up at Fo Guang Shan's Upstate location called Deer Park. The monk would organize a meditation retreat for Westerners on the weekends. Robert would gather his friends and drive two and half hours one way to attend the retreats. Robert was born in New Jersey to a Catholic family. When his mother was about to pass away, he invited a Fo Guang Shan monastic who excelled in English to deliver Dharma to his mother. Robert's yinyuan with Buddhism was not superficial.
About 10 years ago, Robert had a chance to visit Siam Reap in Cambodia. After returning to the United States, he planned to go back and live there. Since I was tired of living the hustle and bustle of life in NY, I followed Robert along to Siam Reap. Besides practicing Buddhism with the Theravada monks, we volunteered to teach poor villages there. Life in Cambodia was very simple. However, l decided to come back after three years to take care of my aging mother. Robert soon followed.
Robert unfortunately had several medical conditions impacting his life. He had Type 1 diabetes since childhood. Throughout his adult life, he was either at the doctor’s office or in hospitals. Not long after returning to the US, he had double by-pass heart surgery among other surgeries. Robert’s yuan with Pure Land Buddhism started when Master Jingzong came to propagate the Pure Land Dharma in our area in 2017. Although Robert was unable to participate in a group recitation setting due to his physical disability, he was able to listen to my mom’s and my recitation in our living quarters.
Robert started to not feel well in early October. I brought him to the ER. He was observed for two days there. His diagnosis and prognosis were poor: he had stage 4 lung cancer. The oncologist told him there was no cure for this stage of cancer, but he could prolong his life by getting chemotherapy. During this difficult time, l started to explain to Robert the splendor of Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land and that he should aspire to be reborn there. I constantly reminded Robert to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha during his last days. Robert decided to go with the chemo treatment. However, he didn't feel well three days after the therapy. I took him to the emergency room again. The doctor said that he might be having a heart attack and a blood clot. He was on a ventilator and struggling with his life. Because of his late stage cancer, the doctors suggested to not do anything and allow him to die naturally. Even if the doctors were to rescue him, he would be living on a ventilator in a vegetative state.
I immediately called up Master Jinghe in Taiwan asking for a group recitation for Robert as he might pass away at any moment. Venerable Jinghe came to visit us in Chapel Hill, North Carolina twice from Taiwan. I previously accompanied him to visit lotus friends in Philly and New Jersey and therefore know him well. Ever since Covid-19 started, our Pure Land Buddhist recitation group has been using LINE application to recite for the ill and deceased. Once the group call started, there were many Lotus friends who joined in to recite for Robert. I held my cell phone near his ear and chanted with our group. After reciting for two hours, Robert’s condition looked stabilized. Therefore, we ended our group recitation for the night. However, I continued to play nianfo on my cell phone and recited along until the hospital found him a room. Before I left the hospital at 4:40am, l reminded the nurses on duty to not touch Robert's body when he died, and that we would need the room for at least eight hours afterwards because of religious purposes.
At 7:30 am, I received a phone call from Robert's doctor. He said Robert was breathing alright but his blood pressure was dropping. When I arrived at Robert's room at 8:45, l saw him breathing naturally in the bed with minimal upper body movement. I immediately hooked up the recitation device and started reciting Namo Amitoufo. As l was chanting, I thought it was going to be awhile before Robert would pass; thus, I decided to take a rest while the recitation device was still playing. At 11:55 am, one nurse came in to check on Robert. She told me she believed Robert had passed. I said, “Really? How could that be?” Impermanence arrived too fast! I quickly dialed up Master Jinghe asking for an end of life group recitation right away. As l was chanting along with our group, l could see Robert looked like he was just sleeping. His face was so peaceful showing signs of happiness. His mouth was shut with a slight smile and his eyes were closed like a sleeping angel. How could he be dead? At 12:05 pm, a nurse came in and asked for my permission to measure Robert's heartbeat. She said there was still a sign of faint breathing. The same nurse came back to check on Robert’s heartbeat at 12:20-12:30 again. This time she said Robert had finally passed away. During our 8 1/2 hours of assisted recitation, Master Jinghe used very clear English to deliver discourses to Robert several times. He reminded Robert that everything in this world is not real and he must let go of everything. He also told Robert to join us to recite the name of Namo Amitoufo and that Amitabha Buddha will come and deliver him to his Land of Bliss. During the entire recitation period, l felt Robert was just sleeping peacefully there without any struggling to catch his last breath. He must have passed peacefully without any fear and followed Amitabha Buddha to his Pure Land or there wouldn't be such an unimaginable auspicious sight. After the group recitation was over, l went outside the room and saw a couple of nurses in the hallway. One of them commented that she had never seen anyone pass away as if he was asleep.
A week later, dharma sister Jingxin told me when she was reciting upstairs in her Buddha hall, she heard a man with an American accent chanting Na--Mo--A--Mi--Tuo--Fo twice in a very slow pace. She looked at her screen and there was no one with their microphones on except Venerable Jinghe (everyone else needed to turn off the mic so there was no interference during the chanting). She asked her husband Bob if he had heard the same thing. Bob's answer was yes! So, l asked Jingxin at what time she heard the recitation in a male voice? She replied it was around 12:20-12:30 pm. Bob also heard it at about the same time. This was the time when Robert was passing away. This proved to me that Amitabha Buddha's infinite light really permeates the worlds in ten directions because with the remote assisted recitation from our Masters and many Lotus friends, Robert was able to be reborn peacefully. One could tell that Amitabha Buddha doesn't forsake any sentient being.
Instead of sending flowers, I requested relatives and friends in Robert's obituary to make a donation to the Pureland Buddhism of North Carolina. This gesture not only will help Robert receive more merits, but will also help our friends to build kind yuan with Pure Land Buddhism. When l handed one donation envelope to the treasurer of the organization the other day, she said, “It is so fragrant; it smells like sandalwood!” I thought it was kind of strange; why was the envelope so fragrant? The donation was placed inside an ordinary envelope. Maybe this unique fragrance was a way for Amitabha Buddha to show his approval and encouragement for Robert's kind gesture.
(Edited by Kevin Orro (Fozhu))
- 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
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.
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