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 An American Catholic Daughter-in-Law Assisted the Rebirth of Her Father-in-Law by Reciting Namo Amituofo

  

Dear Master Jingben,

       I am writing to share with you an experience of mine. My name is Jarrod Li, and I am 57 years old from Pingtung, Taiwan. After graduating from National Taiwan University, I went to the United States in 1989 to study for a master’s degree. I married an American (Lucilla Li), who is Catholic, and settled down in the States. I currently manage the branch of a German company in Shanghai. We usually go back to the States for holidays in July and December and return to Taiwan for the Chinese New Year.

Turning a mind of unease to peace

       I want to thank Master Jingben for your continuous online teachings of the pristine Pure Land Buddhism. I had already known about Buddhism and nianfo[1] and have been a vegetarian since 1999, when I was in the United States, but I never felt at ease with the teachings of the general path. They constantly stress: “You must be free from delusions, and recite Amituofo single-mindedly,” “it is useless to recite the Buddha with a mind full of delusive thoughts, even if you shout down the throat,” “every thought in your mind must be the Buddha name, or you won’t accomplish rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss,” and so on. When I heard such standards for rebirth, I knew that I would never meet them in this life, so I had no confidence in nianfo. Because of this, I recited the Lenyan Mantra,[2] the Great Compassion Mantra, and other mantras instead to make myself feel better.

       Until one day, I saw your teachings on YouTube : every sentence explained that nianfo is the “easy path,” and rebirth is accomplished by the power of Amitabha Buddha, his great vows, etc. Compared to the teachings that I had learned before, these taught me that there are vivid distinctions between the general path, which is Sage-way, and the easy path, which is the Pure Land way! It turns out that if you recite the Buddha-name and rely on Amituofo’s great power of vows, you will be delivered to his Pure Land. It has nothing to do with our own efforts, which is why it is called the easy path, it’s as simple as that.

       Later on, after the recommendations by you to listen to lectures by Master Jingzong, I began to understand Master Shandao’s teachings on Pure Land Buddhism, such as the “Two kinds of deep faith in the roots of potentialities and Amituofo’s deliverance.” Those lectures strengthened my faith and made me more steadfast in reciting the Buddha-name, no longer caring about my delusive thoughts.

       So, I set aside all other sutras and mantras and recited Namo Amituofo exclusively every day, often playing and following the recording of Master Huijing’s chanting. At other times throughout the day, I would continue my recitation silently while doing chores or just idling. I feel fortunate and happy to have encountered Master Shandao’s lineage of the Pure Land School.

Guarding at the bier of father’s body

       Here I would like to share a story of my father’s death.

       My father passed away in 2017 at the age of 90.

       Father’s dementia was worsening in his final years. To provide a safe and proper care environment, we had him admitted to a nursing home in Pingtung, so my younger brother could visit and look after him every day; he handled everything for the family. My younger sister and I respected his decisions, since I lived overseas and my younger sister and her husband lived in Taipei; neither of us were there with our parents.

       My father passed away around three or four o’clock Monday morning. I was in Shanghai at the time and flew back to Pingtung as soon as I got the news, while my wife flew back to Taiwan from the United States on Tuesday.

       My younger brother and sister did not know any lotus friends, so there was no one at my father’s side to assist recitation and give him a discourse and council on rebirth. As soon as my father passed away, my brother hired a funeral home in Pingtung to arrange for father what they called “Buddhist etiquette and ceremony.” To lessen his final moment of suffering, our father had a “do not resuscitate order”, so after he died, my brother followed the steps of the funeral home and put our father’s body in a refrigerated morgue at the filial mourning hall.

       On the plane back to Taiwan, I kept reciting the Buddha-name all the way to the funeral hall. My younger brother was busy with the funeral arrangements, and my sister and brother-in-law were helping fold the traditional Daoist gold and silver paper to be burnt for the deceased. After my wife arrived, she chanted with me most of the time. Lucilla is an American and was raised Catholic. She knows very little Chinese. Since we got married, she has embraced my faith and learned to recite the Buddha’s name; that is the only thing she knows about Buddhism. I also told my siblings that if they were tired of folding paper or had time, they could join us in recitation, or take over when we were tired. So we chanted from the morning until dusk, with meal breaks in between.

Saw Amitabha Buddha receiving my father

       We continued to recite Buddha-name for father every day when he was in the funeral home. On the fifth day during our recitation, my wife suddenly burst into tears, and in a prostrate position, continued worshipping toward father. She kept turning her head to look at me and then back at father. I didn’t know what she was doing and didn’t pay too much attention but kept on chanting. Later, she couldn’t help but run outside to cry aloud.

        Afterward, I asked Lucilla, “Did something happen to you inside just now? Why were you so emotional?”

        She asked, “Didn’t you see anything just now?”

        I said, “No. I didn’t see anything.”

       Then she said, “After reciting the Buddha-name for a while, I suddenly saw a giant golden Buddha descending from the wall above Father. So, I kept worshiping and reciting. When I looked back at you, I meant to ask if you saw it too.”

       Lucilla went on saying, “The Amituofo that descended from the sky was completely gold. Soon afterward, I saw Father, looking very young, standing in front of the Buddha and covered all over in golden light. After a while, he rose and went up with Amituofo, so I couldn’t help but run out crying.” Lucilla is an American Catholic. Apart from Buddha-name recitation, she doesn’t know much about Buddhism, especially about rebirth. So, these were factual, not something she made up.

       At first, I thought that people who made it to the Pureland would display an auspicious appearance on their bodies: lotuses, rare fragrances, etc. But later, I learned from Master Jingben that whether there is an auspicious sign or not, rebirth to the Pure Land depends solely on whether the dying was a Buddhist reciter or if there are reciters assisting his rebirth to the Buddha land. (Indeed, during the mourning period, my wife, brother and sister, and I were reciting the Buddha’s name to assist and succeed in our father’s rebirth.) Therefore, even if the deceased did not succeed in the immediate rebirth and was in the state of bardo, if his family members recite the Buddha name for him, Amituofo will respond and deliver the dead to the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

      I was comforted by the Master’s advice because my father had been bedridden for more than seven years before he passed away. In the last few years, he had Alzheimer’s disease. He never studied Buddhism in his early years and suffered from dementia in later years and could not recognize people very well. Every time I called my father, I would ask him to recite the Buddha’s name a few times. I had no idea that Amituofo would come to deliver him even in his condition; because his children recited his name. The compassionate deliverance of Amituofo is indeed incredible and inconceivable, hindered by neither time nor space. It is truly an “easy path”!

       I am grateful for the Master’s enlightening guidance and I wish to share with you this remarkable experience.

       Namo Amituofo

 Li Jia Rong
   5/10/2021

 

 Commentary from Master Jingben

       In The Sutra of Mahayana Solemnity of the Infinite Life, Amituofo says,

If, when I attained Buddhahood, I shall name the Infinite Life, sentient beings who hear my name will be reborn in my land. They will possess the same golden physique and perfect features as Buddha and deliver sentient beings with compassion as Buddhas.

       In The Contemplation Sutra, the good Buddhist teacher says:

Calling Namo Amituofo will extinguish birth-and-death karmic offenses over eight billion kalpas.

       Therefore, all sentient beings in the ten directions, regardless of sages or mortals, devas or humans, good or evil, will be equally liberated if they encounter Namo Amituofo. The person in this story was an elderly and mentally impaired patient. His daughter-in-law, who recited the Buddha’s name for him, was an American Catholic whose only knowledge in Buddhism was nianfo. She recited the name and induced the Buddha to appear in front of her and deliver her father-in-law. It demonstrates that the Buddha’s deliverance is unconditional, and nianfo is the easiest and the most powerful of all Buddha’s teachings. I hope that all sentient beings in the Dharma world will encounter the nianfo-path and be saved by the Buddha. 

(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School  Translation Team) 

 

[1] Nianfo in Chinese pinyin: nian means to recite verbally or mentally; Fo means the Buddha; hence, nianfo means Buddha-recitation and/or Buddha-remembrance.
[2] Lengyan mantra in Chinese pinyin, Śūrańgama mantra in Sanskrit.

 

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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.

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