How to Deal With Loneliness When Nearing Death
A Lotus friend asked:
A Lotus friend of mine has reached the end of his life; only he can understand the loneliness he feels. I am doing what I can to comfort him, and I dedicate the merits of my Amitabha-recitations to him every day. Unfortunately, he has no companion and is lying in bed with a broken cervical vertebra and is swollen all over. He hasn’t been eating for several days now. Reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha for rebirth is his only hope, and the Nianfo tape recorder is his greatest comfort. Could Master please offer him some kind advice so that he can feel the last bit of warmth in his heart and feel your compassion.
Answers by Master Jingzong:
Amituofo. I am very sorry that I got this information late and didn’t deal with it in time. I don’t know if this Lotus friend of yours has passed away and been reborn by now. What I would like to say is that loneliness is the essence of life. The Sutra of the Infinite Life says, “Amid worldly desires and attachments, we come and go alone. We are born alone, and we die alone.”
In order to avoid the fear of loneliness, people often resort to entertainment, travel, adventure, marriage, and association with others. However, none of these methods can ultimately eliminate loneliness. Excitement and buzz only offer a temporary escape. We easily lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of life while, in loneliness, we can find the self within us with ease.
I personally believe that it is better to have loneliness come sooner rather than later, and we need to understand and face it correctly. All Amitabha-reciters, in order to have their rebirth assured in the present lifetime, must face and overcome the barrier of loneliness. It is not possible to have someone accompany you throughout life and death, or when you cross the White Path between the Two Rivers of Flaming Fires and Raging Waters. One must face Amituofo’s deliverance personally, directly and alone. But due to our excessive desire for all things in this world, we always want to find a companion. If we believe in Amitabha Buddha, recite his name, and have complete faith in rebirth, we should be able to overcome this barrier. Of course, as vexed ordinary beings, there are desires that we do not want to let go of, and that is a reflection of affliction. But we should look at ourselves inwardly and recognize the nature of loneliness, experience it, and overcome it.
The Contemplation Sutra reads, “The light [of Amitabha] permeates all worlds, always embracing those who recite his name, forsaking none.” If you want to get rid of the loneliness in life or near death you must enter Amitabha Buddha’s unforsaken light. With the Buddha’s guidance, accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattvas, protected day and night by the Bodhisattvas from the Pure Land, even though we are alone, we do not actually feel lonely.
If you still feel lonely and do not feel comforted, then perhaps you don’t have a thorough enough understanding of this Dharma path, and your faith in it is not firm enough.
I think when my time has come, even if I were alone under a bridge, having no friends around, and though my life may appear regrettable in this world, for me, having Amituofo would be sufficient.
There’s a saying that goes: “I wish to be an Amitabha-reciter who lives in quietness and silence.” “Quietness” implies calm and peace. “Silence” is a state of not requiring understanding from others. This is not a lonely life. This is a fulfilled life.
But I am only a mortal. The words of a mortal are weak, powerless, and may not be sufficiently comforting. However, what I said is the reality of life.
May all of us Amitabha-reciters be embraced by the light of the Buddha, and be free from the fear of loneliness.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
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