My Father Knew When and Controlled the Timing of his Rebirth
My father’s rebirth was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen since I became a monk more than ten years ago.
Over the years, I have seen and heard of many cases of rebirth, but the way my father, Xia Xiangpu, died was the first and only one of its kind.
My father was 75 years old, and suffered from no illnesses. He knew his time had come and controlled it to wait for me to see him off.
On July 15 of the lunar month in 2007, I stopped by my parents’ house on my way to take care of the Buddha statue for the temple and saw that they both were in good health, so I planned to return to the temple that evening.
My father asked me: “Are you going to leave today?”
I said there was something in the monastery that I had to attend to, and my father said nothing more than: “Then you must go.”
The next day, I unexpectedly received a call from home telling me to hurry back as dad was about to pass away. I thought to myself, he was just fine yesterday; why all of a sudden is he going to die today? I rushed home and saw my father was not at all sick and was in the same good spirits as the previous day. He was sitting on the bed and chanting the Buddha’s name. I was a bit puzzled and said, “you look quite well. Why did you say you were going to die?
Father said: “I was waiting until you came back.”
I was surprised to hear this and asked: “Waiting for me? Then I’ll see you off.”
Father said: “Good!”
I was very excited to hear my father’s firm reply. At that moment, my father laid down and recited clearly with us, “Namo Amituofo! Namo Amituofo!”
After about ten chants, my father suddenly opened his eyes, looked at me, and said, “You haven’t struck the chime yet.”
"Okay, I'll strike the chime."
I hurriedly took out the chime from the sachet. My father chanted along with the rhythm: “Namo Amituofo! Namo Amituofo! …...”
When we were chanting Namo the third time, my father again opened his eyes widely, looked at me for a moment, then closed his eyes, and passed away peacefully.
Witnessing my father’s extraordinary rebirth, amid the sound of Namo Amituofo, like the long flaming tail of a rocket breaking through the vast void of space, deeply moved me and rendered me speechless in front of my father’s death bed.
The Land of Ultimate Bliss seems so far yet it’s as close as a step away; has my father not arrived there in one leap?
Amidst the joy and ecstasy, I remained motionless and chanted for another four hours. Only after my master arrived did I remember to ask my mother, “How did you know that dad’s rebirth was today?”
Mother told me: “This morning, your father took a chair outside the door, sat in the sun, and asked me to sit next to him. He said to me: ‘I’ll leave the family affairs to you because I am leaving. You remove my body on the 18th (lunar) day.’ So, I thought your father would pass away today and asked your brother to call you to come back immediately.”
According to the local customs, the funeral would take place for three days. Today is the sixteenth. By the eighteenth, it will have been three days, the day of burial.
Now I realize why my father wanted me to stay at home yesterday. But when he heard that I had something to deal with, he let me go back to the temple. His ease, serenity and thoughtfulness fostered in me a great respect for him.
My father was an honest man all his life, but I never thought he would play a humorous role after his rebirth. When my uncle came to pay tribute and saw my father’s seemingly living appearance, he became angry and began to walk out of the house. He complained to my mother: “The children are ignorant, and have never seen a funeral. You too! The man is not dead. Why did you notify us to come to the memorial to pay tribute?”
Uncle’s reactions amused the whole family. Mother replied with a smile: “He is dead. He died yesterday. However, I told you only today.” At this time, my uncle said dubiously: “Dead, really? How can a dead person be so beautiful?”
My mother said, “Not only beautiful, you see that his whole body is soft, even his fingers are soft.”
My uncle was embarrassed by what he saw and said, “I have never seen such a thing in all my years of life. There is really something about nianfo.” After seeing the benefits of nianfo, my uncle joined us in nianfo.
After our father's death, our mother ordered everything to be arranged by the master. My brother and sister were very filial. For the next forty-nine days, we recited Namo Amituofo and ate vegetarian food; there were no guests, no banquets. The whole family was elated. My younger brother and sister thought we should make donations to charities in our father’s name. In the end, everyone agreed that, as a token of expressing our love for our father and gratitude for the Buddha, we used 10,000 Chinese Yuan to purchase live animals to set them free. We also sponsored and participated in a seven-day Buddha recitation event at the monastery, we dedicated all the merits to sentient beings, and together, we would be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
My dad could not have been more ordinary; he was a cooper, humble and honest all his life. But his last act in life was astonishing, brilliant, perfect and enviable. He showed no hint of sickness or suffering at the time of death, free of worry and at ease. He told me to come see him off and chant for him, but in fact, it was he leading us to recite the Buddha name. Within two or three recitations, he left, easily and without hindrance.
As far as I know, there are no precedent cases of rebirth like my father’s among ordinary folks, Buddhist cultivators, or great scholars, seldom even among great masters. The most incredible rebirths recorded in the history of Buddhism may not surpass my father’s.
What extraordinary practice did my old father do? I can’t think of any. But I can say that he had two qualities.
First, he conducted himself as an honest and upright person.
All his life, he was honest, responsible, and kind. When he was young, life was difficult, but he would help elderly, widows and widowers even though he did not have enough to eat. He was very strict with his children and always taught us to behave, do the right thing, and never do things contrary to the teachings of Buddhism.
Second, he recited the Buddha name honestly and faithfully.
My old father had been a vegetarian for many years and did not know much about Buddhist doctrines. When he chanted, his mind was on the Buddha’s name, unlike many reciters nowadays who chant with endless distractions. When he was young, he would recite while working; in his later years, he would concentrate solely on chanting the Buddha. And he did not like gossip; if someone did that next to him, he would say, “Don't talk, don't interfere with my chanting."
If a 75-year-old man had not been practicing nianfo but instead learning Chan meditation, reciting sutras and mantras, when his time came, would he have been facing death so worry-free and perfectly at ease?
My father's rebirth was with such grandeur mainly because he was a sincere person, and he had encountered and benefited from the true and real Dharma.
Master Yinguang teaches us: Nianfo is the most ordinary and the most profound Dharma. Those who practice nianfo should learn from foolish men and women, not those thoroughly learned Buddhist scholars.
Master Shandao tells us: All the Dharma paths will lead to emancipation; none are comparable to Nianfo and being born in the Western Pure Land.
The rebirth of my father fully illustrates these masters’ teachings. I feel very proud and especially gratified.
Namo Amitabha Buddha!
Temple Mituo, Xiantao City, Hubei Providence, China.
February 23, 2008.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
- 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