The Three Factors That One Follows Upon His Death
“The three factors that one follows upon his death” are the types of phenomena that, after dying, determine where someone will be reborn. They are heavy karma, habits, and thoughts.
The first, and most important, is heavy karma. If one has committed a lot of offenses while alive, he will descend into hell immediately after death. Even BEFORE dying, his soul experiences being tortured in hell as punishment already, as if he is suffering from illness while bedridden. On the other hand, if he has done a lot of good, he should be reborn in the heavenly realms or as a human again, to enjoy riches and honor, without undergoing the state of Bardo (the state of existence between two lives or the period between death and rebirth).
If his karma is neither good nor bad, then next is the collective sum of his habits. Whatever particular tendencies he has will pull him into whatever rebirth to undergo.
Without particular heavy karma or habits, the third factor is thoughts that one has in his last moments of being alive. Just like mentioned in heavy karma, if he has good thoughts (kindness, joy, compassion, etc.), he will be reborn in the heavens or as a human again, but if he has evil thoughts (such as ones of greed, anger, and/or delusion), he will descend into one of the three evil realms or become either a serpent or ferocious beast. If he has not undergone spiritual cultivation, but, as death approaches, receives assisted recitation of Amitabha’s name and wants to recite himself, he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Not only that, but Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, Mahathasmaprapta, and the rest of the pure holy assembly will come to greet him.
(Translated by Chih-Yi Gabriela Lin; edited by Eddie Cao)
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