If there are [sentient] beings
who hear this [teaching],
they should vow [aspire]
to be born in that [Pure] Land.
– Amitā[bha] Sūtra
This is my 21st year (in the year 2018) of doing full-time Buddhist educational work. Over the years, I have come to realise the prevalence of a big problem – of Buddhists of all walks of life NOT paying enough attention to basic teachings of the Buddha on the fleeting nature of life. Sure, when someone passes away, impermanence is remembered. However, death often occurs more swiftly or even suddenly than expected. Due to lack of mindfulness on impending death, many Buddhists are caught unprepared when a relative or friend is about to pass away, or had just passed on. This is when they scramble to call other Buddhist friends for advice and actual help. However, the ones called could be just as inexperienced, or with incomplete skills on handling death. Panic ensues.
A common reason Buddhist friends call me out of the blue after years of non-contact is because someone dear to them is about to die, or just did. Anticipating this, I have standard and detailed advice on standby. However, even when it is shared, due to the questioner’s shakiness in understanding the advice’s rationale, and with what might seem too much to digest, it might not be followed properly for the best intended effects. It is via a systematic and comprehensive course (Destination Pureland: How To Have The Best Rebirth) that I share the advice in a paced manner for right understanding. In ‘peace times’, I would invite friends to attend this course, but as expected, many who need to attend it the most are the ones who do not take the time and effort to do so.
Being a pragmatic teacher, I long realised that even with years of ‘structured’ Dharma classes with multiple modules, studying commentaries, memorising lists of concepts, and even attending retreats…. all these will NOT be enough if still not confident in handling one’s own death, and the deaths of others. A lengthy syllabus is still short-sightedly inadequate if ‘deathskills’ are amiss. In life, we pick up many lifeskills that are hardly used, while ‘deathskills’ are hardly learnt, though they will definitely prove useful! Death is the final test, of the worth of all learnt. There are various ways to guide the dying and deceased, but there is also the most efficient way to guide to the best possible rebirth in Āmítuófó’s (Amitābha Buddha) Pure Land, that leaves nothing to chance.
Any reluctance to learn the Pure Land path is due to not understanding its unsurpassable advantages. For instance, it offers connection to all Buddhas’ blessings via mindfulness of one Buddha (Āmítuófó), to experience the FASTEST non-backsliding progress to Buddhahood through all Bodhisattva stages in Pure Land. This is why all Buddhas recommend birth there! Reaching Pure Land is not the forsaking of anyone; as it is to best train to best help everyone to also swiftly progress. Remember… Life is short. It will end, and it can end abruptly. Since the Pure Land practice is popularly advocated at the end of many Buddhists’ lives, why not master it now? As time is always running out for you and me, this is exactly why I teach and write about it so much! Āmítuófó!
The path of rebirth is dangerous,
and impermanence comes swift.
Earnestly recite ‘Āmítuófó’,
and do not change the subject.
– The Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
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