To prepare to depart well,
is to prepare to dwell well.
To prepare to die well,
is to prepare to live well.
In this world, the most tragic, with nothing more so, is death. Moreover, of everyone throughout this world, no one is able to fortunately avoid it. Therefore, those with the desire to benefit oneself and benefit others, must not delay planning and consideration for it. In reality, however, this one word of ‘death’, is originally a false name [for conventional use], with past lives’ effects for one lifetime’s retribution having exhausted, thus renouncing this body, to again receive another kind of body only. Those who do not know the Buddha’s teachings, simply have no way to prepare for it, and can only follow their karma to be reborn.
Now, since we have heard of the Tathāgata’s [Śākyamuni Buddha] Pure Land Dharma door [Buddhist Practice], that universally delivers sentient beings, we should resolutely, with Faith and Aspiration [Vow], recite the name of Buddha [Āmítuófó], to prepare the [Three] Provisions for rebirth in his Pure Land, so as to avoid the illusory suffering in the cycle of birth and death, and to realise the true bliss of eternal Nirvāṇa [Buddhahood].
If you have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and all relatives, with serious sicknesses, the conditions of which are difficult for full healing, you should give rise to the mind of filial piety, loving-kindness and compassion, to urge them to recite the name of Buddha [Āmítuófó] for seeking birth in his Western Pure Land, also offering support-chanting. Enabling dying persons to die thus, they can be immediately born in Pure Land. Of its benefits, how can they be named?
Now to be stated are Three Essentials, as guidelines for those approaching death to accomplish rebirth in Pure Land. Although these words seem mediocre and coarse, their principles are originally from the Buddha’s sūtras. Having encountered these causes and conditions, may all put them into practice. These Three Essentials are: First, skilfully inspire, guide and console the dying person, to enable giving rise to right Faith. Second, everyone should take shifts to recite the name of Buddha [Āmítuófó], so as to support pure mindfulness. Third, you must avoid [touching or] moving the body and crying, so as to prevent bungling the matter [of reaching Pure Land].
If able to rely on these three teachings in practice, one can definitely eradicate past negative karma, increase causes for birth in Pure Land, and attain the Buddha’s [Āmítuófó] receiving and guiding, for rebirth in his Western Pure Land. Once attaining rebirth there, one thus transcends the ordinary and enters the realm of sages, attaining liberation from birth and death, gradually progressing in cultivation, with certainty, until then perfectly accomplishing the fruit of Buddhahood.
Such benefits, all rely on the power of relatives’ support-chanting. Able to thus practise, for your fathers and mothers, it is thus true filial piety. For brothers and sisters, it is thus true brotherhood and sisterhood. For sons and daughters, it is thus true loving-kindness. For friends and for common people, it is thus true righteousness and true kindness. With these, cultivate your own causes for birth in Pure Land, and inspire those of same conviction in Faith. Gradually, with what difficulty, with one another familiar, will it not become a common practice? Now, for the essentials, they are presented one by one, so that you need not, at the critical moment, not know what to follow. [To be continued…]
The Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death《临终三大要》
Translated by Shen Shi’an