All sentient beings, who hear his name [Āmítuófó], with the faithful mind joyful, and even with one thought, with the sincere mind dedicate, aspire to be born in that land, will immediately attain rebirth there, and abide in non-retrogression. Only excluded are those with the Five Heinous Transgressions, who slander the right Dharma.
— Śākyamuni Buddha
(Immeasurable Life Sūtra)
As a Pure Land practitioner shared, ‘Perhaps like many others, I was previously worried that I could not Niànfó (念佛: be mindful of Āmítuófó’s name [阿弥陀佛]) on my deathbed, when sick and suffering, during my last moments.’ It is indeed a common fear, that despite having the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) in everyday life, one might not be able to successfully Niànfó during the most crucial moments, right before taking rebirth, as distracted by pain and such.
The direct way to transform this fear to be confidence is to continually increase the Three Provisions in everyday life via further sincere learning and practice (修学). This is how there will be adequate preparation for all kinds of possible challenges that might arise, including that shared. It would be foolish to do otherwise – which is to only fret endlessly, while not actively learning and practising to gain the necessary confidence.
We must not be self-defeating, thinking that ‘no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough’. If we think this way, we will not even have the conviction to become confident, much less to be more diligent in learning and practice, to gain the actual confidence. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts… dyed by the colour of its thoughts.’ If our minds are pervaded by the Three Provisions more and more profoundly, our ability to connect to the Buddha despite any challenging conditions will only increase.
Somewhat a consolation, even after death, so long as yet to be reborn, one can still Niànfó with one’s consciousness. With the end of physical pain as the consciousness is disconnected from the body, and with no need to stay attached, to feel through it, this state will not be distracted by any pain. However, there should not be waiting for death before taking one’s ‘own sweet time’ to Niànfó, as the law of karma can force one in this precarious bardo (i.e. intermediate [中阴]) state to be reborn elsewhere suddenly, at any time. (Námó) Āmítuófó! (南无阿弥陀佛)
[Eighteenth Vow Of Those With Ten Thoughts All Born In My Land]: If I attain Buddhahood, should the ten directions’ sentient beings, with the sincere mind of joyful Faith, desiring birth in my land, and even with ten thoughts, if there are those not born there, I shall not obtain right awakening. Only excluded are those with the Five Heinous Transgressions, who slandered the right Dharma.
How I Became Confident Of Niànfó During My Last Moments