Master Chin Kung
Guidelines for Spiritual
Remind the patient of the sufferings of the Saha
World and the joys of the Pure Land, so that he may develop a Mind of devotion to the Pure
Land. The good advisor would also enumerate and praise the patients' good deeds, merits
and virtues cultivated. This will make him happy and free of doubts, certain that when the
time comes to die, he will, thanks to his good deeds, be reborn.
If the patient has any doubts, the advisor should,
depending on the circumstances, explain the Three Points of Doubt and the Four Narrow
Phrases. A critical detail to bear in mind here: the dying person should be reminded to
eliminate all regret for wealth and property, as well as thoughts of attachment to close
family and relatives.
If the patient has a will, so much the better, but
if not, the advisor should counsel against all inquiries in this regard. He should also
advise everyone to refrain from useless chitchat that could rekindle the patient's
love-attachment to the world, which is detrimental to rebirth.
When relatives and friends come to visit, they
should be discouraged from standing before the patient, inquiring about his health in a
sad, piteous way. If they come out of true concern, they should merely stand aside,
reciting the Buddha's name aloud for a moment. If through lacking understanding of the
Dharma, the visitor's act in accordance with human etiquette [crying etc.], they are in
effect pushing the dying person to the depths of the ocean of suffering - a most regretful
The patient should be counselled to practice charity
and give away his personal effects to the needy. Or else, better still, in accordance with
the Ksitigarbha (Earth Store Bodhisattva) Sutra, he should use the proceeds from the sale
of his personal possessions to purchase Buddhist images or sutras for free distribution.
All this helps the patient increase his stock of merits and eliminate bad karma, thus
The good advisor should keep these general
guidelines in mind, but be ready to improvise according to the situation.
Conducting Supportive Buddha
Supportive recitation by family members or Dharma
friends is most necessary when a patient is on the verge of death. This is because, at
that time, he is weak in Body and Mind and no longer master of himself. In such trying
circumstances, not only is it difficult for those who have not cultivated in daily life
the practice of focus on the Buddha, even individuals who have regularly recited the
Buddha name may find it difficult to do so in all earnestness - unless there is
"Supportive Buddha Name Recitation".
Guidelines set out for Conducting Supportive Buddha
Respectfully place a statue of the
"standing" Amitabha Buddha in front of the patient, so that he can see it. Place
some fresh flowers in a vase and burn light incense, with a soft fragrance. This will help
the patient develop right thought. A reminder: the incense should not be overpowering, to
avoid "choking" the patient and everyone around.
Those who come to practise supportive recitation
should take turns
. It should be remembered that the patient, in his weakened state,
requires a lot of fresh air to breath. If too many persons come and go or participate in
the recitation session, the patient may have difficulty breathing and become agitated,
resulting in more harm than benefit. Moreover, participants should consult their watches
and silently take turns reciting, so that recitation can continue uninterrupted. They
should not call to one another aloud. Each session should last about an hour. (Refer to
The Three Essentials for those close to death).
According to Elder Master Yin Guang, the short
recitation form (Amitabha Buddha) should be used, so that the patient can easily register
the name in his Alaya consciousness, at a time when both his Mind and Body are very weak.
However, according to another Elder Master, we should ask the patient, using the form he
prefers (short or long), to conform to his every day practise. In this way, the patient
can silently recite along with the supportive recitation party. To go counter to his likes
and habits may destroy his right thought. Furthermore, we should not practise supportive
recitation in too loud a voice, as we will expend too much energy and be unable to keep on
for very long. On the other hand,neither should we recite in too low a voice, fearing that
the patient's weakened Mind cannot register the words
Generally speaking, recitation should not be too
loud nor too low, too slow nor too fast, each utterance should be clear and distinct, so
that it can pass through the ear and penetrate deep into the patient's Alaya
consciousness. One cavea: if the patient is too weak [or is in coma], he will not be able
to hear "external" recitation. In such a case, we should recite into the
patient's ear. This helps the patient keep his mind clear and steady.
With regard to percussion instruments, it is
generally better to use the small hand bell, instead of the fish gong with its bass tone.
The hand bell, with its clear, limpid sound, can help the patient develop a pure and calm
mind. However, this may not apply in all cases. For instances, an Elder Master once
taught, it is best to recite the Buddha's name by itself without musical
However, since each person's preference is different, it is better to
ask the patient in advance. If some details do not suit him, we should adapt to the
circumstances and be flexible.
After the Patient Dies
(Between Death and Burial)
When a person has just died, the most important
thing is not to rush to move him. We should wait for eight hours or more before cleaning
the body and changing his clothes. Relatives should not weep and wail immediately before
and after the actual death. Doing so can cause the dying patient to develop thoughts of
attachment, which may prevent him from achieving liberation.
Concentrate on reciting the Buddha's name in all
earnestness, without crying at lease until eight hours has passed. Why is it necessary? It
is because, although the patient has stopped breathing, his Alaya consciousness has not
yet left the body. If during this period, we move the body, clean him, change his clothes,
or weep or lament, the decease may still experience feelings of pain, sadness, anger or
self-pity, and sink into the Triple Realm. This is a crucial point that the relatives
should note and remember well.
During the entire eight-hour period, someone, or
groups of persons can remain near the deceased reciting the Buddha's name, so much the
better. Except for recitation, nothing should be done.
After the eight-hour period, if the limbs have grown
stiff and cannot move we should put a towel soaked in hot water around the joints. After
awhile, the body can be repositioned.
Funeral arrangements should be kept simple, not
accompanied by superfluous ceremonies occasioning unnecessary expenses. Only vegetarian
food should be served and no animals should be slaughtered as offerings or to entertain
guests -- for to "take life" is to saddened the departed with more karmic
obstructions and "heavy baggage," making his liberation that much more
difficult. Even if he has already been reborn, his grade of rebirth may be lowered as a
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