The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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How to Guide the Dying Person
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Today's subject is how to guide the dying person to get a good rebirth. Ms. Vivien has a good job as a nurse and often has the chance to meet people who have been told they have one or two weeks to live and so she has the opportunity to guide dying persons to get a good rebirth. This is very good for a Bodhisattva. She is a very good lady and she more or less occupies the eight correct branches of the eight-fold path. The first is the Right View: She is not a communist or a person who mixes other religions. I cannot say she has occupied every kind of Right View of the Buddhist vehicles, Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, but more or less she has chosen Buddhism as the right religion so the basis of her Right View is there. The second is Right Thought: Even though she is young she does not think only of money or love or bad things but has right thoughts about Dharma. This is very good. Next is Right Speech: She does not blame or criticize others but tries to speak good of them. Fourth is Right Conduct. She just works on goodness and does not have any bad habits such as drinking, smoking, gambling and is almost rid of other bad actions. Fifth is Right Livelihood: She works as a nurse doing something to help the patients, especially nowadays the mentally ill. Many doctors cannot handle this, but she can do it very well. This is why today I talk on this subject to help this right profession. The sixth is Right Diligence: She also works very diligently for all her patients. Next is Right Remembrance: Right remembrance must keep in mind the six right remembrances. These are: first, rightly remember Buddha, second, remember Dharma, third, remember the Sangha, fourth remember God, fifth, remember almsgiving, sixth remember the vinaya or commandments. Most of these remembrances she occupies. The eighth is Right Samadhi, Right Samatha: This she is going to practice. So I very willingly talk with her in order to help her work and help these dying persons. So my motivation for talking on this subject is Ms. Vivien.
We are here today in this cemetery to pray for those already dead. But we feel very regretful because we were not by their side in time. When they died, they did not get a chance to have an advisor to help them get a good rebirth. Puja at this time may seem too late but anyhow we make a connection between these deceased and Buddha and sooner or later they will get good rebirth.
To help those who are in the process of dying we must first give them some consolation. We must say, "You are safe, you have come to the hospital and are so fortunate to have somebody take care of your dying. And you still have some time to prepare for a good rebirth." You must know that there are nine unusual forms of death. First, those who cannot get to a doctor. Second, being murdered; third, having your energy, semen or womb, robbed by a Ghost; fourth, burning to death in a fire; fifth, drowning in water, a puff of water, the boat turns over and one drowns in the ocean or river; sixth, meeting a wild animal as a lion or tiger and being killed by them. Seventh, falling from a very high mountain. Eighth, accidentally taking some poison. Nine, dying of hunger. All these nine kinds of unusual deaths allow no time to prepare for rebirth. There is no time to pray to ask God's help for guidance to get a good rebirth. These nine unusual deaths were pointed out by Buddha. But for our age, I have added another nine which weren't considered in Buddha's time. Tenth, being killed in a car accident; eleventh, by an airplane crash; twelfth, being killed by a bomb; thirteenth, being killed in a battle; fourteenth, having breathing accidentally stopped; fifteenth, dying during sleep; sixteenth, having a cerebral hemorrhage; seventeenth, dying while fainting, not knowing a few minutes before that he will die; and eighteenth, dying from drink or drugs.
So first you must give consolation to the dying person: You are very fortunate to die here where there are many people to take care of you and it is quiet. There is still some time for you to prepare to get a good rebirth. Usually nobody actually knows their real dying date. If you have been told by your doctor that due to your illness you will die on such and such a date, this is very good for you. A second kind of foretelling of death is by God. Such a person must have done many good things and will be always remembered by God. God always takes care of the death of such persons and that is why God foretells him his date of dying. Third, is the foretelling in a dream. He was always a good person so he has a good dream. In the dream his death date is foretold. To be told what date you will die is a very good sign for good rebirth. Now that you have been told by a dream, God, or by the doctor that around such a date you will die, you still have time to prepare for this event. This is the second thing you must tell the dying person.
The third thing you must emphasize to the dying person is that from right now until the actual time of death is a very good time for practice. Why? First of all, every man or woman living in this world has done more or less some evil. It is very good for the dying person to confess. When the common living person does something wrong, he feels very ashamed and confesses but after this, as he did not die, he starts to do evil again, so this kind of confession has no good result. But when the dying person confesses, he has no chance to do any more evil because his health will not allow it. So the dying person can really have a sincere good mind and confess all his evil and no further evil will be done. Thus he will be completely purified by confession. This is the first special point for the dying person.
Furthermore, the dying person is very devoted to prayer because he knows there is no hope for his living, so his only objective is how to get a good rebirth, how to rely upon God, how to rely upon Buddha to help him. That is why the dying person prays very devotedly and even one of his prayers is better than an ordinary person's 1000 prayers. For this reason the Pure Land School says that for a dying person to repeat a prayer only ten times has as much benefit as a million times for the living person. The usual person repeats the name of Amitabha and after this he again does something bad, again he forgets it, but the dying person until the moment he dies continually keeps his devotion on the prayer. This is the second special point for dying persons.
The holy name repetition performed by the dying person is done with his whole life force, and his devotion is with his whole heart toward only one objective. That is why such repetition of a holy name by the dying is more inspired than for others. This is the third special point.
If a person has learned tantra and knows he will die, he also knows that when his time of death comes, the five elements will dissolve and with death will come the non-cloud autumn sky light. If he can visualize this light and knows the Sunyata, he can identify his truth of Sunyata and of Non-Ego with this light. This is called "the son-light meets the mother-light." If "the son-light meets the mother-light" is held in Samadhi, this person will get the Dharmakaya. Such a chance is very difficult to get during the living time. But in the dying time because the five elements are dissolved and the five senses are no longer strong, there only remains the eighth consciousness and this meeting of the purification of his karma with the original autumn sky is the chance to get the Dharmakaya. The dying person can also get the chance to enter the Sambhogakaya. After the light of that autumn sky is finished, in the night his yidam will appear. If the person practiced in his lifetime, the yidam will have some inspiration and at that time the dying person will very easily get some realization. The yidam in the consequence position can be identified with the yidam in the causal position as practiced by the dying person. So at that time it is also very easy to get the Sambhogakaya. If this chance is lost, he may use what he has practiced with the yidam; remember the yidam, pray for the yidam and then he can get the yidam to appear to guide him to go to his Pure Land and get his Nirmanakaya. The dying person has these three chances and this is better than practice during the living time. This is only possible for the person who has practiced the tantra. If he did not practice tantra, even if you talk a lot about this, nothing can come of it. But in the hospital, there are so many people and there might be someone who has learned the tantra. So the person who has to guide them must know what they have learned in this lifetime.
For the common person, the most important advice we can give is to let the dying person have faith in transmigration. Most people even though they are dying, do not believe there is transmigration. Therefore, it is very difficult to guide them. If the dying person has no faith in transmigration, even if you talk a lot and repeat and quote many sutras, he will not believe it. We must very frankly and plainly talk about transmigration.
There are three kinds of transmigration of the wheel of transmigration. The first is transmigration of thoughts; you must tell the dying person--you do not believe transmigration but every day within a few minutes there is a transmigration of your thoughts. Let me explain to you. When you think, "Today is a nice day; God favoured us with good weather;" you have the good mind or faith on nature or God. This thought is a thought of heaven. Afterwards you may have another thought that you want to do something to help the birds, but somebody else also has such a thought. So you think "Oh, I wish this man wasn't here. I want to give this food just myself." Once I came to Oakland to bring some rice for the birds and there was another person who was also scattering crumbs for them. I didn't know and began to put my rice out when he said, "Hey, I already put food out for them, so don't you do it." I said, "Yes, I will go and throw my rice in another place." This person is going to do good but he still has envy of others' doing good, so this thought transmigrated from heaven to the asuras, for the asuras envy the gods and always fight with them. Then another thought occurred, "Oh, I must send my boy to school and must give him some lunch money." This is just human and this is transmigration from asura to the human realm. If a man sees a beautiful girl, follows her and wants to have sexual intercourse with her, this is transmigration from man to an animal such as a dog. If he cannot get her and wants to do something bad to her, to rob her or take her by force, in this way his thoughts transmigrate into the hungry ghost realm. If he further thinks, "If I cannot get her, I will kill her;" this thought falls into hell. Even as we talk about a few of a man's thoughts, all our thoughts are transmigrating into the six realms. Who can say that you always have thoughts of human nature? who can say you always have thoughts of heaven? If you cannot settle this question, your thoughts transmigrate with no certainty of where they are going. This is thought transmigration.
The second kind of transmigration is by dreams. You have dreams. Could you guarantee that your dreams are good? No. Some are good dreams and some are bad dreams. Among all these dreams, different dreams have different consequences, different happenings, different results. That is why the Buddhist who wants to practice Amitabha and Pure Land School must always dream of Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, of a Lotus, of mother, father; these are good dreams. If you have other dreams, hunting girls and taking things without asking and drinking and smoking, this is due to bad conduct which has been gathered. Bad conduct affects your subconscious and then when you sleep bad dreams come. So through dreams you also have some transmigration. In this way when you live you have thoughts and the consequent transmigration; when you sleep, you cannot guarantee you have no dreams, then how can you guarantee there is no transmigration after your death? You must guide the dying person to have such a faith on transmigration.
Suppose you give such advice many times, but he does not take it today and he does not take it tomorrow. Then you have to try to ask him how he can guarantee he will not transmigrate; You should say, I cannot say you will transmigrate; I do not force you to believe it, but how do you guarantee yourself that there is no transmigration at all? If there is no transmigration at all, then your belief and actions are right. I would also like it, because then there would be no fear of transmigrating. But there might in fact be transmigration. So the problem cannot be settled by sage or by science, or by yourself. So if you have not settled this problem, then it might be so or it might not be so. Which would be better for you to believe in? Which one should you choose over the other? The advisor must give some parable or example at this point. You may say, suppose we are going past a very dangerous mountain. Some say there is a tiger living there, some say the tiger is not there, it is just a rumour. This you cannot settle. Do you think it is better to believe this or not? If you believe there is no tiger, you will not prepare anything to protect yourself and will not be careful when passing that mountain. If you believe there is a tiger, you will carefully prepare something to defend yourself with and slowly, watchfully go past that area. Similarly, whether there is transmigration or not cannot be settled. However, it is better to believe in transmigration than to believe there is no transmigration. Suppose one newspaper said the weather today will be sunny with a slight chance of rain, but another paper said, today will be a little windy with no rain at all. So these two papers give different information: you may believe in one or the other, but you cannot definitely know which is right. It is better to believe there may be rain and then you can prepare by bring an umbrella. If you believe there will be no rain, when the rain does come you will have no umbrella and will get wet. So in this way, if you cannot settle the problem, you should believe that there is transmigration and prepare yourself for it. This is better than not believing and finding yourself completely unprepared for that reality. So many religions, so many sages, and so many records in history say there is transmigration. Tibet has tulkus who are said to be transmigrated from this body to that body. It is also said that Jesus was sent by God and he returned to heaven and that also he will come again. Everybody believes this, so we better believe there is transmigration and prepare for a very good rebirth.
This is how to guide the dying person to believe there is transmigration. Soon he may little by little believe, "Oh, yes, it really might be so." You must then tell him what will happen and how to escape bad rebirth. You should tell him if he dreams yesterday or this night of a black flag, or burned-up wood as a burned tree, or he dreams of very dirty water, or of some heavy smoke, these all indicate a bad womb and he should not enter this kind of womb. If a black flag or burnt wood, he will be born into hell. If he sees dirty water, he will be born into the ghost realm. If he sees heavy smoke, he will be born as an animal. There are these three kinds of bad wombs.
You also must know and tell him that your consciousness will leave your body by one of the gates. If you are going to a very bad hell, your consciousness will leave through your feet and go down to that hell; if your consciousness goes out through the penis or vagina, it will go to the animal realm. If the consciousness departs from the anus, it will also go to hell. If your consciousness leaves through the mouth, you will be a hungry ghost. When such a thing happens, you must know how to correctly choose the good womb. The only way to go to heaven is for the consciousness to leave through the top of the head. There are two kinds of heaven. The common heaven is four fingers widths from the hairline on the forehead and the Buddha's heaven, the Pure Land, is eight fingers widths therefrom, so always keep your mind on this part and your consciousness will follow your mind. When your mind is up, your consciousness is up; when your mind is down, your consciousness is down.
Concerning how to prepare for rebirth, tell the dying person to first repeat the Buddha's name such as "OM NAMO AMITABHAYA" or "OM MANI PADME HUM." The second thing is to think of Amitabha's world as described in the Amitabha sutra. The third instruction is to practice daily praying, "Please, Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani, come all together to me and help bring me up to the Pure Land." Every day practice these three things: repeat the name, think of the world of Sukhavati and ask the three sages to guide you to go upward. For the fourth instruction, listen to your advisor. The fifth is, don't remember the worldly things of this lifetime. The sixth, don't hate all the bad things you have met in this world. You must not think of your bad condition and bad luck and just hate them; this will not help you and will just get a bad result. Always keep a good mind and confess all your evils. This is very important.
If there is no hope that he will listen to you, the advisor concerning what I have mentioned above, but the dying person just talks a lot about his thoughts, "Oh, when I was young I had a good husband and son..." and won't listen to you but asks you to listen to him, it is very hopeless. You have to guide him back. "Don't talk about past affairs, that is of no help to you now. Don't talk about such things near your death time for you cannot retrieve the past, so you better listen to all my advice which will help you in the future to come." Suppose this person does not listen to you, then the only way to help him is just through his ear consciousness. You must repeat the Amitabha Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, to him; speak in a loud voice toward his ear, even though he is still talking. Do not listen to him but just repeat the Sutras. If even only one word, one sentence of the sutra does come into his consciousness, it can more or less help him. And very important is the forty-eight great vows in the long Amitabha Sutra. You must explain every vow and say, "How kind Amitabha is to us, how powerful Amitabha is, how merciful Amitabha is, he will come to us and you will see him yourself. It can be proved." If there is still no acceptance of your advice and he is dying and you have already learned the Phowa instruction and opened your mind to Sukhavati, then use the Phowa as I have done here in the cemetery when he is really dying at the time his breath is finished. At that very time use Phowa. This is the last hope for him.
In Part I, I talked about how to, in general, guide the dying person. Now I will give some complement about the advisor who is trying to guide the dying. What is the ability one should possess to be able to really guide the dying person to get a good rebirth.
Good rebirth may be divided into three realms: some people get a good rebirth into the state of the Dharmakaya and become one with the Dharmakaya of the Buddha. Some get the full Enlightenment of the Sambhogakaya, while some may only get the Nirmanakaya or some good rebirth in human kind. Each of these three realms also has its necessary conditions for the ability to guide. Surely if the three abilities to guide are perfectly possessed then the three kinds of rebirth can be perfectly attained.
For guiding the dying person to get the Dharmakaya, the guide must have the ability of the Identification of the Sunyata and the Bright Entity. What does the identification of the Sunyata and the Bright Entity mean? First we must talk about Right View because the Right View is in the first, or Causal position. The Right View of Sunyata and the Brightness Entity means that you learn about Mahayana and learn about the Sunyata philosophy, ways of practicing so that eventually you will get the realization of the Sunyata itself and the identification with the Brightness Entity. Brightness Entity means the full Enlightenment light, the entity light which is the pre-condition of Mahamudra. How to say that the Sunyata and the Bright Entity are identified? The Sunyata is not really emptiness, really of nothing; the sunyata is without self, without volition, and it will identify with all meditative light; when the meditative light shines out it does not have any other volition, it does not have any special thought, any special volition, any special idea.
There are many kinds of light. Even in a cat's eye there are many kinds of light; even a horse can see in the darkness; even in sick people, each kind of disease has its own kind of light; even in the Bardo state the demons also have light. So there is light in the holy state, in the Sunyata state. Some light is very shallow, some very deep; some very narrow, some very wide. In the Amitabha Sutra, there are said to be many kinds of light of the Buddha, some shine 1,000 miles, some shine many millions of miles, some shine throughout the whole Dharmadhatu. But the final Sunyata means identification with the final brightness of full Enlightenment. When this happens, there is just the Dharmakaya. So the guide becomes Dharmakaya and the dying person also enjoys the Dharmakaya.
This kind of Right View of the philosophy then can connect with practice. This I talk about as the Course of the Sunyata identification with the Brightness. How can a person go about getting it, what is the way to practice it? The way is through the fourth initiation. After the fourth initiation, you get permission to practice Mahamudra. The Mahamudra practice is the very special highest teaching of the fourth initiation and there are many rituals for practice within it. Some of these rituals have been translated into Chinese and I have given some criticism about these rituals in a large Chinese work of mine which is more than 400 pages long. Even in Tibet there are many, many mistakes made about these rituals.
First of all you must know that the starting point of what is called One-Pointed Yoga of the Mahamudra is not the same as that of Samatha. The Samatha point is very simple and is a starting point for all kinds of meditations, for all kinds of religions. For Mahamudra the starting point is Sunyata concentration on the Brightness Entity. This point specially shows that the Sunyata itself and the Brightness itself are both identified in one alone, called One-Point. This One-Point is just the Dharmakaya, and is a philosophical point. The one-point of Samatha is a physical point which occupies a space and must not be moved in the concentration. That is Samatha. In some Tibetan rituals, the first mistake is made by taking the Samatha One-Point as the Mahamudra One-Point. The Mahamudra One-Point is the identification on the one hand of the Sunyata itself, the philosophical sunyata itself of non-self, and on the other hand identification with the whole brightness of the non-cloud sky; everywhere is seen as the same color, as a cloudless blue sky, everywhere is the same Sunyata. Many Tibetan people say that they practice Mahamudra but actually they don't know what Mahamudra really means. They take the Samatha one-point as a starting point and then say "I can meditate in action"; this is foolish talk.
What does the second stage of Mahamudra mean, the escape from and riddance of play words. To get rid of play words in a sutra, as in the Maha Paramita Sutra, there is talk about the Sunyata. This is exoteric, not esoteric. Exoteric is just some talk about philosophical thoughts. But esoteric is the realization of the actual thing; real embodiment comes from the esoteric. Exoteric is just talk, as setting down a map; have such a thought, have such an impression. But when it comes to the initiation into the Mahamudra by the Guru's blessing, the practitioner really gets the embodiment, really travels to the place only represented on a map. So the riddance of play words and the embodiment of the Mahamudra is the second stage and is much higher than the first stage, equal to the eighth stage of the Bodhisattva.
The third Mahamudra stage is called One-Taste Yoga. The exoteric doctrine also talks about one-taste; they say water and ice are the same thing, water is not different from ice, ice is not different from water. But this is only theory, not embodiment. In the esoteric practice, the One-Taste Yoga of Mahamudra actually comes, love utilizes the Sunyata and becomes one with the Sunyata practice and the practitioner gets the Sambhogakaya, the great pleasure. This embodiment, this realization of One-Taste means where there is love, there is the Sunyata. The embodiment is really achieved through the Mahamudra practice and is not just theory. You can talk many thousands of years about the theory of ice and water being the same but without Mahamudra practice, you cannot really realize it.
The fourth stage is Non-Practice and the exoteric and esoteric teachings of this non-practice are different. The exoteric doctrine of Non-Practice is only a theory but the esoteric is a realization when one follows the One-taste practice for a long time, one becomes purer and purer naturally, without any kind of practice. This is the non-practice.
When the fourth stage of practice is passed, the result may be reached, that is, the position of Consequence. The Consequence is that you must really have attained such a kind of Dharmakaya, then you can really lead a dying person to that place. When the blind try to lead the blind, neither ever get to their real goal. This Consequence position is the necessary ability to guide the dying person to get rebirth in the Dharmakaya.
Next, we talk about the second ability, which may enable a person to guide the dying to get the Sambhogakaya. For the Right View in the position of Cause, you have to know the philosophy of the identification of Lagyi Chogya, that means not the Mahamudra but just Karma-mudra, the third initiation, the Vajra Love. Because the Sambhogakaya is a kaya or a body in which a Buddha personally enjoys the merit he has gathered, so he is always in great pleasure. To get this great pleasure you have to have the Right View of the identifications of this Love and the Sunyata. Love identifies with the light and is very pure, very subtle, but the identification of the Sunyata with the love can be very rough, very karmic, very dangerous. This is because you are in a position to practice love and love can be so many kinds of actions: kissing, embracing, holding, so it is very difficult to correctly practice Love with Sunyata.
In the philosophy, you must know that every Dharma is Sunyata, as love is a Dharma, love is also Sunyata, kissing is Sunyata, embracing is Sunyata, sexual intercourse is Sunyata, everything must be Sunyata itself. Because you have nothing, you have no self; who is the practitioner? your body practices, but in the Sunyata there is no self. So every moment, every action must be altogether connected with the Sunyata. Then not only does the love become great and very deep, but this kind of love also does not fall into sorrow or into the position, but becomes sublimated. The more steel you get, the bigger steamship you can make. So you must utilize love through identification with the Sunyata and make it and carry it out in order to save sentient beings.
Don't think that love is just love. In the Vajra love action there are four Karma practices, reducing, increasing, inducing, and subduing, just as the functions of Homa, fire sacrifice. All can be done just as well during the action of sexual intercourse. When the dorje comes into the lotus, think of yourself as Amitabha and shine light toward the patient and take their pain out, their disease out and in place of the disease let shining white light occupy their body, making them purified. This can also be thought of during the action of love for reducing. For subduing, there is a special method: the penis becomes a purbha, a triangular shaped dagger, the upside of which is a dorje, and the downside is a triangular. You must shine a light in the form of a hook which grasps the demon. The light comes into the vagina, the vagina becomes a triangular mandala into which the demon is put for butchering; only once of this purbha method is enough to kill the demon and to send his consciousness through the median nerve into Amitabha. This is what it means to subdue.
Thereby love is increased through love, not hate. This means on one hand in the Causal position to know every kind of Dharma is Sunyata, that every kind of Dharma can be identified with Sunyata. You must have such a Right View. And for the second C, Course, you must learn the third initiation from the Guru and practice all these things through the four blisses and four Sunyata, one by one until you can sublimate and transform it. You do not fall into love but can utilize it. Then in the position of Consequence you will get the actual realization. What does this mean? You will shine light towards all those dakini and mandala and all the dakini will really come. You can shine light toward the patient, and the patient will really get the same pleasure. So if you get these three, the Right View when you know the theory, the Course when you know how to practice, and the Consequence when you get the realization, you will have such a power, so you can really help the person to get the Sambhogakaya.
As for the third ability, how to get the Nirmanakaya it must also be practiced in relation to these three conditions. The first of Right View is that the philosophy of Sunyata and the Great Compassion must be identified. How to learn about the Sunyata identification with the Great Compassion? I have no self. Because I have no self, I have to help others. In this way the negative and positive are just identified. Because I want to perfectly help others, so I perfectly forget myself. This is the Cause of the identification of Sunyata and the Great Compassion.
For the Course, there is the practice of the Bodhi-citta. You must practice the Bodhi-citta of good will, of good conduct, of the victorious significance of the Sunyata, of Samadhi and Kunda. Through this practice your great compassion will increase day by day.
Then you will get the third, the Consequence, the identification of the Great Compassion and the Sunyata will be really attained. Whoever you want to save, that person will really be saved. Because you lost yourself completely, so you enlarge yourself to include every sentient being in the ten directions of the Dharmakaya. Every sentient being is within the Dharmakaya and is your objective. In this way you can send everybody who is to be reborn into whatever realms you like. There are so many practices, so many realizations, even if we talk one month about this we could not finish. For ourselves, if you cannot get the Dharmakaya yourself, you must at least have the Sunyata idea of non-self. You may not be able to say you have helped every patient achieve the Dharmakaya, but you must have this as the final goal and really try to do it.
There is another very important thing for Dharmakaya achievement; we must give advice to the patient and let them know that the Sunyata of love is different than worldly love. Suppose you say to a person, "Oh, I will help you and send you to the Sambhogakaya," but if the advisor has much worldly love and concern with worldly things, and much selfishness, this is very bad. For example, the doctor is a man and the dying patient has a beautiful wife who always comes to the hospital and connects with the doctor. The Doctor is going to try to guide the patient to achieve the Sambhogakaya but this guide is thinking not only about getting the Sambhogakaya but about the patient's wife and so lets the dying person fall. Because the dying person sometimes doubts the doctor, maybe his eyes are still open and he sees the doctor kiss his wife, he hates the doctor and in this way he falls into the realm of animals. In this way you do not guide him to get good rebirth, but push him toward bad rebirth. If he were instead to die at home, nobody would touch his wife, but his wife would just console him and he would not hate others as much, so he would die quietly. If on the occasion of death he has hate and envy, then he cannot get a good rebirth.
So it is very important that we try to guide the dying person with good will, with good Bodhi-citta, with good merit and with Amitabha's help tell him about the beauty of Sukhavati and the merit of Sukhavati, with no desire for his property, or desire for his wife or daughter. This we can at least do. But I am very sad to say that doctors and nurses do not always carefully guide the sick, and not just the dying but even the not-so-sick patients. I just say a few are like this, not all, but I personally know that when a patient comes he only wants to have himself cured, but the doctor also wants to use the patient for research. This is not so good. Some nurses say, take off your clothes and the patient is all together naked, but the doctor doesn't come for a long time and the patient just gets cold. Last year doctors in Berkeley were on strike, so who is to take care of the patients? This is very bad. A doctor or nurse must have humanity and good compassion. To gather all the merits and ability to send the dying patient to the three kayas is very very difficult. You must try and practice Bodhi-citta.
It is said that if you want to transform the ghost body into a Buddha body, or other body, you must see his ghost, see his spirit. According to my experience, those who ask me while alive to do this, I do not accept as I am not a doctor. But there are those whose spirits before or after dying come to me and say, "I will die on such and such a date, please send my consciousness to Amitabha," and those whose ghosts come after dying, who did not get good rebirth, and bow down, worship me, and ask me for help, in such cases I have sent their consciousness to Amitabha. I cannot guarantee that I can do it for every consciousness, that I can see the spirit of every consciousness. Milarepa had a student Gampopa (the guru of the Karmapa's first incarnation). Gampopa asked his teacher, "When can I transmit your Dharma to my disciples?" Milarepa answered, "When you see myself on your head as Dorje Chenpa, the Adi Buddha, then you can in place of me do it. Otherwise you should not do it. Do not think you are a monk, I am a layman."
We have been talking about these three abilities according to the tantra, the very highest doctrine. There is also the Pure Land School. In the first part of this talk I emphasized that. We can see that the first part concerns the exoteric Pure Land School, while the second part esoteric Tantra. But still for the conclusions of this talk, I will emphasize Amitabha's vows.
In the first part I discussed in general why it is so important to help the dying person and what advice may be most fruitful. In the second part I went into what ability the guider should possess to effectively guide the dying person to get a good rebirth. In this third part I will talk about how to guide the dying person through other ways. It is said that there are two kinds of helpfulnesses: one is to help others through one's own realization and samadhi, by one's own ability and this I have finished talking about in the second section of my talk; the second kind of helpfulness comes through the grace of Buddha and not from the guider himself, i.e., the guider's prayers and devotion allow him to guide with Buddha's helpfulness. This kind of help is from Buddha; the other is self-help which comes through practice. The abilities I discussed in the last section are too high for the average practitioner to get, so now I will talk about the other helpfulness--to have faith in Buddha to really help the dying person.
The first important thing is that when Buddha Amitabha was a Bodhisattva he made forty-eight great vows to help others get a good place to live in the Pure Land called Sukhavati and in that place be trained to become a Bodhisattva and eventually a Buddha. These forty-eight vows are very important to know so here I would like to give a rough translation of these vows. When Buddha Amitaba was a Bodhisattva he was called Bhikkhu of the Dharma Treasury. Before his Guru he made these forty-eight vows:
1. If I get to establish a Buddha's land and there are still sentient beings in the three lower realms of animals, ghosts and hell, then I would not become a Buddha.
2. If in my Buddha's land there are some Gods and men who die and are reborn and then fall into the three bad realms, then I would not become a Buddha.
3. If in my Buddha's land those Gods and men are not of a golden color, then I would not be a Buddha.
4. If in my Buddha's land all the Gods and men have a color and form that is not equally beautiful, i.e., some are beautiful and some are ugly, then I would not be a Buddha.
5. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men can not know their past lives, even as far back as a million life-times and they do not know themselves what they have been, then I would not be a Buddha.
6. If in my Buddha's Land the Gods and men do not have the Gods' eyes and can not see the many, many millions of Buddha's lands, then I would not be a Buddha.
7. If in my Buddha's land those Gods and men have no supernatural power of hearing and can not hear the many, many millions of Buddhas preaching the Dharma, and can not practice those teachings, then I would not be a Buddha.
8. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men do not know other's minds and cannot know even many, many millions of sentient beings' minds, then I would not be a Buddha.
9. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men have no supernatural power and have not special feet, which means they cannot within one moment of thought pass through many, many millions of Buddha's lands, then I would not be a Buddha.
10. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men even though they have vast and full minds, still think lustful thoughts and are concerned only with their own body, then I would not be a Buddha.
11. If in My Buddha's land all the Gods and men do not meditate until they reach full Enlightenment, then I would not be a Buddha.
12. If I get the Buddha's light but it is limited and can not shine away to the many, many millions of Buddha's lands, then I would not be a Buddha.
13. If I get the Buddha's position but my life time has a limitation, then I would not be a Buddha.
14. If in my Buddha's land there are Hinayana monks, the number of whom can be counted and the quantity of which is not unlimited, then I would not be a Buddha.
15. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men's lifetime are also limited, some are long and some are short of years, then I would not be a Buddha.
16. If in my Buddha's land the Gods and men have some bad reputation, then I would not be a Buddha.
17. If in my Buddha's land when I get Buddhahood, if many, many Buddhas do not ask for me and call my name, then I would not be a Buddha.
18. If in my Buddha's land when I get Buddhahood, all the sentient beings in the ten directions who have the faith to be born in my land call me ten times but still cannot get there, then I would not be a Buddha. (This is why it is said that if you repeat Amitabha's name ten times you will attain his Sukhavati.)
19.When I get the Buddhahood, if all those sentient beings who have developed the Bodhi-citta and have practiced many merits, who have-faith and vow to go to my land when they die, are not welcomed by me and I do not appear to them when they die, then I would not be a Buddha. (Amitabha has here vowed that he will appear to the dying person if that person has faith to call his name; you should advise the dying person about this vow, that if you call him and he does not come then he would not be a Buddha. Everyone knows that he is a Buddha so he must have the ability to really help us in death.)
20. If I get the Buddhahood and all the sentient beings who have heard my name and think of me as a parent and vow to be born in my Pure Land, but do not get such a result, then I would be a liar, and I would not be a Buddha.
21. If I get the Buddhahood but in my Buddhaland all the Gods and men do not have the thirty-two good external excellent signs on their bodies, then I would not be a Buddha.
22. If I get the Buddhahood and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of other places do not come to my country and practice as Bodhisattvas and make offerings to the Buddhas and do not do something to save all sentient beings, then I would not be a Buddha.
23. If in my Buddha's land the Bodhisattvas offer the Buddha a little food and this food can not be enlarged to a boundless quantity, then I would not be a Buddha.
24. If in my Buddha's land all the Bodhisattvas appear in front of the Buddhas to give offerings and then can not get what they wish to offer at will, then I would not be a Buddha.
25. In my Buddha's land if I get the Buddhahood and all the Bodhisattvas can not preach the Sunyata and preach the wisdom, then I would not be a Buddha.
26. If in my Buddha's land the Bodhisattvas have no good healthy body, then I would not be a Buddha.
27. If in my Buddha's land all the Gods and men are not very beautiful and of excellent form if they do not all have the Godly eye and if they cannot recognize the truth and all the turns of the Dharma, then I would not be a Buddha.
28. If in my Buddha's land, if I get the Buddhahood, the Bodhisattvas shine light and their light is not higher and brighter and cannot extend more than four million million miles, then I would not be a Buddha.
29. If I get the Buddhahood and in my Buddha's land all the Bodhisattvas do not read the Buddha's sutras, do not repeat the incantations, and do not have the rebuttal ability, then I would not be a Buddha.
30. If in my Buddha's land the wisdom and reputation of the Bodhisattvas is limited, then I would not be a Buddha.
31. If I get the Buddhahood and all those in the Buddha land are not very pure and beautiful and just like a clear mirror, everybody can not see his own face very clearly, then I would not be a Buddha.
32. If I get the Buddhahood and everyplace where the Bodhisattvas
from the first Bhumi upward recite the sutras and where they reside, every room, every store, every pool, every garden, is not filled with many, many millions of kinds of the most excellent very sweet incense, then I would not be a Buddha.
33. If I get the Buddhahood and the many, many Buddhas and all the sentient beings in the ten directions do not accept my light and touch my light with their bodies and their bodies are not helped and their minds are not kind and far beyond all good of mankind, then I would not be a Buddha.
34. If I get the Buddhahood and the sentient beings of the unlimited Buddha worlds of the ten directions have heard my name but cannot get the Bodhisattva position, and cannot know the Tantra, then I would not be a Buddha.
35. If I get the Buddhahood and in the unlimited Buddha worlds of the ten directions there are some woman who have heard my name and wish to be rid of their female bodies after they die and cannot change their bodies into males, then I would not be a Buddha.
36. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas of the unlimited Buddha worlds of the ten directions do not hear my name and follow the Dharma until they get Buddhahood, then I would not be a Buddha.
37. If I get the Buddhahood and there are people in the unlimited Buddha worlds of the ten directions who have heard my name, worship me and devotedly practice my Dharma, but their devotion is not enough, then I would not be a Buddha.
38. If I get the Buddhahood and all my people do not get whatever kind of clothing they want, whatever they think of, if they still must ask me to make for them, then I would not be a Buddha.
39. If in my Buddha's land my people get happiness and if their happiness is not equal to that of the Arhats, then I would not be a Buddha.
40. If in my Buddha's land all my people who want to see the other Buddha worlds can not see them clearly, then I would not be a Buddha.
41. If I get the Buddhahood and sentient beings of the other Buddha worlds hear my name and still lack some organs, whether eyes, ears, or a good brain, then I would not become a Buddha.
42. If I get Buddhahood and all the Bodhisattvas of the other Buddha countries hear my name and do not get very clear and very good Samadhi, then I would not be a Buddha.
43. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas of the other Buddha worlds hear my name and want rebirth into a very noble family in a very noble country and I cannot fulfill his vow, then I would not be a Buddha.
44. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas of the other Buddha worlds hear my name and practice my Dharma and cannot get the full realization, then I would not be a Buddha.
45. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas of the other Buddha worlds hear my name and cannot get the Samadhi and the full Enlightenment and see unlimited many, many millions of Buddha worlds, then I would not become a Buddha.
46. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas of all the Buddha's lands follow my vows and whatever they want to see and whenever they want to hear the Dharma, if they cannot naturally do so, then I would not be a Buddha.
47. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas and people of the other Buddha worlds who have heard my name still must return to the Saha world to become men, then I would not be a Buddha.
48. If I get the Buddhahood and the Bodhisattvas and people of the other Buddha worlds who have heard my name cannot get the Bodhisattva Bhumis from the first to the tenth and still must return to the saha world, then I would not be a Buddha.
On account of these vows which the Buddha Amitabha has taken the dying person must be helped. The Buddha gave some preaching to the Gods and Dragon Kings and all beings of the eight departments around him. They said to Buddha, "You have given us all these Sutras, and we vow before you that we will do our best to protect these sutras and protect the person who reads them." So there is not only Amitabha Buddha himself who has vowed, but also the protectors, the gods, and all the dragon kings have vowed to protect the Buddhist. So you should advise the dying person that by doing this and that, he will be helped by Amitabha and all the protectors, by the Gods and Bodhisattvas.
So we are talking about two helpfulnesses: There is the vow of Amitabha and there is the vow of the protectors who protect the Amitabha's Dharma. Further, there is not just the Buddha Amitabha to help you but there is his family. Each Buddha has his family; notably his protectors, but also his own family of Bodhisattvas. For Amitabha there are two Bodhisattvas who always follow him; they are Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani whose hand holds the Vajra. These three are said to be the three sages of the Sukhavati, Amitabha in the middle, Avalokiteshvara on the right, and Vajrapani on the left. Sometimes Amitabha is placed a little higher than the other two who are like his ministers. So the help for the dying is not only from Amitabha but also from the eight kinds of protectors; and not only from these eight departments but also from his family of Bodhisattvas among them Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani are the most important ones. Sometimes the dying person can see Amitabha come first and then the two Bodhisattvas follow, and all three at one time take him away. For helping others, the guide can count not only on Buddha's help but also Buddha's family and protectors.
To repeat, the first helpfulness is through the guide's own ability received from practice, the second helpfulness is through Buddha, and the third by Buddha's family and protectors. The fourth is from the Sutras themselves. Even though Buddha Amitabha went away, his sutra still remains here and if you repeat this Buddha's sutra, all his merit, all his vows will help the dying person when he hears them.
The fifth helpfulness is from incantation. An incantation is a kind of word which has special power. The sutra is the plain truth, the general truth, but in an incantation the plain truth becomes essentially crystallized. Besides the generally repeated "Amitabhaya", the Avalokiteshvara Incantation "Om Mani Padme Hum" or the Vajrapani Incantation "Om Vajrapani Soha", there is also a special incantation for going to the Pure Land for good rebirth. This I can repeat to you:
- Namo Amitabhaya Tathagathaya Da Ti Yatha
- Omi Ni Du Pu Pi, Omi Ni Du Shey Dan Po Pi,
- Omi Ni Du Pey Cha Nan Di, Omi Ni Du Pey Cha Nam Do,
- Cha Mi Ni, Cha Cha Lo, Tsu Do Cha Ti, So Po Ho.
If you repeat this every night you will get a good rebirth. It is said that Buddha said Amitabha always sits on the head of anyone who repeats this incantation. Day and night Amitabha will help that person. There is no enemy that can get close to him, and when he is going to die he will certainly reach Sukhavati. So the dying person can be helped by this incantation.
Everything is made by the mind; the mind is the power. If you turn your merit over to the dying person, the dying person must get it. This is the energy of the turning of the power. You have to develop the Bodhi-citta yourself, and when that is developed, then you can have the chance to help others and use your Bodhi-citta to help others. It is said that every Bodhisattva who becomes a Buddha does so through the Bodhi-citta. So if you have developed the Bodhi-citta within yourself, even if you have not yet become a Buddha, the merit will be there. So these two helpfulnesses, the turning-the-merit energy, and developing the Bodhi-citta vow, can be added to the above five.
In Tantra there is phowa, which is a kind of energy not by mind but by the physical nerve. Through the action of Phowa, the wisdom energy can pass through the wisdom nerve of the median nerve and send the essential wisdom to the Buddha heart. By practicing this, the guider may help send the dying person's consciousness into the Buddha's mind. This is not only mental but physical, and is very scientific. This can truly be done and makes the eighth helpfulness.
In addition, there are what is called the three energy identifications. Every Dharma has these three. The first energy is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. These three gems always have the ability to bless if you ask. The second is that every Dharma is in the Sunyata, and every Sunyata Dharma is identified with the Great Compassion. So if you ask for one thing, it will surely happen naturally for it must come because it is always there. The Sunyata and the Great Compassion are in the truth and always there, and if you remember and ask for it, you will be inspired. The third energy identification is the Bodhi-citta, when you develop Bodhi-citta specifically to help the dying persons. You really can have a mind of power, that is, whatever you think of will become true.
All the exoteric and esoteric teachings can be used as a helpfulness. An example is The Tibetan Book of the Dead which is an esoteric doctrine. If you meet it and have faith in it and just follow the instructions, what to do on the first day, the second day, through to the 49th day, although you may not be fully accomplished, you will be inspired by following this method. So there are many kinds of helpfulness other than your own Samadhi, which can be used and learned through practice. These are the helpfulnesses to help the dying person to get a good rebirth. Thank you.