Pure Land Death Stories

Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Mr. G » Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:49 pm

How are we to understand stories of Chinese Pure Land practitioners who predict their death and state they are going to the Pure Land? Examples:

http://www.amtbweb.org/story02.html

Master Dixian’s Student

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the well-known Master Dixian, was visited by a childhood friend who wished to become a monk. The master initially de­nied the request because of the rigorous training and study at the temple. But as his friend persisted, the mas­ter agreed saying, “I will find you a deserted temple in the countryside.”

The Master then arranged for some practitioners to provide meals for the new monk and then taught his old friend to chant “Amituofo.” The master said, “When tired, rest; when rested, resume chanting. I am sure that you will greatly benefit from this.” And so, the new monk isolated him­self in the small temple and as instructed, concentrated solely on his chanting.

Three years later, he told the woman who had been doing his cooking that there was no need to pre­pare the next day’s food. The following day, she went to the tem­ple and found him standing in the temple with his recitation beads in his hand. She called out his name but re­ceived no response. Upon moving closer to him, she realized that he was dead!

Not knowing what to do, she rushed off to tell the others, and they sent the master a message. Due to difficulties in traveling, it took Master Dixian three days to arrive at the temple. He immedi­ately understood that his old friend had been reborn into the Pure Land.

He said admiringly, “You have proved that your deci­sion three years ago to become a monk was a fruit­ful one. Not one of the Dharma masters or abbots at all the famous temples can match your achieve­ment.” For three years, the uneducated monk had done nothing but recite “Amituofo.” His singleminded, ceaseless recitation had resulted in his being freed from the cycle of birth and death and of being reborn into the Pure Land.


http://www.amtbweb.org/story03.html

Ven. Master Chin Kung has often told the following story to encourage us in our practice. The story was told to him by an older practitioner, Mrs. Gan, in 1984.

“Mrs. Gan had a relative, an elderly lady who had lived in San Francisco. This relative helped her son and daughter-in-law with the housework and took care of their children.

After several years, when the grandchildren had grown older and were attending elementary school, she had more time to herself. With this extra time, she was able to practice nianfo every day without interruption. Nobody knew about this. On the day she passed away, people discovered how much she had achieved in her cultivation. She passed away at night. In the morning, when her son and daughter-in-law went to her room to see why she was not yet up, they found her dead, sitting cross-legged on the bed.

They also found a will on the bed telling them how to arrange her funeral. There were even mourning clothes, which she had personally made for everyone, on the bed. She was a true practitioner, but nobody knew this when she was alive.

This elderly lady had no karmic obstacles. She knew when she would pass away. She performed her daily routine as usual and passed away without suffering from any illness. She passed away with ease and freedom. The elderly lady had achieved in her practice, so she had no obstacles.”


http://www.amtbweb.org/story04.html

Venerable Xiuwu

This story was told by Venerable Master Chin Kung in one of his lectures.:

Venerable Xiuwu was an illiterate bricklayer before he became a monastic. After becoming a monastic, he did the most menial tasks, work that nobody else wanted to do. He cleaned the toilets, chopped wood, and grew vegetables. Always mindfully chanting “Amituofo” while doing all these tasks, he gladly did his work. Because he knew that he was able to do only the most menial work and nothing else and that he could not compare to other people, he was respectful to everybody.

The first time Jile [Ultimate Bliss] Monastery conferred the precepts, Venerable Xiuwu volunteered to take care of the sick. But after only a few days, he asked to take leave from Master Tanxu, the abbot. The master asked him to stay until all the precepts were conferred. Venerable Xiuwu said that he could not stay because he was going to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The master was surprised and asked him when. Venerable Xiuwu said in ten days. The next day, he came and told the master he was leaving the following day [and he did]!

This is a good example for us. Venerable Xiuwu did the hard work at the monasteries without taking a day off. He succeeded in his cultivation. He had no karmic obstacles.

He did not compete with others and was respectful to everyone. Many looked down on him, but he did not get in anyone’s way. He did his work and mindfully chanted “Amituofo,” which no one knew. He showed such ease and freedom when he passed away.


There was also another story I heard where Ven. Master Chin Kung advised his mother to practice, and she stated she had visions of Amitabha visiting her twice, and she also predicted her own death.

Some thoughts and questions:

1. How do the "mechanics" of this work? Is it through the development of nienfo-samadhi that one's mind becomes purified to the point where it now must leave this world for the Pure Land?

2. Is this similar to Tibetan Buddhism's "Rainbow Body" with the exception that the body is left behind due to the lack of inner yogic practices?

3. I have not read any mention of stories similar to this in Jodo-Shu. Why is that? It seems like rigorous practitioners like Honen and Ippen would have achieved something like this.

4. Is there an equivalent dhyana to ninefo-samadhi?
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:33 am

Thank you for such important stories.

About the questions, i dont know how to answer, but would like to know the answers too.
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Astus » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:52 am

I doubt there is a clear cut system in it. Being able to foretell one's time of death may not necessarily be a sign of one's birth in the Pure Land.

Nianfo-sanmei is not a requirement to be able to foresee one's death as it can happen to very ordinary people without special abilities. I don't know how it relates to rainbow body. There are possible miraculous signs around the dead but the corpse never dissolves.

Perhaps in Pure Land schools based on Honen's ideas they don't see it important to spread around stories with miracles. Or they have not yet been translated.

The different Mahayana samadhis rarely have equivalents in the 8-level dhyana system. It also depends on what one means by nianfo-sanmei.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Astus » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:39 am

One day Puhua went about the streets asking people he met for a one-piece gown. They all offered him one, but Puhua declined them all.
Linji had the steward of the temple buy a coffin, and when Puhua came back the master said, "I've fixed up a one-piece gown for you."
Puhua put the coffin on his shoulders and went around the streets calling out, "Linji fixed me up a one-piece gown. I'm going to the East Gate to depart this life." All the townspeople scrambled after him to watch.
"No, not today," said Puhua, "but tomorrow I'll go to the South Gate to depart this life."
After he had done the same thing for three days no one believed him anymore.
On the fourth day not a single person followed him to watch. He went outside the town walls all by himself, got into the coffin, and asked a passerby to nail it up. The news immediately got about. The townspeople all came scrambling; upon opening the coffin, they saw he had vanished, body and all. Only the sound of his bell could be heard in the sky, receding away: tinkle... tinkle.. tinkle...

(The Record of Linji, tr. by. RF Sasaki, ch. 24, p. 41)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Mr. G » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:36 pm

Nosta wrote:Thank you for such important stories.

About the questions, i dont know how to answer, but would like to know the answers too.


:thumbsup:


Hi Astus,

There are possible miraculous signs around the dead but the corpse never dissolves.


Yes, I was reading Hirota's biography on Ippen and there are instances where he is alive and when he passes of purple clouds hovering above him with flowers falling from the sky. The same was also said by Machida at Honen's death.

Perhaps in Pure Land schools based on Honen's ideas they don't see it important to spread around stories with miracles. Or they have not yet been translated.


I know there are untranslated books on deathbead stories of Japanese Pure Land practitioners, but I've never seen one where a practitioner gets whisked away by Amida like in Chinese Pure Land. Perhaps you're right though, there may be such stories floating around that are untranslated.

Do you think the stories represented in Chinese Pure Land are just that...stories? I mean they're aren't really comparable stories in Japanese or even Tibetan Pure Land. Though there are stories of maha siddhas being whisked away by Vajrayogini.

It also depends on what one means by nianfo-sanmei.


I haven't read any concrete definitions like how Tan Luan, Tao Cho or Shan Tao define it either. I will look again.

I'll be reading Prof. Carl Becker's book this weekend "Breaking the Circle: Death and the Afterlife in Buddhism" this weekend. He's a Jodo-Shu practitioner, so perhaps he'll have some insights. He made some interesting comments in the Jodo-Shu anthology "Never Die Alone".
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Tenso » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:20 am

Do you think the stories represented in Chinese Pure Land are just that...stories? I mean they're aren't really comparable stories in Japanese or even Tibetan Pure Land. Though there are stories of maha siddhas being whisked away by Vajrayogini.
\

That's what I've always wondered. You never hear about stories of purple clouds appearing in the sky at the deaths of Chinese and Tibetan Pure Land practitioners. This sort of phenomenon if it actually is one only appears in the death stories of Japanese practitioners such as Honen and some of his followers. Maybe they are just "stories" after all?
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby plwk » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:55 am

Tsk tsk....note to self...remember the webcam at my deathbed side...(and don't forget the switch on button)
Last edited by plwk on Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Astus » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:56 am

Do you think the stories represented in Chinese Pure Land are just that...stories? I mean they're aren't really comparable stories in Japanese or even Tibetan Pure Land. Though there are stories of maha siddhas being whisked away by Vajrayogini.


Well, what we definitely have are stories. From a scholarly point of view the only possible thing to analyse is related to the story and not the truth of the content. There are of course religious themes in such stories that many accept just as they are. Personally, I can view them as expressions of something that certain people have experienced, as it so often happens in religious, magical, spiritual and other such environments (miracles are clearly not restricted to Buddhists). Such experience are real as personal, communal and traditional happenings. Same can be said about many things we take real generally in the West. And so when you ask if they're just stories the implied meaning is that it's all fiction created by writers similarly to novels and films, i.e. lies. I don't believe they're lies - although it is possible that a couple of them were just made up - but as I said, religious experience of some people. Obviously it couldn't be the dead describing what they saw. Also, such collections of stories are probably based on what the writers heard from others, including events that could have happened generations ago. But I haven't studied this area of Buddhist literature thus I can't say anything for sure about their origin and such. What is the common purpose of stories within Buddhism is to educate, and in Pure Land stories that education means generating faith in the power of the vow of Amita Buddha. A side note, explanations in forms of logical arguments also are for education and rousing faith. Not that different, but people usually prefer one over the other. Cultural conditioning is not negligible either.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:13 pm

So, if these are just stories, do you think thats impossible to have sure that someone sucessfullly passed away to Pure Land?
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Astus » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:14 pm

Of course it's possible to be sure. That's what is called faith, the very essence of the Pure Land path.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Ven Hong yang » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:30 am

Amituofo!

I am a chinese pure land practitioner as well. I know some of you through other forums. Stories are of real people with real situations, among us pure land people we have even more proofs of a change of phenomenon regarding death and entry into the Pure Land. We have videos, some are on youtube but maybe you won't want to see them. They are graphic showing death, and corpses and how they are after death, soft versus rigor mortis and the like. We have sariria, from masters to lay people. Of course it seems fantasic, even among purelanders there are criticisms and doubters but later even they often change their own minds when they observe first hand phenonmenon.

Pure Land method is for lifetime training according to Buddhist teachings to create constant mindfulness, clear mind, calm hearts as a part of daily life outside of the temple and well before you enter your dying day. We also are encouraging each other to read much sutras and practice diligently.
Practice dilligently, read sutras/suttas widely, seek out monastic Sangha and ask for dharma teachings, practice dana regularly, volunteer daily to do as much good as you can for others in need, be active not passive in your Buddhist life and your light will shine bright.
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:49 pm

Pure Land Death stories are an important "tool" for reaching Faith, specially these days where science reigns, but also lies, hoaxs and even the dull mind of humans.

I ask you to all of you, if you find some nice stories of sucessful rebirths in PL, put them here so all of us can read it and learn.

At last, Ven. Hong Yang, would you mind to insert here some links to youtube showing such stories? :)

Thanks
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby adept » Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:44 pm

Nosta wrote:Pure Land Death stories are an important "tool" for reaching Faith, specially these days where science reigns, but also lies, hoaxs and even the dull mind of humans.

I ask you to all of you, if you find some nice stories of sucessful rebirths in PL, put them here so all of us can read it and learn.

At last, Ven. Hong Yang, would you mind to insert here some links to youtube showing such stories? :)

Thanks


I too think this is important and would love to read/watch more on this fascinating subject.
:thanks:
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Mr. G » Tue May 24, 2011 7:44 pm

I recently came across this video:

    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Chinese Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Mr. G » Tue May 24, 2011 7:58 pm

I don't know Chinese, but I came across this one too:

Following is an interesting recording of a Buddhist who could foretell the exact day and exact time Amitabha would be coming to fetch him to Pureland. He informed his master and his master held prayers for 7 days till his very last breath. Hundreds of devotees witnessed his departure on the exact day and exact time he foretold.






If anyone could assist in translating the pertinent parts, that would be great.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Tue May 24, 2011 11:19 pm

Mr.Gordo, thanl you very much for the video about the 2 stories. Vey, very inspiring!

The two other videos i cannot understand them neither.

The following video is not stories, just an inspiring and touching music and images to inspire people here.

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Re: Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Quiet Heart » Wed May 25, 2011 10:29 am

:twothumbsup:
I just want to say that:
1. I am not a follower of Pure Land....not because I have any dislike for it....but just because I am basicaly ignorant about Pure Land...that is to say that I know almost nothing about it.
2. I am a follower of Zen...I prefer to say a STUDENT of Zen, rather than a "follower".
However there are a number of stories about Zen Masters who told their students the day and place of their death ahead of time. I always assmed that those stories were either false or offered as a "teaching story" to teach a point to the students that heard them.
3. Maybe, based on what I've read here, I'll have to re-evaluate my thinking about such Zen stories.
Anyway, thanks for posting. It gives me something else to at least think about and investigate.
(By the way, that's what I call my "practice" of Buddhisim and Zen, study and investigating what I find in that study.)
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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Re: Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Wed May 25, 2011 1:04 pm

Quiet Heart wrote::twothumbsup:
I just want to say that:
1. I am not a follower of Pure Land....not because I have any dislike for it....but just because I am basicaly ignorant about Pure Land...that is to say that I know almost nothing about it.
2. I am a follower of Zen...I prefer to say a STUDENT of Zen, rather than a "follower".
However there are a number of stories about Zen Masters who told their students the day and place of their death ahead of time. I always assmed that those stories were either false or offered as a "teaching story" to teach a point to the students that heard them.
3. Maybe, based on what I've read here, I'll have to re-evaluate my thinking about such Zen stories.
Anyway, thanks for posting. It gives me something else to at least think about and investigate.
(By the way, that's what I call my "practice" of Buddhisim and Zen, study and investigating what I find in that study.)
:smile:


You came from Zen schools? :)
It seems that even great Zen masters in the past, told to their students to follow the Pure Land path too (they woulndt leave Zen, but they should use both ways). I say this only to show that Pure Land is so important that even Zen masters teach it.
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Re: Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Quiet Heart » Thu May 26, 2011 3:07 pm

Here's an example of a Zen Death prediction story.

The Last Poem of Hoshin

The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:
One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: "I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year."
The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.
On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: "You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped."
The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: "It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can."
"Can you?" someone asked.
"Yes," answered Hoshin. "I will show you what I can do seven days from now."
None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together.
"Seven days ago," he remarked, "I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet or a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words."
His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.
"Are you ready?" Hoshin asked.
"Yes sir," replied the writer.

Then Hoshin dictated:

I came from brillancy
And return to brillancy.
What is this?

This line was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: "Master, we are one line short."
Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted "Kaa!" and was gone.

I rather like the poem this way:

I come from Brillancy
I return to Brillancy
What is this, what is this ?
KAA!

:tongue:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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Re: Pure Land Death Stories

Postby Nosta » Thu May 26, 2011 5:50 pm

Really nice story! Thanks :)
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