228: Doubted, Wondered, and Now Firmly Believe

Due to urinary tract infection, my mother had to be hospitalized at Cathay General Hospital in Neihu district, Taipei City on April 1st, 2006. After approximate two weeks of hospitalization, the test results from various modern medical instruments showed that her conditions were now stabilized, and, by means of antibiotics, the infection was well under controlled. However, her fever stayed as high as ever. The doctors then scheduled a series of tests, including laparoscope, ultrasonic examination, gynecological examination, and so on. The results didn’t show any abnormalities, so the doctors strongly recommended us to transfer to the headquarter for further examinations. Anyhow, Mom insisted on leaving the hospital, and, hence, my family signed the declaration form and agreed to take the risk of any unexpected medical conditions outside the hospital. Mom then went back home, as she wanted to.

After returning home, she continued to have a fever of 38 degrees centigrade for several days. At the mean time, my husband and I asked whether she wanted to see Rinpoche. My mom agreed, but she went for our sakes. In fact, when I had seen Rinpoche for my personal affairs before then, Rinpoche had told me already that Mom’s life would end in the ninth month of the lunar calendar, which fell approximately in November in that year. As a daughter, I immediately besought Rinpoche to help Mom with “Phowa.” Nonetheless, Rinpoche couldn’t give his promise and merely said, “It depends on what you siblings will do.” When I got home, Rinpoche’s words remained hauntingly in my mind.

We understood very well that “Phowa” transfers the consciousness of the deceased directly to the Pure Land of Amitabha and is an immensely sublime practice. Only decent human beings with sufficient merits and causes would likely receive “Phowa.” It was extremely difficult for ordinary people like us to obtain enough merits for the practice, not to mention the fact that Mom didn’t hold a firm belief to Rinpoche at all. The cause for the precious “Phowa” was absent, and even Buddhas, with their greatest mercy and powers, would not be able to help those without a proper reason. According to the Buddha’s teachings, the only chance we children had was to repent on behalf of our mother, prepare a great offering, and thus hope to accumulate her merits for a painless death. Therefore, I made a phone call to my younger brother. We presented our offering to Rinpoche and besought him to help Mom with “Phowa.” Rinpoche agreed mercifully, but he reminded us, “It is possible that you can’t find me when the time comes. You should beseech the dharmapala, Achi, to grant your wish!” Thus, we prepared ourselves for Mom’s death, and were freed from the fears and the sorrows that the family of a dying patient would normally have.

On the night of June 26th, Mom suffered from pleural effusion and had a hard time sleeping due to the breathing difficulty. She was in great pain and asked us to take her to the hospital to suck out the fluid. The next morning, my husband gave her an ambrosial pellet. About three minutes after taking the pellet, Mom discovered that her discomfort was gone completely. She then inquired in confusion, “What was that you gave me? How come I feel no pain any longer?” Seeing her willingness to understand, we then answered, “Mom, you have sought advice from Avalokiteshvara by throwing the divinatory blocks twice, and known that you wouldn’t be able to live past the end of this year, plus Rinpoche has already told the same thing to you. Therefore, you should repent before Rinpoche and beseech him to transfer the consciousnesses of those you have harmed.” Upon hearing what we said, Mom, surprised at the effectiveness of the ambrosial pellet, decided to go to Glorious Jewel, Rinpoche’s antique shop, to see him.

This time, she was able to show sincere repentance in front of him, a great practitioner, on behalf of all the beings she had harmed. Moreover, she prayed that Rinpoche could help her leave for the Pure Land of Amitabha as soon as possible. Rinpoche then responded, “If you’d like to go to the Pure Land of Amitabha, you’ll have to be a vegetarian.” Mom nodded right away and replied, “I will be one! I will!” Rinpoche then held Mom’s face in his hands and blew air onto the top of her head and gave her his blessings. We knew that Rinpoche was giving his merits and virtues to Mom. From then on, Mom never had to receive a single injection of morphine. Her pains simply vanished, and she no longer needed to try to relieve her suffering by striking the floor forcefully or attempting to suicide by biting her tongue. What’s more, her complexion remained exuberant and ruddy till the end of her life. After seeing Rinpoche, Mom admitted us, “Actually, I paid my first two visits to Rinpoche unwillingly. But, I came, this time, in genuine sincerity.” When we walked out of Glorious Jewel, Mom, for the first time, faced the reality that she was dying and told us, “I don’t want to pass away at home. I’ll be at the hospital when I die.” On the way back to the hospital, we all felt the changes in her attitude, and were amazed at the transforming effect of her sincere repentance before a great practitioner.

During the days at the hospital, Mom made detailed arrangements for things to be done after her death. In addition, she clearly stated, “I am to leave shortly, so let no debt of mine would be left behind. Therefore, you may not accept any gifts of money at the funeral.” She added, “If the relatives have time, they may come see me off on the day of the funeral. If they don’t, it will be fine with me. Be sure to prepare snacks for those who will walk in the funeral parade. They may get hungry. Nevertheless, due to the fact that I am a vegetarian, kindly ask them to have vegetarian snacks.” At the hospital, Mom also arranged meetings with those she cared. Then she spared some time to return home to say farewell to all our neighbors. One day, my husband asked, “Mom, would you like to seek refuge under Rinpoche?” She replied in an anticipative tone, “Could I seek refuge under Rinpoche? Could I really?”

On the morning of July 1st, Mom said that she would like to offer Rinpoche the money for her future hospitalization expenses and ask him to help her leave for the Pure Land of Amitabha sooner. She considered such expenses would be meaningless and a waste of money. I thought it would earn her the most merits and virtues to offer to a real practitioner. Only with those merits would Mom be able to go to the Pure Land earlier in time. Before now, though she had received innumerable helps from Rinpoche, she had been rejecting seeking refuge under him, due to the fact that she had ever sought refuge under another master. She hadn’t realized that Rinpoche was the only person to help her with the matter of life and death, until she showed true repentance for the harmed beings before him on her previous visit. Mom, now awaken, appealed to Rinpoche for the conversion. Rinpoche immediately took her and wrote the conversion certificate right at the moment. He also promised to take care of her and enabled her to receive blessings from the lineage in her future lives. Moreover, he agreed to practice “Phowa” for her and send her to the Pure Land of Amitabha. Staggering out of Glorious Jewel, Mom, filled with delight, kept saying, “I can’t believe I have the fortune to receive Rinpoche’s favor and will be able to go to the Pure Land of Amitabha!” Like a child, she danced with joy and showed her true feeling of happiness. From the day on, all she did was remember Rinpoche’s words: “Keep my and your dharma names in mind.” So, Mom, doesn’t know many words, all she asked us was to teach her to recite Rinpoche’s dharma name and hers every day. She remained silent for the rest of the time and held her dearest wish for an immediate departure.

On July 21st, Mom started to experience changes in her body. In her dying process, her earth element began to decompose with malfunctioning muscles and bones, slow physical reactions, and a heavy feeling in the head. The hospital bed was adjusted to its highest position, but Mom still complained that it was too low for her. Then the decomposition of the water element followed. My eldest daughter gave her a glass of water, and she simply poured the water directly onto her head. Though we had adjusted the room temperature to make it cooler and cooler then ever, she kept complaining about the heat. No matter how much water she had drunk, the thirsty feeling remained. My husband then asked, “Mom, would you like to see Rinpoche this Saturday?” She replied right away, “Yes.”

The last time she saw Rinpoche, after her conversion, was on July 22nd, a Saturday. We drove to Glorious Jewel from Songshan Armed Forces General Hospital. Before we even reached Bade Road, she had used up an oxygen cylinder already. Seeing Mom have difficulty breathing, close her eyes tightly and shake her hands uncontrollably, we children still couldn’t bear to let her suffer. We knew well that Mom was quite apprehensive and worried about the upcoming dying process. When she came before Rinpoche at 5:30 p.m., he saw through her at that second and said to me, “Tell your mom not to be apprehensive. What Rinpoche has promised her will definitely be realized.” Rinpoche assured Mom calmly and gave her his blessings again. On our way back, Mom was a totally different person. She sat casually on the back seat, knocking the car window in a rhythmic way. When I talked to her, she would give me a look and utter nothing. She appeared to be at ease and full of confidence. Sitting beside her, I kept turning my head to marvel at the touching scene. Then, Mom stopped talking and eating. The next day, I took some “torma” home after the Sunday puja and learned from my younger brother that Mom hadn’t eaten anything at all during the day. I asked, “Mom, I have brought “torma” from the puja, would you like some?” She opened her eyes and nodded. After having a bit, she asked for another bit. That very night, Mom, wearing an oxygen mask and panting noisily, took her last gasp for breath and fell in silence. So she went peacefully, at 12:30 a.m. on the morning of July 24th.

During her last days, my younger brother didn’t have the heart to offer, though he did accompany us to see Rinpoche every time we went. Before Mom passed away, my brother and I came before Rinpoche to ask for blessings on her behalf. However, my brother didn’t bring offering with him and used mine instead. Rinpoche knew it and scolded him for the matter. Nevertheless, he didn’t accept Rinpoche’s advice and got annoyed. That was why we, as anxious as we were, couldn’t have contacted Rinpoche at the moment Mom drew her last breath. Only after thirteen hours could we finally reach him. Because of my brother’s annoyance, the cause for Mom to receive “Phowa” right after her death was gone. Even so, Rinpoche still kept his promise and protected Mom’s consciousness with a practice. After Rinpoche had completed the practice, we then dared to move Mom’s body to the basement of the hospital, and had the funeral service providers deal with the matters followed.

On July 26th, my husband and I, along with my younger brother, went to Glorious Jewel to repent before Rinpoche, and besought him to help Mom with “Phowa.” Rinpoche said to my brother in mercy, “Your mom has already forgiven you.” He then told us, “As for “Phowa,” it will be included in the Great Unlimited Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness on August 13th. I will transfer her consciousness altogether.”

I now recall what we experienced during those few months, and feel immense gratitude for Rinpoche. He often told us, “There are three categories of illnesses. The first can be cured by doctors. The second are the result of bad karma in one’s current life and the third being the result of accumulated bad karma in one’s previous lives. The latter two are incurable, even using the most up-to-date medical treatments, and cancers are exactly a result of bad karma.” What’s more, when the tests showed that Mom had a high level of tumor markers, along with serious pleural effusion in the early stage. According to previous cases, the doctors then made a diagnosis of “a suspected colonized tumor.” Usually people would undertake further examinations and hold the slim hope of a false diagnosis. They would try to save their short time in life by all means, inclusive of biopsy, chemical treatment and radio therapy, all of which torture the patient and his family both physically and psychologically. However, due to the fact that we believed Rinpoche, Mom was rid of unnecessary sufferings and torture. Originally Mom’s doctor had suggested her to have a surgery to suck out the fluid in her lungs lest she should develop asthma. However, every time the doctor entered the ward, Mom immediately reminded him, “Don’t save my life! Do not save my life!” At the mean time, we also signed the Do-Not-Resuscitate form. When she was still in the hospital, Mom even said, “I don’t want to take any more ambrosial pellets. Precious as they are, they ought to be given to those in need. I don’t need them any longer because I have had Rinpoche’s word. I am completely relieved.” Although my younger brother was the reason why Mom couldn’t have received “Phowa” right after her death, we were to blame as well. As disciples of Rinpoche, we didn’t act according to his teachings at peacetime so as to prevent my brother from listening to us. Anyhow, we were still blessed by such a Varjamaster, who kept his word mercifully and sent Mom to the Pure Land of Amitabha eventually. Nothing can be paid in return for Rinpoche’s great favor and virtues.

If it not been for Rinpoche’s doing, Mom’s life would not have ended in peace and perfection and we are truly grateful for all this.

By Chen Meiqing, a disciple of Glorious Buddhist Center

Updated on December 8, 2007