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.
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.”
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?