If you are able to help these people go to the pure land, then that is the quickest way to free them from cyclic existence or rebirth. Otherwise, without actualizing the path, there is no way to experience this or to overcome the normal experience of death.
The great advantage to helping others be reborn in these pure lands is that it is possible for them to become enlightened there in that very life. However, one is not able to be enlightened in every pure land. To become enlightened in a pure land, there needs to be the opportunity to practice tantra in that pure land, but not every pure land gives that opportunity. In Shambhala, Heruka or Vajrayogini pure lands, one definitely has the opportunity to practice tantra, so one can become enlightened there.
However, for that, from their side they also have to have merit. So, in order to bring the most benefit to yourself and others, first of all, one very good thing to do is to recite ten malas of OM MANI PADME HUM first thing in the morning. By doing this, your body becomes blessed. It actually becomes holy, so anybody who touches you or anybody whom you touch—even to shake hands or give a massage to—they are all purified. Even insects that touch you have their negative karmas purified. That means you are giving them the opportunity to have a good rebirth. Therefore, every time you touch sick people, touching their hands or body purifies their negative karma. So, this is a very good thing to do.
It is said that reciting OM MANI PADME HUM has infinite benefits. The benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM can never be finished, Buddha said. It is said that if you recite ten malas of OM MANI PADME HUM and then go into water, swimming or whatever, your body is so blessed that the water that touches your body becomes blessed too. It becomes holy water, so that water then purifies all the insects—there are uncountable numbers of insects in the water—and it purifies all the people who swim there, for example, in the ocean. Whoever the water touches, it purifies. The benefits are unbelievable.
It is mentioned in the text that if you recite ten malas every day, then your children’s children’s children’s grandchildren, up to seven generations, are not reborn in the lower realms. This is because they are a continuation of your egg, or, if one is a father, of your sperm, and because your body is blessed, even if they are not born yet, they have the continuation of your egg, blood, and sperm, which comes from your body and is blessed. As a result, they are able to die with virtuous thoughts and that means they won’t be reborn in the lower realms. For seven generations, it helps them to not be reborn in the lower realms.
Also, when a person who recites ten malas a day dies and their body is burnt, even the smoke has these qualities, so that anybody who smells the smoke or who it touches is not reborn in the lower realms. Even the smoke from the burning body purifies negative karma. So there is incredible benefit from this practice, especially when someone is working in a hospital. It is very good for this. If you do a lot of chanting, particularly if you chant at the hospital, but also if you do the practice at home, there is a great effect just from touching them. There is a lot of benefit in that.
The other practice to do is Medicine Buddha. Recite the name and mantra every day, and then pray to Medicine Buddha that, “Anybody who sees me, touches me, remembers me, thinks about me or talks about me, just by this, may all those beings never be reborn in the lower realms ever. May they immediately be liberated from all disease, spirit harm, negative karma, and defilements.”
Here, especially, think of people who are possessed by spirits and are so difficult to help. Usually we can’t help them until that person’s karma finishes. In some cases, sometimes we can help, but that person needs merit from their own side. Pray that people in those difficult situations —and people who are in a coma, who have AIDS, cancer and all those difficult diseases—may immediately be relieved of those heavy sicknesses, just by touching, hearing, seeing, thinking of, or remembering me. Then, in the same way, pray especially for those people who die, that just by seeing, touching, or remembering me, or hearing my voice, immediately they experience incredible bliss, happiness and joy, and have no fear at all. Then pray that immediately their consciousness is able to transfer to a pure land, where they can become enlightened quickly. Pray in that way.
We must pray to Medicine Buddha like this every day. This is a very good, favorable thing to do. Why? The Medicine Buddhas made a lot of prayers in their past lives before they were enlightened, and they dedicated those prayers to being able to actualize the prayers of anybody who recites their name and mantra. Because of that, if you recite Meditation Buddha’s name mantra, all those things happen. Especially for all those particular problems and difficulties they made prayers about, they are able actualize those benefits for us. Not only that, they also help us become enlightened.
Buddhas have ten powers, and the last one is the power of prayer. Because they have achieved the power of prayer, for that reason it is very powerful to pray to them. Their prayers are able to be actualized for us. Pray to them, and whatever powers they have completed, you are able to receive. So, make prayers to Medicine Buddha in this way, reciting Medicine Buddha’s name and mantra.
For the patients, even though they have to deal with their sickness, they are still very lucky to be looked after by a Buddhist nurse like you, especially one who has met tantra. They are very lucky to be looked after, touched and prayed for by you. As a Buddhist, by knowing what is best, you will make the correct prayers. Some others may pray, but the prayer may not be correct. Therefore, recite Medicine Buddha’s prayer. This practice is very, very important.
Chanting Medicine Buddha’s name and mantra also helps whatever you are praying for in your daily life to become actualized. As for the patients, of course, what you are praying for is the best thing that could happen in their life. So that helps them very much. Medicine Buddha is not just effective for the patient; it helps with everything—for you and for other sentient beings.
While you are with the patients, the other thing to do is sing songs. The people might be Christian, Jewish or of other religions, not Buddhist, or have no religion, but you can sing the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM and the Medicine Buddha mantra as a song. They will just think you are singing a song to make them happy, but you can be singing OM MANI PADME HUM, Medicine Buddha mantras, and all the powerful, pure holy mantras. They will think you are singing songs to comfort them.
First, make sure you think about the person’s background, which religion they are from or whether they have no religion. Sometimes, if they are not Christian, they might hate to hear Christian chanting. In that case, if you chant a tune that sounds Christian, it might disturb them. So, recite the mantra in the form of a song, OK? That is very good because when they hear it, it plants the seed of enlightenment and liberation and leaves a positive imprint in their mind. Probably in some of these people’s lives this is the only positive thing they will hear. In their lives, nothing else is positive. There is nothing else which leaves a positive imprint. Time Magazine and movies are just another story of anger and attachment. But due to the imprint from hearing you chant, sooner or later they will meet the Dharma. They will actualize the right path and eliminate all the defilements, and that brings them to liberation and enlightenment. So that is a very good thing to do.
While the person is suffering and in so much pain, you may not be able to really stop that suffering right now. The chanting is able to plant positive imprints in their mind, to actualize the path that eliminates defilements and bring them to enlightenment. This is the most important thing. In some way, the longer they stay, the more you can benefit them. Even if they stay just one day longer, they will hear the chanting and think about things, so that too will help them. Psychologically, I think this is beneficial.
It will also help you psychologically. To see so much suffering is difficult, and then if you don’t know how to help, it is much worse. So it will help you psychologically: when you see so much suffering, you know what great benefit you are actually able to offer to them. Maybe you can’t stop their pain now, but you are helping them towards the long-lasting happiness after enlightenment. Then you can enjoy your work in the hospital, because you see the great benefit you can offer.
When a patient is experiencing great pain, you can do Medicine Buddha practice. Visualize Medicine Buddha on their head, take strong refuge, and then visualize that the nectar comes from Medicine Buddha’s heart and purifies them. The four things—spirit harm, sicknesses, negative karma and defilements—come out in the form of dirty liquid. Sicknesses, pus, blood, spirit harms, snakes, scorpions, things like that come out, and they are completely purified. Make a strong prayer that this actually happens, and recite the mantra.
When you know the person is dying, the best thing to do is visualize Medicine Buddha and pray very strongly, immediately, that they will never be reborn in a lower realm; that they will be born in a pure land where they can become enlightened. Pray for them to receive a good rebirth in their next life, a perfect human rebirth, in which they can practice a right path. When you do this practice with patients, whether or not you chant out loud depends on the patient, whether they are receptive or not. But the visualization doesn’t depend on verbal recitation, so you can do that just while sitting or standing there.
Even if you are going to do powa, transferring the consciousness into a pure land, when the patient is about to die, still the first thing to do is Medicine Buddha practice. Do that immediately. Purify them and make a strong prayer, as I mentioned before, that their consciousness will go to a pure land where they can become enlightened. After that, then do Amitabha powa, which is a special practice for transferring consciousness to the pure lands. If you are working as a nurse, especially in a hospice, it is very good to receive these teachings. Then you have to do this practice until you get a sign indicating that if you do it at the time of death you can be born in a pure land. The sign can be pus and blood coming out of one’s crown or hair falling out. In one Nyingma tradition, after students have done the retreat, the lama puts kusha grass on their crown and if the grass goes inside immediately, then we say this person has succeeded in powa. If it doesn’t work, it means the person has to do more practice. After you have done the practice for yourself and you have the sign, that means you can then use the practice for others. This is a very good service for others, to bring them to a pure land. Especially if one is looking after dying people, this is a very good education to have.
You asked about using your job to help develop renunciation. Hospitals are incredible places for renunciation. You see the person dying and suddenly they have a heart attack. Then, suddenly, death is happening. Especially in places where people have heart problems, they have to watch the machines all the time, and at any time the doctors and nurses can all come running. I know from when Lama Yeshe was in hospital in California with heart problems. I know how this machine starts making sounds, then everybody runs into this small room. I watched through the window, but I didn’t go inside. The hospital is a very intensive teaching—it shows that death can happen at any moment. What happened to the dying person can happen to you anytime. You have to think this way; it can happen in a moment.
When we look at animals, we feel no connection at all. We think, “Oh, I’m a human; they’re an animal.” We never think, “I’ll become one of them too,” or “I myself have been one numberless times in the past,” or “I’ll be like this if I don’t purify my negative karma.” Normally, we don’t think of that. Animals seem to us to be only very slightly similar to us. The reality is that we ourselves have been reborn as animals countless times, and if we don’t purify the negative karma we create, it will happen in the future again.
In the hospital, the meditation should be like that. We shouldn’t think, “This is the patient and I’m a healthy person.” We shouldn’t think there is no connection. We should think, “I am the same as them. I’ve also collected so many negative karmas in the past of various types, so this can happen to me as well. If I have created similar negative karma, then I will also experience sickness in the future. As long as I am not liberated from samsara—which means liberated from the delusions and karma, and that happens only by practicing Dharma—as long as this doesn’t happen, I will experience these things without end. There will be no end to these sufferings.” Thinking like this, Dharma practice becomes unbelievable. It becomes the most important thing in life.
The foundation of Dharma practice is renunciation. Among Dharma practices, the practice of bodhicitta is the best, bringing the most benefit. Working in the hospital, everything can become an inspiration for you, by thinking this way, “I’ve experienced this sort of sickness and death numberless times in the past because of karma, and if I don’t purify, then in the future I will experience this without end. Therefore, I’m going to practice Dharma.” So, not just renunciation is important, but also bodhicitta. Especially bodhicitta, OK? It is very good.
So, this is what you can do for them. While you are present, recite the mantra, verbally or silently, then make your prayers stronger and stronger and stronger. Maybe recite one mala of the mantra, about that duration, but you can also do it for longer. When they have a lot of pain or some emergency, you know what to visualize, and also you can even benefit them by touching them.
You have received Chenrezig initiation, so you can visualize yourself as Thousand-arm Chenrezig and then visualize AH on the body, where there is a lot of pain. One way you can think is that the AH is in all sentient beings, and then you draw all the sicknesses and spirit harm out. All the defilements, negative karma, everything is sucked out and absorbed into your ego. Everything goes up into your heart and completely destroys your ego. This way you are using all their suffering to generate bodhicitta in your mind and to destroy delusions. You are using that as medicine to heal the ego, the chronic disease of ego, a condition which has no beginning, which has harmed you from beginningless rebirths. We need to have bodhicitta, so that we can become enlightened and liberate all other living beings from samsara and enlighten them.
Send beams from the OM on your crown into the person’s heart, totally eliminating these four things: sickness, spirit harm, negative karma, and defilements. They are completely gone and the patient’s whole body becomes in the nature of light.