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《菩提田》

 

BODHI FIELD

慈母臨終時
My Compassionate Mother's Passing Away

約翰‧史考羅克 文by John Scroggs
張褔麟 中譯 Chinese translation by Fu-Lin Chang

在我記憶之中,母親是位堅強、有原則、有愛心的女性;有才幹且具備幽默。所有認識她的人都知道她的這些氣質,特別是她最後臨終前的那些日子裡。母親也是一位堅強的基督教徒,飽受薰陶,通達教理,但這也成了我們摩擦之因。我記得在一九七○年代末,她在萬佛聖城一次午餐後見到了師父。上人開玩笑似的笑笑說:「你兒子很聽我的話,妳希望他結婚嗎?只要妳能拜佛,我就叫他去結婚。」我不知道是否應該感激母親,她拒絕了師父的建議!為利而違信,我母親是頭低一寸而不為的。

身為佛教徒,我相信我必須尊重別人 的信仰,尤其是自己父母的信仰。這樣就是隨緣而不著名相。我們曾多次就彼此的信仰長談,但我從未強迫她接受佛教。我相信這對她最後度過臨終的日子很有幫助,雖然我無法使她去看一部經、拜一次佛,但我知道她最後對上人和三寶都非常尊敬。

多年來我一直專修念地藏菩薩名號法門,所以我期望在我母親彌留時我可以大聲誦念諸佛菩薩的聖號,並誦念《地藏菩薩本願經》中許多大願之一,以消其宿業,助其往生。
自從母親被送入附近的修養院後,我和我姐、弟,晝夜不眠,守護身邊。我的姐弟都是基督徒,也都是殘障者,因此大部份我的時間都是在幫助他們守夜。因他們與醫護人員的在場,我一直沒有時間與母親獨處,一直等到她的臨終之夜。那天從晚上十一時起,我一直坐在她身邊默唸整部《地藏經》,我的姐、弟及醫生則是來了去、去了來。當晚在六點時,她充血性心臟衰竭,呼吸很費勁,肺中積水,我想她昏迷了。當我讀完經時,她似乎很安祥,呼吸較淺,但不費勁。姐、弟告訴我他們去走廊休息休息,我留下來。凌晨二點時,只有我在臨終的母親身邊,經過多日忙亂,我真不敢相信我有機會與母親獨處。我關上房門,握住她的手,誦念著整部的「早課」;〈楞嚴咒〉快結束時,房間內似乎被掃淨,非常清淨。當我念到《心經》:「無老死,亦無老死盡」,她一聲嘆息,有如心中久疑,一朝得解。最後我沒念「藥師讚」而念「地藏菩薩讚」,並且開始念地藏菩薩聖號,偶爾加一句「觀世音菩薩」和「阿彌陀佛」。我真不敢相信五分鐘之後,母親嚥下最後一口氣。她似乎被天上的平安之毯捲著,自由自在地走了。

我只是一個普通人,只能道出我的印象與信仰。或許有一天,我會完全瞭解當時到底發生什了麼事。但我相信她在去世的剎那,是蒙地藏菩薩及上人的保佑。如果沒有上人的教誨,我就不知孝順父母,不知報答父母。悲哀的道白!並不只是我個人,而是現今我們世間生活的情形。以我有限的思量,我認為誦念地藏聖號和誦經的利益,幾乎是無法計算的。我們一家,合睦團結;世事順利;眾多家人,心得調柔。

母親往生後,我夢到她兩次。一次她在檢查房間,並問我把她的貓怎麼處理了。又一次我陪她去佛寺,寺內滿滿的人,她忽見上人在後面,就拉著我的手臂,暗示她要離開。當我們從邊門側身溜走時,幾乎和上人迎面撞個正著,上人身邊還有幾位青年的比丘。上人身上金光耀目,始終微笑著,誠懇有禮。我們一同走到一客廳,上人招待母親喝茶,他們在一起開心地談著話,我只記得有一種慈祥、和睦的氣氛。事後我不禁回想,上人在那天仍在行他的大願,對那些具一面之緣的人:是弟子,非弟子;是佛教徒,非佛教徒,一併度化。希望我的經驗能夠鼓勵大家修行,及鼓勵大家要面對家中親人的去世。阿彌陀佛!

I remember my mother as a strong, principled, and loving woman, talented and with a sense of humor. These qualities were evident to all who knew her, especially in the last days of her life. She was also a strong Christian, steeped in the tradition and well versed in theology. Therein lies the rub. I remember when she met Shifu after lunch at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, back in the late 70’s, he looked at her mischievously and said, “You know your son will do anything I tell him to do. If you want him to get married, just tell me and I’ll make him do it. All you have to do is ‘bow Buddha.’ ” I don’t know whether to be thankful or not that she refused the offer! The problem, of course, was that she could not put down her Christian head even an inch to obtain benefit which, she was probably quite sure, was in the power of the Abbot to provide, if the act would be considered offensive to her own faith. As Buddhists, I believe that we must respect the beliefs of others, especially our parents. This is just according with conditions and not being attached to name and form. I never forced Buddhist orthodoxy on her, although we had many long talks about our respective beliefs. I would like to believe that this helped her in some way to get through her final days. Even though, I could never get her to read a Buddhist Sutra, or ‘bow Buddha,’ I know that she had a great respect, finally, for the Abbot and for the work of the Triple Jewel.

My practice for many years has revolved around mindfulness of Earth Store Bodhisattva. I was hoping that during her last hours, I would be able to loudly recite at least one Buddha's name and claim one of the many promises made in Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, eradicating the retribution she might face from past evil deeds and aiding her in her rebirth. My brother and sister and I had been maintaining a 24 hour vigil ever since moving her into the local hospice. My siblings are both Christians, and both handicapped, so I had to spend more time helping them to maintain the vigil, than I did myself. Between their presence and the presence of the staff there seemed to be no time to be alone with my mother, until the last night of her life. I sat by her side from about 11 in the evening, silently reading the entire Earth Store Sutra and silently reciting while my sister and brother, doctors and nurses all came and went. At about six that evening she had begun to suffer from congestive heart failure. Her breathing had become very labored, fluid was filling  her lungs, and I believe she went into a coma. By the time I had finished reading the Sutra, she seemed to be much more peaceful, her breathing was shallow but not strained. Both my siblings said that they would go down the hall and get some rest. I stayed. And suddenly, at about 2 a.m., I was completely alone with my dying mother. After days of frenzied activity, I could hardly believe it. I closed the door to her room and, holding her hand, I recited the entire Morning Recitation. Near the end of the Shurangama Mantra, the room seemed especially swept away, clean and pure. When I got to the verse in the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra, “up to and including no old age and death,” she let out a sigh as if, finally, a question long held had been answered. At the end, instead of doing the Medicine Master Praise, I recited the Praise to Earth Store Bodhisattva and began to recite his name, throwing a “Namo Guanshiyin Pusa”, and “Namo Amitofo” into the mix occasionally for good measure. After only about 5 minutes of this, my mother breathed her last breath. I could hardly believe it. It was as if she was covered by a heavenly blanket of peace, free at last.

I am just a common person, so I am unable to give you anything more than my impressions and beliefs. At some point in time, perhaps, I will understand more fully what had occurred. I believe, however, that the very time  of her passing away was a true blessing from Earth Store Bodhisattva and from the Venerable Abbot, because without his teaching to guide me, I would have never thought to be filial, and to try and repay the kindness of my parents. This is a sad comment, not just of myself, but on the state of the world we live in today. And I would like to add, that the benefits from reciting Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, and the reading of Sutras seem to be almost beyond reckoning, if not beyond merely my own expectation. Our family has been united and harmonious. Affairs of the world seem to be working out smoothly. Many hearts have been softened.

I have had two very clear dreams of her since she died. In one she merely surveyed the house and asked me what I had done with her cat. In the other dream, I was accompanying her to a Buddhist temple which was filled with many people. At the back she spied the Venerable Abbot and tugged on my arm indicating that she wanted to leave. So we sidled out a side door, only to almost crash into the Abbot accompanied by several younger monks. He proceeded to blast her with a ray of golden light almost blinding in its intensity, all the while smiling, polite and cordial. We all proceeded from there to the sitting room where the Abbot offered her tea and they had a pleasant interchange about which I recall nothing other than the general feeling of great compassion and harmony which prevailed. I could not help fulfill his great vows with regard even to those who had only seen his face but were not disciples or even Buddhists. I hope that this account of my experience will encourage others in their own cultivation and in dealing with the passing of loved ones in their own families. Amitabha!

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