- Importance of Dying & Death
- Composition of Committee
- Patron Saint Mitrugpa
- Symbolism of Logo
- History of Centre
The Buddhist Connection
Importance of Dying & Death
“Real care of the sick does not begin with costly procedures but with the simple gift of affection and love.” (His Holiness the Dalai Lama)
“During an illness, the main thing is to take care of the dying person’s mind. Others can take care of the body, but you can take care of the mind.” (Lama Zopa Rinpoche)
It’s natural to want to die peacefully, free of pain.
Buddhists believe that having a peaceful and virtuous mind at the time of death can lead to a happy next life. Conversely, a mind that is disturbed, anxious, afraid, angry or unforgiving can lead to a difficult death and a rebirth full of suffering.
Therefore it is important for a dying person to have access to a peaceful and virtuous environment. The Pure Land of the Indestructible Buddha, Inc. (‘Pure Land Centre’) is all about creating this environment as a purpose-built facility in Perth, Western Australia.
Creating an Atmosphere Conducive to Spiritual Experiences: An important aspect of the Pure Land Centre is the desire to create a ‘peaceful and virtuous environment’, something that is often hard to achieve at home, in a hospice, or hospital or nursing home.
Even in the dying person’s own home, emotions may be heightened and there may be tensions within the family.
In the Pure Land Centre it is envisioned that the design and location of the dying person’s room, and the way that that the interior is decorated with symbols of their spiritual belief, and the playing of recordings of their favourite teachings, hymns, or mantras, as well as the quiet support of compassionate volunteers, will together create what the Dalai Lama calls ‘an atmosphere that is most conducive to the spiritual state of mind we are aspiring to achieve’.
A Centre for End-of-Life Spiritual Care: The Pure Land Centre will be a peaceful place where the focus is on the emotional and spiritual care of the dying. It will be equipped like a hospice but feel like home.
But the Pure Land Centre is NOT a hospice, since all nursing and medical needs will be met by visiting professionals such as Silver Chain. The dying person will have a well-equipped private room, and there will be adjoining rooms for their carers, who will usually be their family, to live in. The dying person’s own spiritual teachers will be invited to visit frequently to provide spiritual guidance. Trained Pure Land Centre volunteers will be on hand to provide companionship, emotional and spiritual support, to both the dying person and their carers.
The peaceful, spiritual, and homely atmosphere will be particularly suitable for those with a Buddhist background. However, the Pure Land Centre will be open not only to Perth Buddhists of all traditions, but also to their families, whatever their beliefs. It will also be available to others who wish for a peaceful and spiritual death.
Composition of Committee
The Centre’s Committee of nine people is comprised of Buddhist students from Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Phen Dhe Ling, and the Buddhist Society of WA.
We hope in time to include other faith groups, for example, from the Christian tradition.
Patron Saint Mitrugpa
Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the FPMT (the FPMT is the global Mahayana Buddhist group to which the Pure Land Centre is affiliated) recently recommended that we name our proposed centre the Pure Land of the Indestructible Buddha, after the Buddha Mitrugpa. He also advised us to purchase a thangka (wall-hanging) of Mitrugpa, and thanks to Venerable Chodron (founder of the Wheel of Life Palliative Care Support Group), and an anonymous donor, this has been done.
Mitrugpa is the Tibetan name for the Buddha Akshobya, one of the ‘Five Dhyani Buddhas’. Rinpoche says that Mitrugpa is a powerful Buddha for purifying negative karma, especially karma created in relation to the guru, and especially before death.
Mitrugpa is an indestructible Buddha whom you can rely on at this critical time. Mitrugpa’s mantra (below) is one of the “Five Great Mantras for Liberating Beings From the Lower Realms,” and one of the “Ten Powerful Mantras for Benefiting Sentient Beings Especially at the Death Time.”
According to one scripture, a monk who wished to practice the Dharma in the eastern world of delight made a vow to think no anger or malice towards any being until he attained enlightenment. He duly proved “immovable” or “indestructible” in his determination and when he succeeded, he became the Buddha Mitrugpa.
The Mantra of Buddha Mitrugpa
NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA
OM KAMKANI KAMKANI
SARVA KARMA PARAM PARA NI
ME SARVA SATTVA NANCHA SVAHA
Benefits of Buddha Mitrugpa: In relaying Rinpoche’s reply, Claire Isitt, Centre Services Director at FPMT International, said that “Rinpoche is happy to do prayers for the success of the Hospice Project.”
Rinpoche said that “people dying at the hospice (or under the care of the hospice service) can think that they are in Buddha Mitrugpa’s Pure Land, and think: I am being taken care of in Buddha Mitrugpa’s Pure Land – as having this thought is very good when you die!”
Mitrugpa, also spelt Mitugpa, is known as the “Indestructible Buddha” or the “Unshakable One” or the “Unmoving Diamond Buddha.” Mitrugpa transforms ignorance and stupidity into the wisdom of the all pervading awareness. Meditation upon him purifies mainly karmic imprints left by harmful actions in this and previous lives. The vajra or dorje in his right hand represents the knowledge of conventional and ultimate reality.
Rinpoche said in Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat that Mitrukpa is “very powerful in degenerate times for purifying negative karma, particularly the negative karma of having broken vows.”
During Rinpoche’s Teachings and Mitukpa Initiation in Taiwan in 2007, he said: “Doing Mitukpa practice is unbelievably powerful. If you merely see the Mitukpa mantra at the time of death, you will purify the very heavy negative karmas of the five uninterrupted negative karmas (having killed your father or mother or an arhat, harmed a Buddha, or caused disunity among the Sangha). You also purify the very heavy negative karma of having abandoned the holy Dharma.
Symbolism of Logo
The logo of the Pure Land Centre is meant to have a universal appeal, consistent with the Pure Land Centre being open to all, irrespective of belief. At the same time, we wanted to reflect the origin of the project, the Buddhist organising committee, the affiliation with the international organization, the FPMT, and the spiritual advice received from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who recommended the ‘Indestructible Buddha Mitrugpa’ as our patron saint. (Read more on ‘Patron Saint Mitrugpa’)
In the words of the designer of the logo, Penni Sutton, ‘I was seeking a symbol that reflected the concentration and mindfulness or attentiveness required by Buddha Mitrugpa to develop the indestructible patience that leads us toward realizing the true nature of things.’ Penni chose the Enzo Circle, a Zen Buddhist symbol, as the unifying element. This circular form expresses the completeness or the emptiness of the present moment. It encompasses everything within it. It symbolizes with elegance and simplicity absolute enlightenment, strength and the emptiness of inherent existence of all phenomena.
Penni explains that another of the main elements, the blue underpinning the Enzo circle, is the colour of the Buddha Mitrugpa. In Tibet, the sky is often used as a symbol for the changeless true nature of reality. Hence Mitrugpa is often associated with the dark blue of the sky and he symbolizes the recognition of our true nature within the mind, and the wisdom of changeless true reality.
‘The Bodhi leaf,’ says Penni, ‘which appears as a new shoot (or it could also be interpreted as an ageing leaf) is both a symbol of buddhanature and a symbol of growth, in this case the wisdom of realizing the true nature of things.’
History of Centre
The Pure Land Project started as an initiative of the Wheel of Life Palliative Care Support Group, which is a social outreach community service attached to the Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, 64 Banksia Terrace, Kensington, WA 6151.
Based on experience gained in the Wheel of Life Palliative Care Support Group, running comprehensive training courses for care of the dying, it was decided to create a centre for care of the dying and in particular for those who want to focus on the emotional and spiritual side during their last weeks. The Pure Land Centre was proposed as a peaceful place that supported the dying person maintain a positive, virtuous mind to the moment of death.
The Wheel of Life Management Team decided to commit to building a physical centre, a place where the emotional and spiritual needs of the terminally ill can be met in a peaceful, caring and virtuous environment.
On 1 March 2018, the Pure Land Centre Project was accepted as a new ‘FPMT Study Group’ by FPMT, which is an international grouping of 160 centres all belonging to the same Mahayana Buddhist tradition. After a probationary period, the Pure Land Centre will be able to apply to become a ‘fully affiliated FPMT Centre’ providing a palliative care service.
In the latter half of 2018 the Pure Land Project received approval from FPMT to move forward and establish itself as an incorporated not-for-profit charitable organization. The Pure Land Centre is now a fully incorporated body under the Incorporations Act WA and its official (legal) name is: The Pure Land Centre of the Indestructible Buddha Incorporated (referred to as ‘The Pure Land Centre’). The Pure Land Centre has its own website and bank account. There is a Management Committee with members from different Buddhist traditions and an Advisory Committee comprised of both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.
The Early Days: In this section, we revisit the first activities of the Pure Land Project. At that time, the committee was comprised of just two people! On 27 August 2013, at Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Angela Doyle and Len Warren presented the concept of the Pure Land Centre Project. On 8 September, the presentation was repeated to another enthusiastic audience at the Buddhist Society of WA, Nollamara.
The Buddha taught that dying and death is a very important transition to the next life, and that if we want the best chance to return with a precious human rebirth, that we should try to die peacefully and with virtuous thoughts, for example, feeling gratitude for the help your carers have given so selflessly in your last weeks.
Also, the spiritual leader of our tradition, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, says that many people can offer physical and medical care during dying, but that there are few who know how to offer emotional and spiritual care, and that is where Buddhists should focus their efforts.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given his support to the project and has recommended a name – the Pure Land Centre of the Indestructible Buddha. For many purposes we shortened this to the Pure Land Centre. Mitrugpa is the indestructible or immovable Buddha, so-called because when he was a monk, he vowed not to get angry again until he became enlightened, a vow that he kept! So those entering the Pure Land Centre as helpers or patients can rely on a patron saint of great strength and dependability.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, says that many people can offer physical and medical care during dying, but that there are few who know how to offer emotional and spiritual care, and that is where Buddhists should focus their efforts.
Angela and Len prepared a draft business plan, and began sharing this with potential stakeholders, and analyzed feedback on the project concept.
The environments in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and home itself, were carefully reviewed. It was found that emotional and spiritual care was often lacking. And more often than not, there was intrusive noise, interruptions and tension. So in some cases, the patient or their carers may be looking for a place more conducive to a peaceful and virtuous death.
This is just what the Pure Land Centre aims to provide. The peaceful, spiritual, and homely atmosphere will be particularly suitable for those with a Buddhist background. However, the Pure Land Centre will be open not only to Perth Buddhists of all traditions, but also to their families, whatever their beliefs. It will also be available to others who wish for a peaceful and spiritual death. There are, of course, admission criteria.
The concept includes a resident manager with their own apartment, two well-equipped rooms for patients, and a separate apartment for the family or the carers so that they can live in to care for their loved one. Training in aspects of dying, death, loss and grief will be available.
A key feature of the Pure Land Centre is that it is not a hospice. Instead, all nursing and medical needs will be met by visiting professionals, such as the in-home services provided by the Silver Chain Group. Trained volunteers will staff the centre 24/7. In fact, the centre will not operate without volunteers, who will be a critical part of the success of the concept.
So what’s next? After the initial presentations, Angela and Len improved the project concept and the Pure Land Centre business plan. A list of tasks that need attention was defined as the next stage of the project. These tasks are to do with developing a more comprehensive project plan.
Strong Support from a Spiritual Leader: On 12 April 2018, Anita Field and Len Warren (representing The Pure Land of the Indestructible Buddha) met with Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Bendigo. Lama Zopa gave his strong support for the Pure Land Centre.
At the time, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Spiritual Director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) was holding a six-week teaching retreat on the outskirts of Bendigo. The venue was the magnificent Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, which is co-located with the Atisha Centre and the Thubten Shedrub Ling Monastery.
Anita Field and Len Warren attended this wonderful event. Lama Zopa had been involved with the Pure Land Centre project from the beginning and had given the auspicious name Pure Land Centre of the Indestructible Buddha to our group. As we were now ready to move out from under the wings of our parent centre, Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, and Lama Zopa had given his blessing to this move towards an independent FPMT Study Group, it seemed an ideal opportunity for us to establish a personal contact with Lama Zopa. John Waite also advised that such a personal contact would give us extra energy and determination when we were faced with difficulties in the future.
However, the organisers of the retreat had made it clear that Lama Zopa Rinpoche was at Bendigo to teach, and personal visits were discouraged. They said that any requests would need to be in writing and would be assessed for their priority.
Nevertheless, Len requested a meeting with Lama Zopa Rinpoche by writing him a card with a few specific questions included.
A few days after having made the request, John Waite reported back that a meeting had been agreed for 2 pm on Thursday 12 April at the Thubten Shedrub Ling Monastery. John advised that we keep our questions quite specific and short.
On Thursday Len and I made our way to the monastery with our katags and an offering. We were shown to a lounge room and ask to wait whilst Lama Zopa Rinpoche finished a meeting with the site artist. Ven. Roger Kunsang, attendant to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and CEO of FPMT, advised us that this meeting had gone on for some time and gave us the option to continue to wait or leave. We decided to wait.
Just before 3 pm we were shown upstairs to Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lounge room. He was sitting at his dining table. We offered three long prostrations on entering the room. We offered our katags and left a cash offering on the table. Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s attendant, Sherab, indicated where we were to sit, on either side of Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the table where he was sitting at the end.
Len introduced us and also introduced the project, where Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a chuckle as he knew it was the name he had given the project sometime ago. Len thanked Lama Zopa Rinpoche for his support and mentioned that the project had been accepted as a new FPMT study group. Len explained that the purpose of the meeting was to thank him and to give us inspiration to continue with the project, particularly as we encountered challenges and difficulties.
Len recalled that Lama Zopa Rinpoche looked intently at him, giving him the feeling that he was seeing into Len’s mind – he must have seen Len’s genuineness and commitment to the project.
As Roger had advised us that a couple of minutes was all that possible, we were ready to leave at this point. But Lama Zopa Rinpoche seemed happy to know more about the project.
Len explained that the Pure Land Centre project required the involvement of other Buddhist groups and asked Lama Zopa Rinpoche about how to maintain the Mahayana/FPMT guiding principles. Lama Zopa Rinpoche replied that all Buddhist traditions take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – this is the common base we all share. He also noted that when Christians come to facility, it would be best to recount the qualities of the Buddha as the qualities of God – omniscience, forgiveness, compassion.
Len mentioned that previous advice that Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave was to obtain a large thangka of Mitrugpa Buddha. Lama Zopa Rinpoche asked who obtained it. Len replied that Ven Chodron, who has since passed, bought it in Nepal. Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommended obtaining thangkas (or large photos) of the Pure Land Centres of the various Buddhas, Amitabha, Chenrezig, Tushita, etc to put around. He recounted how he saw a room in Italy that had Pure Land Centre thangkas all around – this will bless the dying person’s mind when they see the different Pure Land Centres and it may be that their mind might relate more to one over another.
Ven. Sherab gave the iPad to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and he showed us a picture of Amitabha’s Pure Land Centre, as an example. Lama Zopa Rinpoche offered us special pills which contain the essence/nectar from a holy Padmasambhava site in Nepal, where this Buddha’s footprint is. Lama Zopa Rinpoche said the pills are not medicine, you must wash first before taking the pill. When you bite it your mind becomes one with Padmasambhava’s holy mind, omniscience. Ven. Sherab put the pills into a small red packet for each of us.
At this point as we were getting up to leave, I mentioned that we have a lot of fundraising to do before the facility is operational. Len also mentioned that we hope to have Sangha at the centre. Rinpoche offered us long white katags and blessed us. Ven. Sherab suggested we get a photo and we moved to the lounge where we stood in front of the Chenrezig image for the photo.
In parting, Rinpoche offered prayers for the project, that all who die there are not reborn in the lower realms and go to a Pure Land Centre where they will be enlightened. We dedicated the merit of the prayers and our meeting together.
I think the meeting went for about 20 minutes… We lost track of time, but afterwards we had a chai at the Atisha Café and tried to record what had happened whilst it was fresh in our minds. We were so happy!