I have a question concerning longevity after reviewing the material in your book “Sukhavati”. Why would anyone want to prolong their life if they could be assured that they would pass on to a realm where cultivation was much easier? I agree with the idea of avoiding illness, so as not to be a burden on anyone, but the whole idea of striving to achieve longevity now seems quite pointless for someone whose goal is spiritual cultivation.
-- Douglas, Spain
AnswerThis is an interesting and perceptive question. For those who may not know, Sukhavati, or the Western Paradise, is a heavenly world in another galaxy presided by Amitabha Buddha, who is different from Sakyamuni Buddha (also known as Guatama Buddha) of our world. Please see my book, "Sukhavati: the Western Paradise — Going to Heaven as Taught by the Buddha.
Firstly I would point out that many people who practice chi kung or any art to attain longevity, do not know of the method to go to Sukhavati. This is, of course, not what you ask.
Now, if a person is already assured of rebirth in “Sukhavati”, is there any purpose for him to prolong his life? To stretch the question further, would it be better to end one's life so that he could enter Sukhavati immediately?
Yes, there is purpose for continuing life or attaining longevity even when entry to Sukhavati is assured, and for different reasons. No, it is not right to end life, even one's own. Even when this being is reborn in Sukhavati, he will be at the lowest of the three main levels of beings. And even though he may not suffer — as there is no suffering in Sukhavati, he will take a much longer time to attain eventual Enlightenment.
Different people have different reasons for prolonging their lives, or at least continuing their allotted life-span without conscious effort to prolong it. They may want to accomplish their life work here on earth before going to Sukhavati. They may wish to experience as much as they could before leaving this world. Prolonging life is closely related to promoting health and vitality, and may result as a bye-product.
Actually, there were masters who could prolong their life if they wished, but because they had accomplished what they wanted to do in this world, when their time was up, they readily left this world to enter Sukhavati or other heavens.