Which Sutra Should I Chant For The Deceased?

Question: I wish to guide a deceased relative to Amituofo’s Pure Land. However, I was advised to chant the Ksitigarbha [Bodhisattva] Sutra (地藏经) every 7th day during the 49 days after the passing. Can I chant the Amitabha Sutra (阿弥陀经) instead, which I am more familiar with? Is it such that the deceased can gain more merits from the Ksitigarbha Sutra?

Answer: It is best to stick to Amitabha Sutra. Though not very long, it is a complete Pure Land teaching. Chant it more times if possible, since it is short, but always alternate with substantial Nianfo (practice of chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name – ‘Amituofo’). It is important to stay focused on these two chants since the goal is to guide the deceased to Amituofo’s Pure Land.

The sutra will provide introductory guidance to Amituofo and his Pure Land when chanted, creating merits at the same time. In the sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha, along with all Buddhas of all directions repeatedly urge the giving of the Three Provisions (Faith, Aspiration and Practice) to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land. Nianfo will provide practical guidance, showing how to Nianfo to reach Amituofo’s Pure Land. This also creates merits. (Merits are however not enough to reach Pure Land as guidance is needed too.) Thereafter, dedicate merits to all, including your relative.

The Ksitigarbha Sutra’s chapters are too varied and altogether very long in comparison to the Amitabha Sutra, only speaking briefly of the benefits of Nianfo without saying clearly which particular Buddha out of 10 listed, to be mindful of, and which Pure Land to particularly aspire towards. It also speaks of the hells, which is the direct opposite of Pure Land, and might distract the deceased from swiftly understanding the goal is to reach Pure Land. Precious time would be lost with such unrelated chanting too, as the deceased can suddenly take rebirth. While chanting it also creates merits, the guidance is not as streamlined and straightforward, as in the case of Amitabha Sutra along with Nianfo.

Do not chant only every 7th day as rebirth can take place on any day and at any time (if not yet reborn) within 49 days. Do chant daily for all 49 days if possible, but more on each 7th day, which is when the deceased is more likely to take rebirth. Much merits arise from chanting Amitabha Sutra and Nianfo too. No sutra creates more merits than another when chanted sincerely, while you can simply chant more of the above to generate even more merits. However, as explained above, more directly beneficial choices should be made for meeting the specific purpose of guiding towards Amituofo’s Pure Land.

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Important Guidelines After Dying

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!