Question: When I chanted ‘Amituofo’ during a Dharma ceremony for helping the deceased, I cried uncontrollably, but could not understand why. During an animal liberation ceremony, when the monks asked us to chant ‘Namo Amituofo’ while going around the fish to be released, I cried again. Is this crying a form of purification or obstacle for me?
Answer: Usually, tearing when chanting is due to one or more of these reasons:
- Feeling sorrow – due to unmindful automatic association with a sad experience
- Feeling touched – due to what is chanted and/or what is done during the chanting
- Feeling relief – due to emotional release of tension or trouble in mind
- Feeling regret (remorse) – due to subconscious repentance through the chanting
- Feeling compassion – due to experiencing the blessings of Amituofo
- Feeling gratitude – due to encountering Amituofo, of (re)forging one’s affinity with him
To find the exact reason(s) for tearing, you need to be very mindful and watch the mind when it happens – to discern what are you feeling or thinking of then. But because it is sometimes due to the above mixed emotions, which change very quickly, what’s going on can be hard to comprehend. Then again, it is not a must to find the reason(s), as the answers will be realised naturally with more mindful practice.
For the incidents cited, perhaps there was rekindled memory of a dear deceased one during the Dharma ceremony, and being touched by the kindness of everyone’s efforts in connecting the fish to Amituofo during the animal liberation ceremony (before freeing them from slaughter).
Q: Sometimes, I’m so embarrassed that I stop chanting, or just chant in my heart. I am quite puzzled by this. It’s not that I don’t want to chant, but I must find a way to control this emotional outburst in public.
A: To prevent public embarrassment, more practice can be done in private. Tearing once in a while is alright. It is even good if it is a natural expression of emotion due to feeling strongly connected to the chanting, or especially when feeling the actual compassion of Amituofo. But if tearing always happens in an uncontrollable manner, it means one is too habitually emotional (at least in that aspect). This can become an obstacle for practice towards single-mindedness. ‘Proper’ tearing should make you stronger in faith in Amituofo thereafter, and not less confident in the practice of Buddha mindfulness.
What you can do is to cultivate greater equanimity (which is the Middle Way, away from the extremes of attachment and aversion) through more regular chanting itself, by focusing on enunciating and hearing the name of Amituofo clearly and single-pointedly. If there is still some tearing, let it be and don’t become more worked up over it. It will stop eventually. The more you focus on the tearing, the more emotional you might be. Ideally, when mindfulness of Amituofo is practised well, instead of being emotionally worked up, there is great peace and even indescribable bliss, as shared by Amituofo. This promise is stated in his 33rd vow.