Question: Someone said that if she has dementia, she would not be able to chant ‘Amituofo’ mindfully. As it is said that the simplest but most powerful way to instantly increase pure energy of the mind is to chant ‘Amituofo’ mindfully, can I tell her that chanting (or meditation) may be able to prevent dementia?
Answer: Yes, mindful and regular chanting and/or meditation can keep dementia at bay – along with looking after mental health in general. Unlike meditation techniques based solely on Self-power, mindfulness of Amituofo by chanting connects one’s Self-Power to the Other-power of the blessings of Amituofo and other Buddhas too. This helps to protect the mind.
Meditation is much more harder or even near impossible for those with dementia, as it is generally more complex and subtle, and requires a sharper and steadier mind. In contrast, for mindfulness of Amituofo, there is the obvious feedback loop of chanting and listening, which is easier to keep track of continually.
If someone with dementia cannot even be mindful of just 4 words (A-mi-tuo-fo), there is little hope for this person of doing any spiritual practice! But the truth is, this mindfulness can be cultivated – especially if ‘Amituofo’ is constantly played in the background (e.g. via CD) as a reminder and guide, if someone chants along with her every day regularly, and if she sets her mind to it. (Those who are paralysed and unable to speak can likewise chant mentally.)
It is natural to be unable to be mindful of Amituofo’s name (nianfo) perfectly at first, especially if one has mental health obstacles like dementia. However, with more practice, mindfulness will improve. When one has dementia, one’s mind is easily carried away by many wandering non-useful thoughts. If one does not nianfo but dies in this messy ‘random’ mind-state, it is hard to ensure a safe rebirth.
As such, it is all the more important for those with dementia to nianfo. Even if the mind of one with dementia keeps straying away despite much effort, it is better to imprint Amituofo’s name firmly in that person’s mind than not. If there is the opportunity to do supportive-chanting for him or her when dying, it will then be easier to guide the person to nianfo along. Amituofo
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