Question: Do we chant ‘Amituofo’ for others only when they have passed away?
Answer: It is a common misunderstanding that chanting should only be done after someone has passed away, in the fear that chanting when the person is still alive is inauspicious, possibly displeasing the dying as it seems to suggest hastening the person’s death when they might be clinging to life. If the person is truly dying, all the more should support-chanting be swiftly organised, to urge the person to be mindful of Amituofo, so as to facilitate passing away blissfully, to reach Pure Land. Of course, this should to be done after explaining the intention to the dying, and with his or her consent – lest the person truly becomes displeased, thus possibly passing away unhappily, taking a lower rebirth.
Support-chanting is very important for guidance because the average dying person’s mind is usually weak, confused, fearful, distracted and with much worldly attachments. Beyond last-minute support-chanting, before one reaches the dying stage, when one is still well and alive, regular practice of mindfulness of Amituofo should be encouraged too, so as to be better prepared for practising likewise when dying. This is also very important as it cannot be assumed that everyone will have the good karma of having support-chanting being available. If so, one would then be one’s own support, in connecting to Amituofo. As death might come suddenly too, it is safest to be self-skilled.
Q: If someone dying is groaning in great pain, how can we urge the person to recite ‘Amituofo’?
A: The person should be reminded that all that can be done to relieve the pain has already been done, that clinging to the physical pain will only increase mental suffering, that all he or she can do now to relieve the pain is by following the support-chanting (verbally, or in the mind, if too weak), to connect to the blessings of Amituofo, which when done sincerely, will not only remove pain, but bring about great bliss of body and mind. It can be encouraged that with mindfulness of Amituofo, if he or she can be cured, it will be swift. If not, he or she will be swiftly born in Amituofo’s Pure Land, where there is no suffering, which is the true cure. He or she should thus be wholeheartedly mindful of Amituofo’s name, and follow him when he appears.
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