Question: During cremation (or burial), undertakers often ask the surviving family to put their palms together while watching the deceased being pushed in (or buried). Is it better to Nianfo (chant Amitabha Buddha’s name – ‘Amituofo’)?
Answer: Yes, guiding the deceased’s consciousness (if still around) to Nianfo by setting the example is the best thing to do. If not, the survivors will usually entertain stray thoughts of grief, which if read by the deceased’s consciousness, might stir thoughts of attachment, that distract him or her from Nianfo for reaching Pure Land. Before chanting, these words can be said aloud near the body. (Only when it is not convenient should it be thought ‘aloud’, for the consciousness of the deceased to read one’s mind for the message.)
‘Dearest _____ [name of deceased], as you are now deceased, it is time to Nianfo with us sincerely now, so that you can reach Amituofo’s Pure Land – where there is no more suffering, where there is only bliss. Please do not be attached to your wealth and family, as you have to leave them behind. We assure you that all will be well. They too will Nianfo to reach Pure Land when it is time to meet you there. Please Nianfo with us as sincerely as you can because this is the only way to have the best rebirth before it is too late. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Please do not be attached to your body. Please continue to Nianfo sincerely all the way, until you see Amituofo come to guide you to his Pure Land. Please follow only Amituofo and no one else. Let us Nianfo sincerely now. Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo…’
Question: As many services are very quiet, with no one chanting ‘Amituofo’, is it alright to chant aloud?
Answer: As above, it is the best thing to do, to lead all present to Nianfo in unison. Many services are quiet simply because the ones present did not have anyone who knew what best to do.
Question: If the funeral service is conducted in a Chinese dialect, can the Nianfo be in Chinese?
Answer: Yes, this is alright as most Chinese have heard of Amituofo’s name in Chinese in their lifetimes. However, if the deceased is used to the name in dialect, it is better to stick to the dialect version.