Q&A

What Should Be Chanted During & After A Funeral?


Question: During a Pure Land funeral, what should be chanted?

Answer: The following should be done sequentially and repeatedly, for as many times as possible before burial or cremation. This is so as the funeral is not so much for family and friends to gather socially, but more for sincerely guiding the deceased spiritually, who might not yet be reborn, to reach Amituofo’s Pure Land as soon as possible, before being karmically forced to be reborn elsewhere.

[1] PROSTRATION: There should be an Amituofo image (e.g. large picture or statue) placed near the body (e.g. behind the head area), to remind the deceased to Nianfo (practise mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) sincerely at all times, especially when there is no support-chanting going on. When there is no one chanting live, at least a Nianfo device should be turned on at all times, to be placed on the casket near the head.

Before formally starting to chant, prostrate (or half-bow due to space constraints) towards the Amituofo image thrice, to express reverence and refuge. (This will also be in the direction of the head of the deceased.) This is to remind the deceased to be equally serious and sincere in the practices to come.

If there are many doing chanting, a guiding bell (with optional wooden fish to coordinate sutra-chanting) can be used to coordinate bowing and chanting. There should first be sitting around the casket, and beyond if lacking space. Proximity is to guide the deceased to pay attention. More experienced chanters should be nearer to the casket to more clearly guide the deceased and others chanting.

[2] GUIDANCE: Go near the head of the body of the deceased, and say words of guidance, such as these at section [1] of https://purelanders.com/2015/12/30/important-guidelines-3-after-dying-pure-land-passport-section-4c (as below). This is to explain to the consciousness of the deceased, who might be near or in the body, on what attitude he or she should have now, and what you are about to do and chant. If there are a few people or more, they should surround the casket. If the deceased is around, he or she is thus likelier to pay more attention.

‘Dearest _____ [name of deceased], as you are now deceased, it is time to recite Repentance and Niànfó with us sincerely now, so that you can reach Āmítuófó’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 Niànfó to reach Pure Land when it is time to meet you there.

We will recite Amituojing to introduce Amituofo and his Pure Land to you. Following that, please Niànfó 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. _____ [number of] days later, your body will be cremated/buried. Please do not be attached to your body. Please continue to Niànfó sincerely all the way, until you see Āmítuófó come to guide you to his Pure Land. Please follow only Āmítuófó and no one else. Let us Niànfó sincerely now. Āmítuófó, Āmítuófó, Āmítuófó…’

[3] REPENTANCE: Chant the Verse For Repentance, at section [10] of https://purelanders.com/2015/12/30/important-guidelines-2-during-dying-pure-land-passport-section-4b (as below). This is to express repentance on behalf of the deceased, so as to clear and let go of misgivings which might distract from Nianfo, to help decrease negative karma, and increase peace of mind. (Of course, the deceased should personally give rise to repentance too.)

忏悔文

往昔所造诸恶业,
皆由无始贪瞋痴,
从身语意之所生,
今对佛前求忏悔。

Verse For Repentance

Of all my past created evil karma,
all by beginningless greed, anger and delusion,
from my body, speech and mind as arisen,
now before the Buddha I seek repentance.

[4] AMITUOJING: Chant Amituojing (Amitabha Sutra), as guided by the track at https://purelanders.com/mp3 This is to give a concise introduction to Amituofo, his Pure Land and why the deceased should have Faith and Aspiration to do Nianfo Practice to be born there. Note that the consciousness is able to directly read the chanters’ minds to derive understanding. (This thus transcends any language barrier.) As such, the sutra should first be understood well by the chanters, so as to convey right understanding.

[5] AMITUOFO: Chant Amituofo, as guided by the track at https://purelanders.com/mp3 This is to set a good example with support-chanting, to show how sincere Nianfo Practice powered by the right Faith and Aspiration should be done to receive Amituofo’s reception and guidance be born in his Pure Land. As this is the main practice, it should be done for the longest period of time. (E.g. the above with Amituojing takes about 18 minutes, while Nianfo can be 42 minutes, making it a 1-hour session.)

[6] SHARING OF MERITS: Chant the Verse For Sharing Of Merits, at section [16] of https://purelanders.com/2015/12/30/important-guidelines-3-after-dying-pure-land-passport-section-4c (as below). This is to dedicate merits to all beings, including the deceased, to decrease their negative karma, increase peace of mind, while on their behalf express Faith and Aspiration to reach Pure Land. (Of course, the deceased should personally give rise to the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice too.)

回向文

愿以此功德,庄严佛净土,
上报四重恩,下济三途苦。
若有见闻者,悉发菩提心,
尽此一报身,同生极乐国。

Verse For Sharing Of Merits

May these meritorious virtues, adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land [so as to be born there], repay the four weighty sources of kindness [which are our parents, the Triple Gem (Buddhas, Dharma, Saṅgha), society (country) and all sentient beings] above, and relieve suffering of the three paths [of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals] below. If there are those who see or hear this, may all give rise to the Bodhi Mind [(Bodhicitta) which is the aspiration to attain Buddhahood while guiding all sentient beings to the same goal], and at the end of this one retribution body [that is karmically subject to suffering], be born in the Land Of Ultimate Bliss [which is Āmítuófó’s Pure Land] together. (May _____ [name of dying/deceased], along with his/her karmic creditors be reborn in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land too.)

As before, prostrate thrice to end the session.

To streamline facilitation to reach Pure Land, only the above should be chanted, while other chants (e.g. other sutras, mantras, names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) are not needed, in case they create confusion in terms of direction, of where to go to, and what to do to reach there. This should be so unless the deceased had particular favourite chants attached to, which can then be chanted a few times, without forgoing the above major focus during all other times.

The above 6 steps should be followed for 49 days after the deceased’s passing (which would include the funeral duration), as adapted due to change of circumstances after the funeral, such as by prostrating and chanting at the next best appropriate place (where the deceased might be attached to if yet to be reborn), such as at the urn, tablet, grave, temple shrine or one’s home shrine.

Related Articles:
What Should Be Done During Cremation (Or Burial)?
https://purelanders.com/2016/04/06/what-should-be-done-during-cremation-or-burial
Important Guidelines Before, During & After Dying
https://purelanders.com/2015/12/30/contents-of-the-pure-land-passport-the-three-great-essentials-when-approaching-death-%E4%B8%B4%E7%BB%88%E4%B8%89%E5%A4%A7%E8%A6%81 
How To Share The Power Of Merits & Guidance?
https://purelanders.com/2013/11/07/how-to-share-the-power-of-merits-guidance

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!