What Is Support-Chanting?
Support-chanting (助念) is the practice of Niànfó (念佛) with the dying or deceased, after offering essential words of guidance, on how to be mindful of the name of Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛), with deep Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿), to be received and guided by him to reach his Pure Land. It is ideally practised once in the dying phase (临终助念), seamlessly to commonly eight hours or so, after the end of life (往生助念).
It is also further practised as much as possible within 49 days after passing, in case the consciousness of the deceased has yet to be reborn, who can still be directly guided and benefited then. For detailed steps on offering guidance and support-chanting, as taught by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师), do see purelanders.com/now. Below, as summarised, are 10 great benefits of practising support-chanting.
 Filial Piety
Support-chanting helps us to express filial piety in the ultimate way in this lifetime, to gratefully repay the immeasurable kindness of our present and past ‘mother sentient beings’ (如母众生), who are all sentient beings, as all had been reborn as our loving parents before. As a compassionate practice offering timely wisdom on how to handle pain, death and rebirth, it offers hope for those who might otherwise be lost during their most fearful and confused moments.
Support-chanting helps to create and strengthen the karmic affinity of family and friends of the dying or deceased with Āmítuófó and his Pure Land too. Relevant Buddhist courses and study materials for more systematic and comprehensive learning can be introduced to those interested as well.
Support-chanting helps other unseen beings who might be around too, with the offering of similar guidance and meritorious virtues (i.e. merits). This goes beyond just helping the single seen dying or deceased person, with his or her seen family and friends. (As there will be direct mindful protection of all Buddhas during sincere support-chanting, there is never need for any fear.)
Support-chanting helps our personal Niànfó practice to focus and grow in sincerity as it is practised for others who genuinely need our help there and then. As Great Master Yìnguāng taught, support-chanting ‘cultivates your field [of] blessings, [and] grows your good roots. In reality, [this is the] path for benefiting oneself, [and] not for others only.’ (培自己福田，长自己善根。实为自利之道，不徒为人而已。) It is with sincere Niànfó too, that we ourselves will reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land in good time.
 Bodhisattva Practice
As support-chanting helps others and ourselves (indirectly) to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, which is the expressway to Buddhahood, it is direct Bodhisattva practice. As Great Master Yìnguāng taught, ‘Accomplishing one person’s rebirth [in] Pure Land is the same as [to] accomplish one sentient being [to] become [a] Buddha. [Of] this kind [of] meritorious virtues, how can [they be] conceivable?’ (成就一人往生净土，即是成就一众生作佛。此等功德，何可思议？) Support-chanting creates great merits for furthering the Bodhisattva path too, one-seventh of which can be dedicated to others, while retaining six-sevenths personally. With the power of synergy during group support-chanting, even more merits are created together, with and for supporting one another, both the dying and living.
Support-chanting helps to remind us of our own impending deaths, which we easily forget, so as to be more sincere and diligent in our daily personal practice. As we are also dying now as we speak, although over a longer period of time, support-chanting for others is support-chanting (via group cultivation) for ourselves too. It also reminds us to share the Pure Land teachings with family and friends, with a greater sense of urgency, as they too will face death.
Support-chanting helps us to gain more confidence in helping others and ourselves during life’s most crucial last moments and beyond, both with and without others’ help.
As Great Master Yìnguāng taught, support-chanting helps to ‘cultivate your own causes [for birth in] Pure Land, [and] inspire those of same conviction [in] Faith.’ (培自已之净因，启同人之信向。) Such inspiration is especially powerful when there is co-witnessing and sharing of personal experiences with auspicious signs from support-chanting, which can increase the Faith of all present, and even others, with verbal and written testimonials.
Support-chanting helps to create and increase our direct pure karmic causes and conditions, for others to be able to practise support-chanting to aid us when it is our time to depart. As Great Master Yìnguāng taught, ‘[If you are] willing [to] support others [to have] pure mindfulness [for] rebirth [in Pure Land, you will] also attain [the] reward of others’ support-chanting [for you].’ (肯助人净念往生，亦得人助念之报。)
Support-chanting should be continually popularised by our continual practice, as it is one of the most important spiritual practices, for offering the most precious help to one another. As Great Master Yìnguāng taught, ‘With this [taught], gradually, [with] what difficulty, [with] one another familiar [with support-chanting, will it not] become a common practice?’ (以此久而之之，何难相习成风乎哉。)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an