Question: Can beings already reborn elsewhere still be guided to reach Āmítuófó’s (Amitā[bha] Buddha) Pure Land?
Answer: For any being to reach Pure Land, that being must give rise to the Three Provisions of Faith in Āmítuófó and his Pure Land, Aspiration to reach it, and the Practice of sincere mindfulness of his name to connect to him to be received.
Depending on how near or far the being to be helped is, it might or might not be easy to receive guidance to give rise to the provisions, but one should still try with this sequence of practice: https://purelanders.com/2016/07/19/what-should-be-chanted-during-after-a-funeral (with words of guidance adapted accordingly).
Especially if the being is nearer than expected, as a wandering spirit for example, that being can hear the guidance directly. Even if that being does not receive the guidance, merits from the above practice can be shared to relieve current suffering and expedite a swifter and better rebirth. Again, for this ideal rebirth to be Pure Land, that being must give rise to the Three Provisions.
Question: Will offering guidance, chanting and creating of meritorious virtues (merits) within 100 days’ of someone’s passing be able to help the person?
Answer: The duration of 100 days seems to be Chinese cultural thinking, while 49 days is mentioned in the Kṣitigarbha Sūtra (地藏经), being the key window period for helping the deceased, when the deceased might be in the intermediate (bardo) state (中阴), not having taken rebirth yet.
The danger of thinking in terms of 100 days is that might lead to less sense of urgency to help. Of course, helping beyond 49 days is harmless, and can also be helpful. However, it is usually less directly beneficial if already reborn, unless still around nearby. If not yet reborn, guidance with chanting can guide the deceased to have the best rebirth – in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land.
Hell-beings are the hardest to reach, as they are with intense suffering in a very different realm. While wandering spirits (who have yet to take actual rebirths) and hungry ghosts who share the same human environment are the easiest to reach, one reborn as an animal is harder to reach due to reduced intelligence and forgotten memories, though there are some exceptions. Reborn humans will take time to grow up and learn well. The other beings reborn in the heavenly realms might be too spiritually distracted and complacent to receive guidance, though again, there are some exceptions.
Merits created after 49 days can still help to alleviate suffering in the next life, and to expedite a better rebirth. Within or after 49 days, which was not stated, is an example stated in the Kṣitigarbha Sūtra, in the case of the Brahmin woman, who helped her Mother already reborn in hell, to break free of it, to be reborn in a heaven. Note that she did not guide her Mother to Pure Land, as that would require her Mother to give rise to the Three Provisions (of Faith, Aspiration and Practice) personally. This is probably because she could not communicate with her Mother directly, as she was already in hell, and/or because she did not know the Pure Land teachings then. Merits dedicated can however relieve suffering, by diluting negative karma, with increasing of blessings as dedicated.
Question: How about dedicating merits to the deceased, while praying to the Buddha to help him or her to give rise to the Three Provisions, so as to be born in Pure Land?
Answer: Karmic affinity is crucial. If affinity with the Buddha weak, even the Buddha cannot help directly. This is why we should use Āmítuófó’s name to widely connect for good affinity (广结善缘) more regularly in daily life, to plant the indestructible karmic seed, and to nurture it for further growth.
However, we can help increase affinity with the Buddha, by creating more merits in the name of the deceased, and dedicating them for this purpose. Even if the Buddha is still unable to help directly due to the merits being too weak for direct connection, affinity can be created through others (i.e. non-Buddhas, such as manifested Bodhisattvas). Then again, the Buddha might be able to manifest as a non-Buddha to connect too.
To summarise, there is always something we can do to help the deceased, even if not as exactly as preferred – to directly direct to the Pure Land. One should also remember that exactly since it can be uncertain if we have helped adequately, we should firmly resolve to reach Pure Land personally too, through which we will be able to train well, to clearly discern the whereabouts of the deceased, and have the most skilful means to direct them to also reach Pure Land. Otherwise, we will only be reborn ‘randomly’, though still karmically, with no memory of past loved ones to look out for.
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings
How To Have The Ultimately Blissful Reunion
How To Help The Deceased With The Triple Gem
(A Summary Of The Ullambana Sūtra)
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter On Recitation Of Buddhas’ Names
How The Future Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva First Visited Hell
Verses For Breaking Free From Hell (1)
Verses For Breaking Free From Hell (2)