Question: Someone said that when she chanted Buddha’s name one night, there were goose pimples due to ghostly presence. How should this be seen?
Answer: As the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师) taught in his ‘First Reply Letter To Layperson Yè Fúbèi’ (复叶福备居士书一), ‘… from dawn till dusk [and] dusk till dawn, [of the] one line [of the] Buddha’s name, [do] not allow [it to be] interrupted.’「 … 从朝至暮，从暮至朝，一句佛号，不令间断。」This means there is no time when there should not be, or cannot be mindfulness of Buddha.
Both in the distant past and present, there have been and are millions who practised and are practising mindfulness of Buddha’s name (念佛: Niànfó) at night on a daily basis, without such experiences. If it is definitely problematic, it would be obvious to millions already, even without such unfounded hearsay that there will be disturbance. The very first effect of sincere Niànfó is instant protection by the Buddha(s) mindful of; not summoning of trouble by the uninvited. It is Niànfó after all; not Niànguǐ (念鬼).
If Niànfó at night is ‘dangerous’, the fully enlightened Buddha would had clearly taught so, since he had ample opportunity in his almost five decades of detailed teaching. If true, it would imply that all who are dying at night should not have support-chanting because it will attract ghosts, and that all dying then should not Niànfó, thus with no way to reach Pure Land. As such delusional and harmful thinking will prevent guiding of countless beings to reach Pure Land, it should not be spread. The negative karma of doing so is hard to calculate.
The truth is, ghosts are around us in both day and night. This explains why there are supernatural disturbances in daytime too. Due to quieter atmosphere at night, it is easy to be over-sensitive. Once there is sincere Niànfó, even with ONE single chant, there will be connection to Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛: Amitābha Buddha), with his golden light enveloping to protect, and ALL potentially disturbing beings will immediately retreat. As an example, a testimonial on this can be seen in a related article below.
It is clear in the Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》, as taught by Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛), that those who uphold its teaching of Niànfó will receive the protection of ALL Buddhas: ‘If there are good men and good women, who hear this sūtra, accept and uphold it[s teaching of Niànfó], and hear ALL [these] Buddhas’ name[s], all these good men and good women will, by ALL Buddhas, be mindfully protected’.「 若有善男子、善女人，闻是经受持者，及闻诸佛名者，是诸善男子、善女人，皆为一切诸佛之所护念」(Note that Āmítuófó’s name also literally means ‘Immeasurable Buddhas’ [无量佛] or ‘ALL Buddhas’ [诸佛] above.)
As explained by the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì (净土宗九祖澫益大师) in his ‘Essential Explanation Of The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitābha Buddha’《佛说阿弥陀经要解》: ‘Hearing this sūtra, to receive and uphold [this sūtra], is the same as to uphold the name. Āmítuófó’s name, is thus that which ALL Buddhas mindfully protect.’「闻经受持，即执持名号，阿弥名号，诸佛所护念故。」As such, with Niànfó, there will be protection of ALL Buddhas. How can there be disturbance by even a single ghost at any time then?
Also, in the ‘Sūtra On Ten Methods Of Rebirth In Amitābha Buddha’s Land’《十往生阿弥陀佛国经》, as taught by Śākyamuni Buddha, ‘If there are sentient beings… mindful of Amitābha Buddha[‘s name: Āmítuófó], aspiring to be reborn, in that Land Of Ultimate Bliss… 25 Bodhisattvas, will support and protect them, if walking, if standing, if sitting, if lying down, if in day, if in night, at all times, at all places, not letting evil ghosts and evil gods attain advantage over them.’「若有众生… 念阿弥陀佛，愿往生者，彼极乐世界… 二十五菩萨，拥护行者，若行、若住、若坐、若卧、若昼、若夜、一切时、一切处，不令恶鬼恶神得其便也。」As such, with Niànfó, there will be protection of MANY Bodhisattvas too. How can there be disturbance by even a single ghost at night then?
Thus, if there are ghosts present, with Niànfó, they will not be able to disturb, which includes not being able to make their presence felt in a disturbing way. If they need help from chanting, all the more will they not disturb the chanter, which might scare the person to potentially stop chanting, thus not being able to help them. However, to emphasize, in the very first place, they will not be able to disturb. Of course, if already disturbed in the first place, before Niànfó began, Niànfó will offer protection.
Goose pimples or goosebumps can arise due to fear, NOT due to presence of ghosts. There can also be rise of goose pimples BEFORE the rise of fear, due to naturally colder temperature at night, perhaps due to drafts too. As a psychological-biological response, it is also possible to have goose pimples due to perceived fear, without that truly to fear. Only in some cases are there rise of goose pimples due to the cold energy of ghosts’ presence – BEFORE rise of fear itself. These are the actual ghostly encounters, though not all encounters are with goose pimples, especially if without contact. Some of the habitually unmindful and fearful can give rise to fear BEFORE and WITHOUT any ghost present. Those more mindful can tell the difference – whether the goose pimples are self-induced due to a paranoid spasm of fear, drop in temperature or ghostly presence.
Whether fear arisen is self-induced or not, when there is pumping up of sufficient Faith in Niànfó, fear will subside. For the very faithful, as in the case below, fear can be vanquished within a single chant. For others, there might be a process needed, requiring (a few) more chants to pump up Faith, which in turn makes fear subside. Without strong Faith, there will be insincere Niànfó, that does not lead to protection and fearlessness. With strong Faith, there will be sincere Niànfó, that leads to swift protection and fearlessness. If the false view that Niànfó at night ‘will’ cause ghostly disturbance is believed, there will be groundless self-induced fear. This might compromise Faith in Niànfó, including on one’s deathbed. To undo the damage done by this false view, this article should be shared.
Is There A Wrong Time To Chant?
Does Chanting Attract Spirits?
A Haunted Hotel Room Experience
(With Niànfó Working Within One Chant)
How Sincere Niànfó In The Dead Of The Night Helped
Why Is Amitābha Sūtra Named The Sūtra With All Buddhas’ Mindful Protection?
How Mindfulness Of Āmítuófó Protects From Evil Unseen Beings
How To Offer Words Of Guidance To Help Unseen Beings?
(With Guidance Words To Be Adapted Accordingly)
Why Be Mindful Of Buddha Due To Fear Of Death?
(How To Solve The Problem Of Karmic Creditors?)
How To Definitely Be Born In The Western Pure Land?