Question: How easily is the deceased’s (亡者) consciousness (神识) in the bardo state (中阴) able to be guided by support-chanting (助念) to reach Pure Land (净土)?
Answer: There should be sincere words of guidance (开示) offered before support-chanting starts, to urge following chanting of Āmítuófó’s name (阿弥陀佛), to express the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) to reach his Pure Land.
If the consciousness is at or near the place support-chanting is done, it is easy to guide the deceased there and then. It should be practised near the body, which is where the deceased is usually first habitually attached to.
After burial or cremation, it should be done where the ancestral tablet (神主牌) or ashes (骨灰) are, at whatever place the deceased is likely to be attached to. It should be done at the home of the deceased too, even if without the tablet or ashes there, as home is usually where the heart is.
Question: What if the consciousness is attached to the site of death?
Answer: Most of the deceased will not be attached to the site of death if there was sincere guidance and support-chanting done near the body. Those attached to the site of death are usually those without guidance and support-chanting.
Thus, the latter are at a loss, perhaps haunting the area to see what will happen next, or with the severely wrong misconception that they should kill someone else there, to return to life. Of course, this will never work, while it creates immense negative karma if attempted.
Question: What if the death occurred faraway overseas?
Answer: As above, offering of guidance and support-chanting should be done near the body, since the consciousness is most likely to be there. If not, nothing will be heard. If long-distance support-chanting is adequate, there would be no need for support-chanters to travel at all. There is instead urgency to go to where the (dying or) deceased is.
Mere chanting from a distance cannot bring the consciousness from point A, where the body is, to point B, where the chanting is. If this can be done, there might as well be direct chanting to bring the consciousness from point A to Pure Land directly.
However, the latter is not possible, as the consciousness must first hear and heed the guidance to follow support-chanting, to express the Three Provisions to reach Pure Land. If already knowing how to practise, neither guidance nor support-chanting is needed.
Question: Is there need to guide the consciousness home?
Answer: The urgent focus is not to bring the consciousness home, but to guide the consciousness to reach Pure Land, which is the ideal home — before karma forces rebirth to elsewhere. Trying to get the consciousness to return to one’s worldly home wastes time and creates attachment instead.
Being unburdened by the body, the consciousness can travel at the speed of thought, to places attached to – including from point A to point B. If there is no such thought arising, to urge going to point B, even if there is guidance and support-chanting done at point B, there will be no desired effect. That said, many without guidance and support-chanting will still instinctively go home.
Even if one truly cannot travel to point A where the body is, the above practice should still be done, in the hope that with sufficient karmic affinity, the consciousness might come to point B to receive guidance and support-chanting. However, there should not be wanting the consciousness to ‘come home here’, but to ‘go to Pure Land’, so as to not send mixed messages.
Even if the consciousness is not around, merits dedicated at a distance can still be received for relieving suffering. However, mere merits cannot ‘send’ anyone to Pure Land. Again, there must be heeding of guidance to personally be mindful of Āmítuófó, to give rise to the Three Provisions.
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