[110] How We Offered Guidance And Support-Chanting At A Non-Buddhist Wake 我们如何在非佛教丧礼给予开示与助念

grayscale photo of a coffin
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I have an 84 year-old friend Z, who was always young at heart. We have known each other for 20 years through nature walks and birdwatching. We have a few common friends and last met up in his home in November 2022. As age was fast catching up, after noting that he was getting more frail, I suggested that we should meet him and his wife at least once a year. The next meeting was supposed to be in January 2024. However, as one of our friends was busy with some family matters, we agreed to postpone to March.

Time passed quickly and the day came. Arriving at his block, I was surprised to see Z’s wife X being supported by their helper, sitting with their son and grandchildren at the bottom. Speaking to the son, we were saddened to know that Z has passed on due to advanced lung cancer two days earlier! I was shocked beyond words as during the many gatherings we had, he never breathed a word about his health.

The son told us that the family has decided to proceed with a funeral in the name of the faith that his elder sister adhered to. Also, Z and his wife (who has dementia), have subscribed to that faith ceremonially five days ago. His casket is now in the place of worship.

My wife (H) and I (L) started contemplating on how we might be able to offer guidance (开示), support-chanting (助念) and sharing of merits (回向) with Z. In the morning of our visitation, my wife suddenly recalled teacher Shi’an’s teaching on how the consciousness of the deceased, if present, is able to read to know others’ minds (他心通). She drafted a brief Guidance Text (开示文) in Chinese and we rehearsed how to offer it (without causing displeasure to anyone).

We were greeted by the son when we reached the wake. I introduced myself again and said, ‘We would like to pay our last respects to your father. Can we observe a 10-minute silent tribute by his casket?’ He thanked us and agreed to it.

We proceeded to right side of the casket and I recited the Guidance Text softly for both of us (and Z, if near) to hear. As it was soft, the family seated about 15 metres away could not hear it. (Actually, even if not audible at all, Z would be able to read my mind to receive the guidance.)

Z 大哥,L 和 H 来了。感恩你这些年来给予我们的大力支持,我们没齿难忘。你这一生尽心尽力做一个好丈夫、好爸爸、好同事、也是很多人的好朋友,此生已没有遗憾。儿子女儿一定会好好照顾 X 姐 (他的老婆),请你放下一切。待会儿我和H会在旁边默念阿弥陀佛十分钟,请你跟着我们一起念。我们离开后,也请你继续真诚地念佛,直到你看到阿弥陀佛来接引你到他的净土。那片净土没有痛苦,只有安乐。时间到时,我们也会念佛往生到净土,与你见面。

(Big brother Z, we, L and H have come. Thank you so much, for your great support over the years, which we will never forget. In your entire life, you have already done your best to be a good husband, father and colleague. Also having many good friends, you should have no more regrets. As your son and daughter will definitely take good care of sister Z (his wife), may you let go of all worldly attachments. Later, we will be by the side silently reciting Āmítuófó’s name for 10 minutes. Please follow us to recite sincerely together. After we leave, please continue to recite Āmítuófó‘s name, until you see Āmítuófó come, to receive and guide you to his Pure Land, where there is no more pain and suffering, only having peace and bliss. When it is our time, we will also recite Āmítuófó’s name, to be reborn in his Pure Land, to meet you there.)

My wife reminded me to lower my voice when two of his grandchildren came near. After reciting the text, we stood by the casket and recited Āmítuófó silently for a good 10 minutes. We then leaned over and said we have completed support-chanting and will be reciting the Dedication Verse (回向文). After practising the above, we spoke with the son, daughter and daughter-in-law, sharing on how we met their parents, with details of our last gathering.

Upon leaving, we felt so glad and happy that we have done what we could for our dear old friend. We sincerely hope that if his consciousness was still around, also recited Āmítuófó’s name sincerely and followed him to his Pure Land. Āmítuófó!

Some Takeaway Lessons

[1] Indicating What Kind Of Wake To Have When Healthy: I am unsure if Z sincerely subscribed to the new faith as those of his background and generation tend not to do so. I was thus surprised to know he ‘converted’ merely days before. To avoid mismatching of personal faith and wake procedures, it is best to indicate the choice clearly to one’s grand/children in advance. This will prevent needless distress to the deceased, if still around, who cannot voice disagreement then.

[2] Support-Chanting At Non-Buddhist Places: To the son, instead of saying ‘We are here to provide guidance and support-chanting for your deceased father’, we said, ‘We would like to pay our last respects to your father. Can we observe a 10-minute silent tribute by his casket?’’ The process thus went well without any obstacles. As we were respectful and polite, we still managed to offer what we did. Please do not give up easily. (The offering of silent tributes by people of different faiths on various occasions out of good will is common.)

Related Teachings:

Chanting When Dying, After Death, During And After Wakes

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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