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​Does End-of-Life Chanting Work?

Most people do not entertain the idea of engaging themselves in actual practice, let alone being masters of their mind when dying. Therefore, while on the verge of death, end-of-life chanting would be helpful. The purpose of end-of-life chanting is to deliver the dying person to Amitabha's Pure Land, by combining the merits of chanting together with the power of Amitabha Buddha's compassionate vows. Even if, according to his accumulated karma, the dying person is about to fall into rebirth in one of the lower realms, end-of-life chanting could still bestow merits upon him, assisting in rebirth into a better realm or, higher still, the Pure Land.
Even those who have committed the five heinous crimes and the ten evil deeds could benefit from chanting. According to the Amitayurdhyana Sutra, Amitabha Buddha made a vow that if a Dharma friend comes to these individuals' deathbeds, solaces them with the Dharma, and teaches them how to wholeheartedly recite "O-Mi-Tuo-Fo"(Amitabha Buddha), then they can also be reborn into the Western Pure Land.

Creating Karmic Affinity to the Pure Land through Chanting

While on the verge of death, apart from bodily pain, ordinary people also suffer from a disturbed state of mind consisting of fear, anxiety, and attachment to the world. At this time, it is necessary to bring relief to the dying so that they know and believe that they could be reborn into the Pure Land by chanting Buddha's name. Subsequently, those around the dying chant in a clear, steady, and distinct voice, which guides the dying to aspire single-mindedly to be reborn to the Pure Land, thus eliminating all possible inverted views and deluded thoughts. If the dying is still conscious, those around them may also encourage the dying person to chant along, in order to plant benevolent karmic seeds and create affinity to the Pure Land. In addition, it is not only necessary to calm the dying person's mind before death, but the chanting should also continue even after they pass away.
People participating in the end-of-life chanting should be divided into groups, with each group taking turns to chant in two- or four-hour shifts. When chanting, one should be fully concentrated. The chanting of the group should be clear and synchronized; neither too fast nor too high, and neither too agonized nor too hurried. Chant in a solemn, harmonious, and soft voice so as to help the dying to pass away peacefully.

The Meaning of End-of-Life Chanting

In his talks to the Dharma Drum Mountain End-of-Life Chanting Group, Master Sheng Yen pointed out four main purposes related to end-of-life chanting:
First, as a form of mutual assistance and support: turning the family's helplessness and powerlessness into person-to-person, family-to-family support systems.
Second, to help the dying toward a favorable rebirth: even if the dying have not accumulated deep merit and wisdom, or are not that earnest, with the help of chanting, they could still be reborn to a better place, if not to a Buddha Land.
Third, to calm the family and settle their body and mind: the slow and peaceful sound of the Buddha's name can help reduce a family's emotions of sadness and fear.
Fourth, as a practice method and a way of propagating Dharma: the more one accumulates experiences in end-of-life chanting, the stronger becomes their faith in the Western Pure Land. This leads to greater self-reliance as well as reciting the Buddha's name to the state of single-mindedness. This in turn would also bring perfection to the practice of end-of-life chanting in which one is engaged.
Therefore, practicing end-of-life chanting helps not only others but also oneself. It is truly a Bodhisattva practice that benefits oneself while benefitting others. 



50 Questions Concerning Life and Death (生死50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation

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