DHARMA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
- PURPOSE OF REQUIEM
- FOR THE DEAD
By Nhat Quan
Today's monks and nuns, in addition to trying to transform
body and mind, have a mission that, through many different
means, but with the same purpose, is to alleviate human
suffering and bring peace, and happiness to people.
The purpose of requiem for the deceased is one of the
thousands of means that monastics often undertake. However, to
be honest, not everyone who practices these means can
understand the bottom line and follow the basic spirit of
Buddhism. Therefore, the purpose of requiem is the expression
of another form of wish. And of course, Buddhism does not
focus on pure wish but advocates practical action.
To say a requiem is an aspiration or a wish is to want someone
to be liberated or reborn in the world of Buddhas. Therefore,
the word requiem can be a shortened form of the phrase
"requiem for rebirth in the pure land". This is the
aspiration, or wish, aimed primarily at the deceased.
As mentioned, the purpose of holding the requiem ceremony is
to wish the spirits of the deceased to escape from the
sufferings of hell, hungry ghosts, and animals. At the same
time, they are reborn in the human realm or other realms such
as the Buddha realm, and the heaven realm. True Requiem should
be aspiration, sincerity, sincerity, and helpful action to
help the soul benefit in rebirth.
The requiem only has meaning, and value when the living person
teaches, warns, and helps the dead to change their mind. The
Dharma language, the sutras, and the verse have the power to
help the spirits and spirits to be enlightened and to generate
joy so that they are at peace without suffering. The merits
and blessings that the living people do to dedicate to the
spirit, also bring many benefits to the spirit.
When the dead know how to rejoice at the deeds that create
merit, and the blessings of their loved ones, and develop
reverence towards the Three Jewels, they have partially
transformed their evil karma. And increase one's own merit,
thereby being reborn in a happy state. As is the case:
- The mother of the venerable Maugalyayana.
- Wife of Liang-Wu-Ti.
The mother of the venerable Maugalyayana in her life was
greedy, impoverished, and distrustful of the Three Jewels. She
created many evil karma, so after death, fell as a hungry
ghost, suffering, hunger, and thirst. The venerable
Maugalyayana held a ceremony to offer sacrifices to the dead,
to invite the Buddha and the ten directions to requiem for
her. Thanks to the merits and blessings of the venerable
Maugalyayana's offering of the Three Jewels and her joy in the
work of the Venerable, she was freed from the crime of bearing
the body of a hungry ghost.
The queen's wife Liang-Wu-Ti, while still alive, also created
a lot of bad karma, so after she died, she was born as a
snake. Thanks to Liang-Wu-Ti for inviting Venerable Chi Cong
and the monks to open a forum called the Liang-Wu-Ti method of
repentance to help his wife repent of her sins that she
escaped from the snake life.
This shows that requiem is an activity of spiritual life,
which has long become a practical need for those who care
about spiritual values. Because everyone wants their loved
ones after death to be reborn in happy realms, to return to
Buddha or heaven. Or at least be back as a human, not fall
into the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. It is a legitimate
need, a beautiful gesture of encouragement and praise, a work
imbued with human love and rich in compassion.
Requiem for your loved ones at the same time also pray for all
the spirits who have not yet escaped from the sufferings,
which is an act of showing the gratitude and affection of the
living to the deceased. Shows the connection between people
despite living in two completely different worlds.
The requiem with the desire to help the spirits who have not
escaped from hell, hungry ghosts, and animals to be liberated.
The spirits, who are in the midst of suffering, are freed from
suffering, which is also an expression of compassion, which
should be cared for and developed.
In the matter of requiem, it is also necessary to clarify,
that although it is desired for the dead to be liberated, it
is not possible to pray for those who create many negative
karmas to be released according to your will. Because all the
deeds done during life are good or bad after death will have
to receive the result in the form of rebirth in a higher or
lower realm. That is, after death, a person will be freed,
i.e. reborn in a leisurely state, or fall, i.e. reborn in a
miserable state, depending on the karma that person has
Therefore, while you are still alive, you should create good
karma for yourself, because that is the only baggage you can
take with you after you die. This good karma will determine
your next life. This is what you need to pay attention to the
most. The issue of requiem after death is just a support
condition, only beneficial when the spirit of the deceased
hears the sound of verses or sutras and awakens. Then arouse
joy and reverence towards the Three Jewels, believe in the
Buddhadharma, and transform your own mind.
During the requiem ceremony, you must keep in mind four
factors. Strictly implementing these four factors will
certainly benefit the spirit:
- The role of the spirit is primary,
- Next is the purity of the prayer offerings,
- The moral virtue of the monks
- And the devotion and earnestness of the relatives of the
deceased, along with the blessings they have created and
dedicated to the spirit.
It is said that the spirit plays a decisive role because the
spirit has to change its mind, let go of misleading ideas, let
go of afflictions, desires, and attachments, and change its
own karma to be able to escape. But without the help and
support of the monks and relatives by teaching, warning,
guiding the spirit towards the Three Jewels, and doing good
deeds to dedicate it to, the spirit, the spirit will also be
unlikely to escape. Therefore, relatives need to support the
spirit so that it can escape suffering and benefit.
As said once. For those who are still alive, in order to have
luggage when they die and know where to be reborn, while still
healthy you should try to practice and do good deeds as in the
Kutadanta Sutra of Dirgha agama No. 5, the Buddha taught that:
- Regularly making offerings to monastics, building viharas,
revering the Three Jewels upholding the five precepts, and
practicing spiritual practices are the ways of worship and
prayer that really bring the most benefits.
Indeed, according to the sutras, when the Buddha was in the
world, he once met a sinner who had his limbs cut off and
brought him a lotus flower, the Buddha said to the monks:
- Thanks to this merit and virtue, during the next ninety-one
kalpas, the amputee will not only be saved from falling into
the three evil paths of hell, hungry ghosts, and animals, but
will also be reborn in the heavenly realms, until he ends his
blessings in that heaven, he turns back to being a human.
For the deceased, in the Northern Buddhist countries,
influenced by the Pure Land Dharma, the sutras that are
recited at funerals and death anniversaries are usually the
Amitabha, Ksitigarbhapranidhana-Sutra, and The Ullambana
- Chanting the Amitabha Sutra is mainly to introduce the noble
realm of Amitabha Buddha, and at the same time, it is also a
reminder for the dead to recall the Dharma of reciting
Buddha's name. The one-pointedness of mind is not chaotic as a
prerequisite for rebirth in the Pure Land so that the souls
can follow it to recite the Buddha's name and be reborn.
- Reciting Ksitigarbhapranidhana-Sutra on the one hand is to
review the merits of this bodhisattva's filial piety, on the
other hand, to promote and cultivate the land of mind. When
chanting this sutra, the descendants of the deceased have the
opportunity to learn about filial piety and also have the
opportunity to improve their character.
- Read the Ullambana Sutra to learn the special example of
filial piety of venerable Mahamaudgalyayana.
In general, the above suttas, not only have good effects for
the deceased but are also aimed at encouraging the relatives
of the deceased to practice methods and make merit. Therefore,
however, Buddhism believes in the effects of requiem. However,
that effect has a certain limit. Requiem is only a secondary
power, not a primary strength. Because the main time to
practice good and do good is the time when people are still
alive. After the person has died, it is the living person who
organizes the requiem ceremony for the dead person and
dedicates the living people's merit and virtues to the dead.
The Ksitigarbha Sutra says that the benefits of the requiem
ceremony have seven parts, six of which belong to the living
person who is organizing the requiem ceremony, and only one
part of the benefit belongs to the dead person. At the same
time, genuine Buddhism, regarding the method of requiem, has a
slightly different concept from folk customs. To say requiem
is to say that we have escaped from the realm of suffering,
and ascended to the realm of joy, is based on the inspiration
of the good karma of friends and relatives of the dead, not by
the effect of chanting alone of monks and nuns. It is the
induction by the combination of the good karma of the requiem
organizer and the practice of the praying monks and nuns.
Therefore, righteous Buddhism believes that the subject of the
requiem is not monks and nuns but the family members of the
dead. In the moment of death of a loved one, if the family
knows how to bring the dying person's favorite things, make
offerings to the Three Jewels, give alms to the poor, and make
the dying person understand, it is doing merit to help them in
reincarnation, it will have a great effect on the spirits of
the dead. It is due to the induction of good karma thought
that the dying person's mind is comforted so that the dead
person's karmic consciousness is directed to the good realm.
Doing that is not superstition, it is a good mind towards a
If, when a loved one has died, their descendants and relatives
show great respect, organize offerings to the monks, give
alms, do great deeds, and show filial piety urgently, then
there may also be an impression that helps souls to be reborn
in the good realm. However, the effect is not equal to working
while the person is still alive. When a child or loved one is
filial and sincere, like when Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva makes a
vow of great compassion in order to save his mother, vowing
that in order to save his mother, for eternity, he will save
sentient beings from the sea of suffering. Based on the power
of that great prayer, you can sympathize with the dead, and
help the dead reduce or eliminate crimes. That is not
superstition, but the sympathy of the great filial piety, of
the great aspiration, making the mind and strength of the
person praying to integrate and sympathize with the karma of
the loved one in need of requiem. Both of them are clear in
the same mind, thanks to that, the dead person is transcended.
Therefore, for righteous Buddhism, if children and relatives
want to save the dead, they should do things like:
- Offering to the Three Jewels, giving to the poor,
It is not necessary to invite monks and nuns to chant sutras.
When the monks and nuns are offered offerings, they only
dedicate this work to the spirits but mainly pay attention to
the benefactors. As monks and nuns chanting is their daily job
during ceremonies, Chanting is a spiritual practice, the
purpose of chanting is not to requiem the dead. Donors make
offerings to the monks so that the monks can practice and
achieve their goals, to maintain the Buddha's teachings in the
world. Although Buddhism says chanting to requiem the dead,
it's actually hoping that everyone knows how to chant. The
reason you have to know how to chant is to see good or bad.
What to do and what not to do. Only then will you practice
good karma while you are still alive.
Just in case, you don't know how to chant or chant too little,
ask the monks and nuns to chant for you. In fact, the function
of monks and nuns is to maintain Buddhism in the world, to
take the Buddha Dharma to save sentient beings, not to
specialize in requiem work for the dead.
It must be known that the merit of chanting is due to faith in
the Buddha's Dharma and practicing in accordance with the
Buddha's teachings, so it is not only monks and nuns who chant
sutras, and even more so when people die, they need to chant
sutras. Furthermore, the best requiem period is within 49
days. That is the stage when the spirit waits to determine
which realm to be born in.
The scriptures show that:
- While living, cultivating many good karmas is a person with
great merit. When they die, they are reborn in the six Desire
Realms, or those who practice samadhi with results, when they
die, they are reborn in the heavens of Meditation.
- People with heavy negative karma, die, they will go to hell
As for the average person:
- That is, people who are evil also do evil while they are
alive, but also practice good. At the time of death, it is not
known whether there is much evil or much good, so they have to
spend 49 days waiting for their fixed karma to decide where to
If during this time, children and relatives know how to use
merit to make offerings to the Three Jewels and give alms to
the poor to dedicate to the dead, the dead person will be
reborn through that merit and good karma and be reborn in
heaven or human realm. If it takes after 49 days to organize a
requiem, it can only increase the blessings of children,
grandchildren, and relatives more, and the support for the
dead is very little. So there was no way to affect their
However, there are exceptions, in the case of a loved one
being unjustly, tragically, or fatally killed. Due to unpaid
wrongdoing, one can be born in the hungry ghost realm, and
continue to ask for help from the living. Usually, people call
it haunted. In this special case, it is necessary to pray,
chant sutras, and preach the Dharma to the devil so that he
can clearly see the direction of reincarnation. Thanks to the
Buddha's power, the spirit can be reborn in a good realm.
Buddhism often refers to the demon realm as the hungry ghost.
So when feeding hungry ghosts, it is common to use secret
dharmas such as reciting the food change mantra to produce a
large amount of food to satisfy the hungry ghosts.
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