Introduction to Memorial Service

The Buddhist service performed for the deceased is called transcendence (chaodu) or memorial service (chaojian).

With the sincerity and respect of the deceased's relatives and friends, resonating with the compassionate vows of the Buddhas and the bodhisattva, summoning the deceased to come to the altar to hear the Dharma, hoping to pray for the deceased's blessings, eliminating the karmic hindrance from the previous life, getting rid of the suffering from the cycle of life and death, and paving the way for rebirth in the Buddha Land. According to the sutra records, within forty-nine days after a person has died, if the living relatives of the deceased can chant sutras and perform memorial services for the deceased, by virtue of this merit, the deceased’s karmic obstacles can be eliminated, and the deceased can be reborn in a wholesome way. If the deceased has cultivated a lot of good karma before his/her death, the lotus level can be increased. Buddhists hold memorial services in a seven-day period, within 49 days after the death of a loved one. This is called a “seven-day memorial service.” Depending on the family's availability and causes and conditions, some only do the first seven, also known as the full seven; some do the first seven, the third seven, the fifth seven, and the seventh seven; some do all sevens (seven services).

How does the memorial service benefit the deceased? Venerable Master Hsing Yun tells us:

This is like a carp leaping from the dragon gate, worth a hundred times more. Chanting sutras is like relying on the relatives of officials and dignitaries, everyone is envious and one is admired by all; it is as if we need to carry ID card and passport when traveling, the merit of chanting sutras makes it easy for us to be reborn in the Buddha Land.

A large rock placed in the water will soon sink; if it is placed in a boat, it can be carried safely to the other shore. The stubbornness of sentient beings is rock-like in their sinful karma body, but they are free from drowning in the ocean through the chanting merit in the ferry of compassion.

If a paddy field has a plentiful rice harvest, even one or two weeds won’t make a difference. The merit of sutra chanting can increase our wholesome karma. Although there are some karmic roots buried in the soil, they will not be easily grown.