Written by Chang Jie
On August 20, 2011, more than 170 people attended the Recitation Ritual of Amitabha Sutra in Three Sessions held at Chan Meditation Center, New York. The ceremony was presided by Venerable Guo Xing, Abbot of the Center and 9 monastics assisted.
According to Chinese folk religion, July 15th of the lunar year is known as the “Hungry Ghost Festival.” It is believed that the gates of hell are opened on this day. Food is offered to the spirits of the deceased, especially for the spirits of ancestors.
For Buddhists, this time is called “The Month of Teaching People to Respect Their Ancestors” and July 15th of the lunar year is called “Buddha’s Joyful Day.” It is a time for people to express gratitude and respect to their ancestors.
The morning of the ceremony was dedicated to reciting the Sutra of Ksitigarbha (Earth Store) Bodhisattva, and the Recitation Ritual of Amitabha Sutra in Three Sessions was held in the afternoon.
First compiled by Master Zong Fung during the Yuan Dynasty, the ceremony was conducted to help the deceased and living. Each of the three sessions consists of chanting the Amitabha Sutra, reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name, teachings, praises, repentance and vow. The purpose of the ceremony is to develop gratitude for our parents and ancestors, and to transfer merit to departed ancestors and relatives.
The teaching of the first session focuses on the Pure Land doctrine of faith, vow and practice, namely chanting of Amitabha Buddha’s name. The teaching of the second session focuses on the power of the mind. To purify the mind, one has to use the power of repentance. The teaching of the third session focuses on the chanting of Amitabha Buddha’s name to tame the mind and seek rebirth in the Pure Land.