Question: I heard some saying that chanting certain mantras or sutras attracts spirits (ghosts) as they also want to listen to the Dharma. Is there any truth in this? If so, does it really matter, especially if I sometimes chant at night?
Answer: Some forms of chanting are directly for spirits. However, generally, just as chanting can catch the attention of seen human beings, can also catch the attention of unseen spirit beings. Whether it sustains attention is another matter. Just as not all humans are interested in chanting, not all unseen beings are. Most people, unless they are very sensitive, are unlikely to feel their presence.
The truth is, unseen beings are already kind of around us, passing by day or night without us knowing, just as undetected insects cross our paths day and night too. When there is sincere reciting, there is natural connection to the Triple Gem’s blessings and protection (of the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha). As such, there is no need to be worried about this – especially if you have never had any strange encounters, which is the case for most. Unfounded fear of relatively rare ghostly encounters should not be an excuse for not practising chanting as it is a powerful means for reminding us of the Buddha’s teachings and deepening our understanding of them.
Some unseen beings might want to come and learn by listening to chanting, or even to practise along, while some beings might want to partake of the merits shared at the end of the chanting for their well-being. This is a reason why chanting should always be practised sincerely and mindfully – because both unseen gods and ghosts might be listening to the Dharma intoned; not just ourselves and humans we are chanting with. It is in effect, when chanting sutras, delivering sermons on the behalf of the Buddha, as spokespersons. This is a reason why chanting is so meritorious, as it shares the greatest gift possible – the Dharma, that guides all to True Happiness. Unseen beings can read our minds’ understanding of the sutras and our intentions too, which is why chanting with right knowledge and motivation can be very beneficial in ‘translating’ or simplifying the sutras for them.
Especially if there is ‘detection’ of the presence of unseen beings, it is good to chant more of, for example, Amitabha Sutra and the name of Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha) to swiftly introduce them to Amituofo and his Pure Land, and to guide them to likewise be mindful of Amituofo with the right Faith, Aspiration and Practice to be reborn in Pure Land. This is important because merely having some or even much self-cultivated or shared merits does not definitely lead to lessening of wandering spirits’ attachment to Samsara (and their lives that transpired), and it does not mean they will automatically have a skilful sense of direction, as to where to aspire to be born for further spiritual development. Without a clear direction, they might linger on, merely for merits. Even gods with wisdom appreciate redirection to Pure Land, as enlightenment is guaranteed there. Incidentally, Sakyamuni Buddha taught in the Amitabha Sutra, that anyone who is sincerely mindful of Amituofo and/or the sutra will be mindfully protected by all Buddhas. This is why we should practise sincerely.
Question: Can unseen beings sense silent chanting within our minds?
Answer: Since spirits can read minds, chanting in the mind can be heard too, but only if they happen to be reading the chanter’s mind. Chanting aloud naturally catches more attention, creating more opportunities for sharing understanding when the mind is also read. If there is ‘fear’ of chanting, it can be practised in groups at Buddhist temples and centres, before being confident to do it personally elsewhere.
Remember – most never have ghostly encounters while chanting, and it is always better to practise chanting than not to, as it benefits oneself and others. Thinking that not practising chanting is ‘safer’ as it ‘prevents’ the possibility of attracting spirits is untrue as due to two reasons. First, spirits are already naturally around many places. Second, not being well practised (and thus not well protected) is more dangerous, especially if these otherwise unseen beings tend to become seen during life’s final moments, if the mind weakens and more attuned to them.
Chanting should always be done with utmost sincerity for the best effects of personally connecting to the chanted, and for connecting others to the chanted too. This is much better than habitually entertaining useless or even harmful stray thoughts, which results in mindless mental and vocal chatter, which is witnessed by unseen beings anyway! With the diligent practice of sincere and mindful chanting, there is the experience of calmness and clarity of mind, while being spiritually recharged with blessings. Fear should not arise at all. This is why chanting is always popular among its sincere practitioners!
Question: Does chanting played from recordings attract unseen beings too?
Answer: Any sound naturally attracts seen (humans and animals) and unseen listeners (gods and ghosts, who can be around in day and night) once it it is ‘sounded’. For example, merely a radio or television turned on anywhere makes nearby humans pay attention. Whether these beings come to pay continual attention due to interest or leave due to disinterest is another matter. There are many other sights and sounds that might be of their greater interest too.
Recorded chanting lacks the ability to transmit the motivation and understanding of the chanted by the ‘live ‘chanter to benefit listeners directly. However, spirits who are wiser might be able to understand the chanted directly, without reading our ‘mental commentary’. Recorded chanting also lacks the power of blessing and protection, as it does not emit the living energy of sincerity. However, it might urge listeners to give rise to sincere practice and thus creation of blessings on their own part. In this sense, playing of chanting is better than not doing so at all, while ‘live’ chanting is always the best.
Question: Some say only chanting by monastics or those with religious backgrounds have the power to cleanse a haunted place. Is this true?
Answer: The truth is, depending on how much compassion and wisdom we have, as aligned to the Buddha’s teachings, our chanting will be correspondingly powerful in fruitful ways. However, conscientious practice of chanting itself helps to cultivate greater compassion and deeper wisdom. Generally, Buddhists have more confidence in monastics’ chanting simply because they are ideally more proficient in spiritual cultivation. However, laypeople can be proficient as well, if they are good practitioners. When we speak of ‘cleansing’ haunted places by chanting, we have to remember that it is not so much to chase away spirits out of fear or hatred, but to counsel and encourage them with compassion, to be wise by taking a better rebirth (in Pure Land), as mentioned above.
I feel that unseen beings will benefit from listening from your chanting. Helping them to gain rebirth is doing a good karma. however, i learnt from experience to never chant in hotels. whenever i go holidays, i never meet ghost in my lifetime. i think of chanting in the hotels because i chant daily. the first time i chant in a hotel, the ghost ‘disturbs’ me the whole night. the second time i chant was in one of the hotel in Taiwan, and funny things happen to me but not other tourists. my sleep was disrupted. So i learnt from experiences, never chant in the hotel rooms.
If there is increase in sincerity in chanting, as in the article, with connection to the Buddha, any disturbance will stop. There can be disturbance only when there is lack of strong connection.
Some hotel rooms might be haunted, but not all are. Some haunted rooms might have disturbing spirits, but not all disturb. That’s the reality check. Amituofo
What about chanting played from audio CDs? Does that attract unseen spirits too? Also what about chanting within our minds only, can spirits sensed it too?
A fengshui master commented in a documentry that only chanting by monks and people with religious background have any kind of powers, such as the power to cleanse a haunted place of ghosts. Is it true?
The answers are now reflected in the updated article
Even not reciting Amituofo! in hotels, one will sometimes be disturbed by unseen beings.
Nowadays, I will use my usb mp3 player to play Amituofo day & night at home or in hotels oversea. Nothing will really come to disturb. :biggrin:
Good point, Jeffrey! Not reciting can be equally, if not more dangerous.
The use of a player can help to show intention for self-protection (and/or for any being who hears it to nianfo), but there are some cases where mere playing doesn’t help because it doesn’t broadcast living sincerity and intention. So, the essential fail-proof protection is always remembering to nianfo personally. Amituofo
people who chant frequently has a light behind their head. unseen beings usually will follow them to seek enlightenment or $(burning paper)
In the Buddhist perspective, the moment one is mindful of Amituofo sincerely, there is connection to Amituofo and his light of protection surrounds one instantly, even if not visible to the average person.
Unseen beings don’t always seek out good people. Some naughtier ones bully the weak or evil too. It is not the case that the more chanting one does, the more unseen beings one will attract. There must be karmic affinity to be connected. Many chant a lot but never have any encounters. Some never chant at all, but have many encounters.
The main article at
explains how Buddhists look at burning paper money. It’s a futile effort as it doesn’t re-materialise anywhere to be usable for anything. It is due to ignorance and greed that some beings want the ‘money’. The real way to help them is explain the above to them and encourage them to nianfo to go Pure Land. Hanging around doesn’t do them or anyone else any good.
I think all of us have negative or positive vibrations which can be felt by those surrounding us. I guess chanting help us give off more positive vibrations!
why did some people misuse chanting to curse other people?
Good points too Bro, I use the reciting player to remind me to always be mindful of Amituofo! as and when I started to forget about being mindful. =D
Buddhist chanting is never for cursing anyone. Chanting that does so is probably linked with voodoo practices, which should be avoided, because not only does it harm the ‘cursed’, it ‘curses’ oneself with bad karma from harming others too.
From my experience, I chanted at hotel room during a recent trip to korea before I sleep, to my surprised I am really sleeping peacefully and without any disturbed. That feeling was so wonderful and refreshed when I woke up the next day. I strongly believed they can hear us chanting for them.
Thanks for your enlightenment.
What are the common phrases to dedicate merits after chanting, especially chanting alone at home? :angel:
回向 Sharing of Merits
Yuan Yi Ci Gong De
May these meritorious virtues
Zhuang Yan Fo Jing Tu
Adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land,
Shang Bao Si Zhong En,
Repay the four weighty roots of kindness above,
Xia Ji San Tu Ku
And relieve suffering of the three paths below.
Ruo You Jian Wen Zhe
If there are those who see or hear this,
Xi Fa Pu Ti Xin
May all give rise to Bodhicitta,
Jin Ci Yi Bao Shenn
And at the end of this retribution body,
Tong Sheng Ji Le Guo
Be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss together.
Wow, thanks a lot. Guess I have to recite this in Chinese