Question: Do Buddhist talismans work? What is written on them? If they work, must they be ‘renewed’?
Answer: Anything, including paper talismans consecrated by proper Buddhist chanting has some protective abilities due to the power of truth and virtue of that chanted. However, it is hard tell for sure whether something is consecrated properly, if at all. Buddhist talismans are sometimes called amulets when wound up and placed in pendants. Printed or written on them can be mantras, names of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or even (parts of) sutras to remind us of the Buddha’s teachings. The sacred wordings by themselves are said to offer protection, while it is generally believed that protection is increased with consecration.
It is best not to be too dependent on consecrated items as they might not always be present. It is best to learn how to practise Nianfo (e.g. mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) in everyday life for general blessings and for averting danger in emergencies. This is so as one’s mind is always present, while physical items cannot be brought along everywhere all the time, especially when dying, going to the next life!
Some believe consecrated items can lose their ‘charge’ over time. However, it is hard to tell if true blessings can ever expire. If one chooses to keep them, to prevent complacence from taking them for granted, it is good to see them as reminders to practise the Dharma in their presence (e.g. on the shrine). This surely ‘(re)charges’ them ongoingly, if not charging them further! Remember – personal Dharma practice is always needed to receive full benefits of the Dharma!