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Memorial Prayers & Transfer of Merit to the Deceased

Why do Memorial Prayers Benefit the Deceased?

As human beings, it is only natural to pray for deceased ancestors, relatives, and others with whom we have close connections.

The Buddhist term for benefiting the deceased is eko. This is a translation of the Sanskrit word parinama. The original meaning of parinama was “conversion.” In relation to prayers for the deceased, eko refers to the act of “transferring the merit one gains from performing virtuous acts and giving it to others.” A rough English equivalent of eko in this sense is “transfer of merit.”

The deceased cannot practice Buddhism. This is why those who are living must accumulate merit through their Buddhist practice on behalf of the deceased and transfer that merit to them.

In it’s fundamental meaning, however, “transfer of merit” is not limited to prayers performed for the deceased. We should transfer merit to living parents, friends and acquaintances, all other people and all living beings. That merit will then return to us. This is the fundamental significance of eko.

Visit Myosenji Temple

We hold a series of Introductory lectures every month at our Buddhist Temple. Meetings are open to the public and free. Please check our calendar page for a list of our upcoming meetings.

On Sunday, June 2nd, our Chief Priest will lecture on Karma: How to Struggle Less, Grow More. Meeting begins at 2:00 pm.

Excerpted: Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice, page 33.