Basic Knowledge and General Practices for Transferring Merits

1. On a plain piece of yellow paper (use normal copy paper), regardless of the thickness, draw a rectangle, 3 inches in width and 4 inches in height. On one of the 3-inch lines, draw an isosceles trapezoid to make the shape of a house with a slanted roof. This is the so-called “Little House” (Hsiao Fang Tzu). It is best to download the sample form from the website, <www.GuanYinCitta.com> and print it on a piece of yellow A4 paper. Cut the paper into four pieces so that each Little House is a rectangular piece of paper. Please do not cut the Little House according to its shape along the black lines printed on the form. On the upper right hand side of the Little House, use a blue or black ink pen to write the name of the merit receiver. If it is to be offered to one’s Karmic Creditor, then address it to the “Karmic Creditor of <full name>”. If it is to be offered to a child that was aborted or miscarried, then address it to “The child of <full name of the mother or father>”. Generally you should write the full name of the mother. If you do not know the full name of the mother, then you can write the full name of the father. If it is to be offered to a deceased relative or friend, then address it to “<full name of the deceased>”. On the lower left hand side of the Little House, write the full name of the reciter, as well as the date of completion for reciting the Little House, or the date for burning the Little House (yyyy/mm/dd). Please note that the reciter must sign the Little House. For the date, you can write the numbers in Arabic form, or in English in block letters.

2. Find a quiet place and time to perform recitations. Avoid interruptions from phones or knocking on the door. If you are interrupted while you are reciting a short mantra, then you should try your best to finish reciting it before attending to other tasks. For longer sutras, you should excuse yourself to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by reciting “Om Lai Mu So Ho” once to pause your recitation. Once you have finished attending to other tasks, you can resume by reciting “Om Lai Mu So Ho” once again.

3. Each time before you recite sutras or mantras for the Little House, you can recite the Great Compassion Mantra (Ta Pei Chou) several times to enhance your spiritual power. The order in which you recite the sutras and mantras for the Little House does not matter. It is best not to recite the Little House when you are feeling unwell or emotionally unstable. This is because reciting the Little House consumes energy, and if you cannot maintain focus then it would not be as effective.

4. Each time you finish reciting a sutra or mantra, use a red pen to put a dot inside the circle corresponding to the one that you have just recited. You can also recite a number of sutras or mantras and then dot the circles all at once. Please note that you must use a red pen, and you must only put a red dot, not a tick or a cross. In addition, you must not put the dot before you finish reciting. The red dot should only be a small one; it should not fill up the entire circle. The number of times that you recite should not be less than the number required on the Little H­­­­­ouse, but it is alright to recite more than the required number.

5. You can recite out loud, softly, or in your mind. The best method is to recite softly. The full title of each sutra and mantra should be recited each time before you recite the sutra and mantra. For example, before reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, you should recite the full title: Chien Shou Chien Yan Wu Ai Ta Pei Hsin To Lo Ni[1]. You should avoid reciting the Heart Sutra (Hsin Ching) and the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra (Wang Sheng Chou) after 10PM, or during extreme weather, including heavy rain, thunderstorm, and lightning. Some slight pronunciation variations are acceptable, as long as they are not too far from the correct pronunciation. You can recite the Dharani to Patch Flaws in Recitation (Pu Chueh Chen Yan) 7 times at the end of your recitation. English speakers can recite the sutras and mantras according to the Wade-Giles Romanization or Hanyu Pinyin and achieve the same effects. It is best if you can recite the sutras and mantras from memory.

6. For each Little House, you do not need to finish reciting all four types of sutras and mantras in one day. Generally, you should finish reciting a Little House within 7 days to avoid prolonged delays. Once you have finished, you can fill in the completion date (you can also fill in the date on the day that you are burning the Little House if you are not burning it on the day that you finish reciting it). You should burn the Little House in a dedicated bowl or plate. The material can be ceramic or china, but metal material should not be used. The bowl or plate that you use for burning the Little House should not be placed on the altar, but should only be placed on the floor or on a chair near the altar. If you have an altar at home, you should make incense offerings, make full prostrations, and then use the oil lamp on the altar to light the Little House. If you do not have an altar at home, you can offer the Heart Incense[2], and then use a lighter or matches to light the Little House. You can burn Little Houses on your balcony, near the window in your living room, or in your backyard. Ensure that the entire piece of paper is thoroughly burnt; otherwise the Little Houses may not be as effective. You can use metal tweezers to hold the Little House and burn it. The best times to burn Little Houses are 8AM, 10AM and 4PM. Any other time during day time on a sunny day would also be alright. Generally, the period between 6AM and sunset is suitable for burning Little Houses if the weather is good. Please do not burn them after sunset, or on a cloudy or rainy day, unless it is urgent, for example, if the Karmic Creditor is being very demanding, or during times of severe illness, etc. Finally, you can wrap up and discard the ashes. Please note that you should not flush the ashes in the toilet or scatter the ashes in the open.

7. After you burn Little Houses, if you dream of a deceased person or a child that was aborted or miscarried that you are currently transferring merits to, then it means the Little Houses have taken effect. If in the dream, they are dressed cleanly with a pleasant expression and visiting you in a bright environment, then it means that they have received the Little Houses. If the conditions are not good in the dream, then it means that the transferring of merits is not yet successful, and you should continue to recite Little Houses. Generally, for a child that was aborted or miscarried, you need at least 7 Little Houses, and it would be best if you can recite 21 or more Little Houses (21 or more Little Houses is required for the foreign spirit to be reborn as a human). If you dream of a deceased person, you need at least 7 Little Houses. Generally, if there are Karmic Creditors at home, you can first offer 4 Little Houses, and then offer a few more depending on the situation.

8. The above method for transferring merits is applicable for deceased persons (can be your Karmic Creditor, a deceased relative or friend, a Karmic Creditor of your house, or a child that was aborted or miscarried). The number of Little Houses required depends on your intuition and your situation. If you wish to transfer merits to animals, you should recite the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra (Wang Sheng Chou). For example, 108 times for a cow; 49 times for a pig, sheep and mouse; 7 times for a fish, crab and chicken; 3 times for a shrimp or prawn; and once for a mosquito and an ant.

 

Reciting Little Houses

Before you recite the Little House, you can say your prayer as follows, “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help me to offer the Little Houses to <name of the merit receiver> (can be your Karmic Creditor, a deceased relative or friend, a Karmic Creditor of your house, or a child that was aborted or miscarried).” Please keep your prayer short and simple, but it is also alright even if you do not state anything. As soon as our thoughts arise, the thoughts are precisely recorded in the spiritual world.

 

Burning Little Houses

If you have an altar at home, you should make incense offerings, and then make full prostrations. Sincerely invite Guan Yin Bodhisattva by saying the following three times, “Sincerely invite the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva, saviour of suffering and disasters.” Before burning Little Houses, you can raise the Little Houses slightly above your head, and then place them on your altar. Kneel down and say the following prayer: “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help me to offer the Little Houses to <name of the merit receiver; can be your Karmic Creditor, name of a deceased person, a child that was aborted or miscarried, or the Karmic Creditor of someone’s house>.”

When you are burning Little Houses (it is best to burn from top to bottom, starting from the upper right hand corner where it says “Offer To”), you can say the following prayer, “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, with your compassion.” You can then light the Little Houses using the oil lamp on your altar. While you are burning Little Houses, please do not recite or say anything extra. You should only say the prayer, “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, with your compassion.”

After you finish burning Little Houses, you can say the following, “With my sincere prostration, I hereby express my deepest gratitude to the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva for protecting and blessing me, <your full name>, so that I can have good health, and a safe and fortunate life. Please help me to offer the Little Houses to <name of the merit receiver>. Deepest gratitude to the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva.” You can then make a prostration.

If you do not have an altar at home, you can burn Little Houses on your balcony, near the window in your living room, or in your backyard. You should offer the Heart Incense and then sincerely invite Guan Yin Bodhisattva by saying the following three times, “Sincerely invite the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva, saviour of suffering and disasters.” You can then recite the Great Compassion Mantra (Ta Pei Chou) once and the Heart Sutra (Hsin Ching) once. Raise the Little Houses slightly above your head, and then bow to the sky three times, or visualise yourself making full prostrations, and say the following prayer: “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <your full name>, help me to offer the Little Houses to <name of the merit receiver; can be your Karmic Creditor, name of a deceased person, a child that was aborted or miscarried, or the Karmic Creditor of someone’s house>.” Finally, you can burn the Little Houses. The procedure for after burning the Little Houses is the same as described above.

 

Little Houses can be obtained from Guan Yin Tang free of charge. We also mail or fax to overseas devotees. Our address is: The Miramar, Suite 271 Level 1, 398-408 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia.  Should you need any clarifications, please contact us on +61 2 9283 2758 or [email protected]



[1] The title of each sutra and mantra is given in English, with the Wade-Giles Romanization given in brackets. It is recommended to recite the title according to the Wade-Giles Romanization or Hanyu Pinyin.

[2] Please refer to Q&A 094 “Regarding the difference between offering the Heart Incense and real incense”.

[Updated 2012.04.07]