Q: Dear Master Lu, can we perform recitations during postnatal care? What are the things both the mother and the child need to pay attention to? Can we perform recitations while breastfeeding?
- It is a Chinese tradition for women to have postnatal care which lasts approximately one month. Giving birth can be life-threatening, therefore it is best to take time to rest and recover after giving birth.
- During postnatal care, the mother can perform recitations, but it is best to recite without making any sound. This is because her body may not have made a complete separation from foreign spirits. During labour, it is possible that there are many foreign spirits nearby who are hoping to be reborn into the human realm. Therefore, even after the mother has given birth, many foreign spirits may still stay around to wait in line for a chance to be reborn. If the mother performs an excessive number of recitations, then it is possible that other minor foreign spirits would come and ask her to recite sutras and mantras for them. As a result, the mother may suffer from headaches, discomfort throughout the body, or excess bleeding after labour.
- If the mother would like to perform daily recitations or recite Little Houses, it would be best to do so during the daytime. After the period of postnatal care, as her health gradually improves, she can perform recitations during night time as well. The mother can perform daily recitations and the recitation of Little Houses while holding the baby. However, the Heart Sutra or the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra should not be recited in the evening while holding the baby.
- According to Chinese tradition, the Full Moon ceremony is held one month after a baby is born, and parents give out hard boiled eggs (dyed red) to visitors attending the ceremony. This practice makes some sort of sense.
- The souls of infants less than one month old are usually not yet complete, and many surrounding foreign spirits may enter and exit the infants’ bodies. As a newborn’s soul is incomplete or scattered, if a visitor has an aggressive facial expression or has foreign spirits occupying their body, the infant’s soul will be frightened away. As a result, the infant will cry and become unsettled. Therefore, it is not recommended to have visitors during the first month of having a newborn.
- The mother can recite the Heart Sutra for both herself and her child during breastfeeding.
- Generally, the mother can recite the following for infants less than one month old: the Great Compassion Mantra up to 3 times per day, the Heart Sutra up to 7 times per day, the Gong De Bao Shan Shen Zhou 21 times per day, the Xiao Zai Ji Xiang Shen Zhou 21 times per day, the Qi Fo Mie Zui Zhen Yan 21 times per day, and the Ru Yi Bao Lun Wang Tuo Luo Ni 21 times per day. After the infant reaches one month old, the mother can include the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance and the recitation of Little Houses.