Amitabha Buddha Recitation
Amitabha Buddha is also known as “Amitayus,” “infinite life.” “Amitabha” means “infinite light.” He is the Buddha of the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. The three Pureland Sutras: The Larger Sutra on Amitabha, The Smaller Sutra on Amitabha, and the Contemplation (visualization) of Amitabha Buddha Sutra.
Countless eons ago, Bhikshu Dharma Treasury made 48 inconceivable vows before Lokesvaraja Buddha. He vowed that his Buddhaland will be the most blissful and pure; that all who are born there will advance irreversibly to Buddhahood. Bhikshu Dharma Treasure is now Amitabha Buddha. The lower realms of existence and suffering are not found in Amiitabha Buddha's pure land. It is filled with wondrous sounds and adornments.
A verse in praise by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua says:
Blowing winds and still waters expound the Mahayana;
Master Hsuan Hua explained the four methods of being mindful of the Buddha:
1. Mindfulness of the Buddha through reciting his name.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra, a verse says:
I vow that when my life approaches its end,
The verse below is from the Venerable Master Hua's lecture:
The King of All Dharmas is the one word "Amitabha."
A talk given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua:
Speak one sentence more, recite the Buddha’s name one time less. This is correct. Speak one sentence less; recite the Buddha’s name one time more. This is also correct. If we understand this theory, then “when walking we recite Amitabha and when sitting we recite Amitabha.” That is, when we’re walking, we recite Amitabha; when we’re sitting down we also recite Amitabha; when we’re standing we recite Amitabha, and even when we’er lying down, we recite Amitabha. We recite constantly without the thought of reciting, and without the thought of reciting and yet reciting to the point that the wind cannot blow through and the rain cannot leak through; rather there is only the thought of reciting the Buddha’s name and nothing else.
Therefore it is said, Recite the Buddha’s name continuously, reciting without a break. The mouth recites Amitabha and makes things of a piece. This happens when one’s recitations continue one after another, without stopping. When extraneous thoughts do not arise, one attains samadhi. If you don’t give rise to false thoughts, there is mindfulness, or proper perception. That is samadhi. For rebirth in the Pure Land, your hope is not in vain. You will definitely be reborn there. All you have to do is recite without the thought of reciting, not reciting yet reciting, reciting Amitabha’s name through the storms until even the sound of the bell is reciting, “Amitabha Buddha!” When the waters flow and the wind blows, they proclaim the Mahayana. They are reciting “Homage to Amitabha Buddha.”
If you can recite like this, I guarantee that you will be reborn in the Pure Land as if not being reborn, not being reborn and yet being reborn there. You will even forget about what grade of lotus you will be reborn in. Since you do not remember, you certainly will attain what you deserve. What you do not deserve, you cannot attain even if you wish to. Thus, everything is made from the mind alone. However, this does not mean everything you think will come true. You must have adequate spiritual skill. If your spiritual skill is sufficient and you recite the Buddha’s name, you let go of absolutely everything.
If all day you detest the sufferings of the Saha world. Everyday we experience the “evil age of the five turbidities.” That is, the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidity, and the life turbidity. These are turbid things. We are vexed by these sufferings in the Saha World. One cuts off thoughts of mundane defilements. Mundane defilements refer to lust between men and women. Once we cut off lust, we can say that we have given up mundane defilements. Make rebirth in Ultimate Bliss your mind’s essential aim. You must regard the wish to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss as extremely important. Renounce defiled thoughts and pure thoughts you will find. The absence of defiled thoughts is pure thought. That’s the Pure Land practice. You may now ask questions.
Q: Since the Pure Land is the one Buddha-vehicle, so that when ten thousand people cultivate it, ten thousand people will be reborn there, why are there three levels and nine grades of lotuses?
A: Although the Pure Land practice teaches that 10,000 out of 10,000 people who cultivate will be reborn there, those who get reborn have cultivated for a long time. Now their cultivation has matured, so they can go there. It’s not something that is accomplished in just one lifetime. If people encounter the Amitabha Sutra and recite Amitabha’s name, the Sutra says, “It’s not just from the good roots planted with one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas” that one is able to encounter this dharma door. You have planted good roots with limitless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, or billions of Buddhas in the past, so you now can encounter this supreme Buddha Dharma.
Why are there nine grades of lotuses? People have different faculties and natures. Some are vigorous and don’t have any doubts, so when they sincerely do the Pure Land practice and recite the Buddha’s name, they can be reborn in the highest grade. Such people have recited the Buddha’s name and cultivated for a long time. If you are a beginner who has not recited much and you want to be reborn there, you will be reborn in a lower grade of lotus. When you get to the Pure Land, you continue to recite the name of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Your effort will definitely not be in vain. If you contribute one portion of effort, you will receive one portion of results. If you contribute ten portions of effort, you will receive ten portions of results. Everything is fair.
This dharma suits all beings of different faculties, sharp or dull; it doesn’t discriminate between the different grades. What’s the difference between those who have sharp faculties and those with dull faculties? When they get there, they are all the same. Some are reborn from a higher grade and some from a lower grade. Regardless of what grade they are, they cannot fall to a lower state, since the three evil paths do not exist there. All receive equal treatment, and none are treated unfairly. However, if you don’t have enough spiritual skill, how can you be reborn from the highest grade?
Q: The Venerable Master mentioned that when people are reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, they will never fall to a lower state again. So, is it possible for someone to hide inside the lotus flower and never come out?
A: If you can hide in there, that would not be bad! If you get a chance, you can try to hide inside there.
Q: The Three Sages of the Western Pure Land are Amitabha Buddha, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, and Great Strength Bodhisattva. Why don’t we normally recite the name of Great Strength Bodhisattva? Also, I don’t know anything about Great Strength Bodhisattva. We call them the Three Sages of the Western Pure Land, but why does it seem like Great Strength Bodhisattva has nothing to do with us?
A: It’s because people don’t have great affinities with Great Strength Bodhisattva. Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva has the heart of great compassion. Great Strength Bodhisattva has great power. Every time he moves, the ground shakes, and people get scared and do not dare to get close to him.The people in the Saha world are scared of earthquakes, so they are also scared of Great Strength Bodhisattva. [The audience laughs]
Q: Should I focus on reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s name, or both?
A: If you like to recite Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Guan Yin Bodhisattva will come to welcome you [to the Pure Land]. If you like to recite Amitabha Buddha, Amitabha Buddha will come to welcome you. Reciting either name is better than not reciting. It is only to be feared that you forget to recite Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and also forget to recite Amitabha Buddha.
Q: Can we skip the mother bead on the recitation beads that we commonly use during Buddha recitation? Some people say that it can be skipped. However, I heard others say that it helps us to concentrate.
A: Recitation beads help you concentrate and get rid of your false thoughts. That’s their primary purpose. Whether you skip it or not is not important. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s because you don’t understand that you entertain such wrong ideas. This is a wrong theory that confuses people. It sounds very interesting, like recitation beads that can dance. [Audience laughs]. Buddhists need to believe in what’s true. Recitation beads are used to concentrate. It’s to help you count recitations and be mindful. If you truly recite the Buddha’s name, you don’t need anything. “If you use your true mind to recite the Buddha’s name, you don’t need your mouth. If you use your true mind to offer incense, you don’t need your hands.”
Each has his own affinities; everyone is different. You see one person recite the Buddha’s name with recitation beads and get reborn (in the Pure Land). Another person tries to use recitation beads, but isn’t reborn. Each has his own causes and conditions. It was said that 10,000 out of 10,000 people who cultivate will attain rebirth. However, sometimes 10,000 out of 10,000 people cultivate and don’t attain rebirth. There are no fixed dharmas, but only fixed people. People can be fixed, but not dharmas. If you cannot concentrate, then regardless of what dharma you cultivate, you will be distracted by external states. If you can concentrate, you will be single-minded and unconfused.
In the Pure Land practice, one relies on the power of the Buddha to be reborn in the Pure Land. Even though we say we can be reborn through the power of Amitabha Buddha’s vows, if you don’t recite, it won’t work. Even Amitabha Buddha cannot help you. So, you need to use your own power. You need to “end your own birth and death, just as you eat your own fill.” If you don’t recite the Buddha’s name, then Amitabha Buddha has no way to help you. He wants to welcome you (to the Pure Land), but you don’t want to go. Amitabha Buddha is compassionate and hopes that all beings can be reborn in his Land of Ultimate Bliss and endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss. But you fight with Amitabha Buddha and say, “I don’t want to enjoy every bliss; I just want to suffer.” In that case, even Amitabha Buddha cannot help you. He will only worry about you.