The Principal Book of Won-Buddhism

Part Three : Practice

Chapter Three: The Dharma of Reciting the Buddha’s Name

A. The Essential Purport of Reciting the Buddha’s Name

As a rule, reciting the Buddha’s name is a method of practice that focuses the spirit that is distracted among myriad things into a single thought and settles the mind that is wavering amid favorable or adverse sensory conditions. “Nammu Amit’abul” (Homage to Amitābha Buddha, the Buddha of Limitless Life), the phrase that is used in recitation of the Buddha’s name, means to take refuge in the “Limitless Life enlightenment.” In the past, one recited the holy name of Amitābha, wishing to be reborn in the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss by relying on the spiritual power of the Buddha. But we aim to discover the Amitābha of our own mind, thus to return to the Ultimate Bliss of the self-nature. Our minds may be termed “Limitless Life” because they are originally free from both arising and ceasing and “enlightenment” because, moreover, within that state, they are ever-bright and ever-numinous, and free from darkness; this is what we call the Amitābha of our own minds. Our self-natures are originally pure, utterly void of both transgressions and merits, with all suffering eternally extinguished; this is precisely the Ultimate Bliss of the self-natures, which is just as it is and unchanging. Therefore, people who are reciting the Buddha’s name, by first understanding this principle, by taking as their foundation one’s own mind that is without arising or ceasing, and by being aware of the single thought that is free of coming and going, should let the spirit that is distracted among myriad things rest on the single thought of Amitābha, and have the mind that is wavering in favorable and adverse sensory conditions return to the realm of effortless and calm bliss; this is the authentic practice of reciting the Buddha’s name.

B. The Method of Reciting the Buddha’s Name

The method of reciting the Buddha’s name is so extremely simple and easy that anyone can do it:
1. When reciting the Buddha’s name, maintain an erect posture and settle your energy, and don’t swing or shake the body.
2. Don’t make your voice either too loud or too soft, but keep it at a level appropriate to your energy.
3. Concentrate your spirit only on the one sound of the recitation of the Buddha’s name, watching over the one thought in conjunction with the recitation phrase so that the one thought and the voice will continue on together.
4. When reciting the Buddha’s name, let go of each and every thought, and maintain a relaxed mentality and an effortless state of mind. Do not entertain other thoughts, such as seeking the Buddha outside, or imagining the physical characteristics of Amitābha or the splendors of the land of Ultimate Bliss.
5. To get hold of the mind, it may be helpful to count with meditation beads or to keep a rhythm by striking a wooden clacker or drum.
6. If the mind is troubled by various distracting thoughts whenever you are working on a certain matter or in various postures such as walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, it may be helpful to counteract those distracting thoughts by reciting the Buddha’s name. However, when, to the contrary, the recitation does not become one with the spirit of what you are doing, it is better to stop.
7. Reciting the Buddha’s name constantly reflects on the original state of one’s mind nature. When you are faced with vexations or when greed arises, settle yourself by reciting the Buddha’s name. When you are drawn by favorable sensory conditions or repelled by adverse sensory conditions, settle yourself by reciting the Buddha’s name. For persons who know the truth of reciting the Buddha’s name, the one sound of the recitation will enable them to conquer myriad perverse demons; and although reciting the phrase with their lips but without a suitable measure of one-pointedness will have very little effect, they will realize samādhi if they have a suitable measure of one-pointedness even while reciting the Buddha’s name silently.

C. The Merit of Reciting the Buddha’s Name

If one recites the Buddha’s name for a long period of time, one will naturally gain the samādhi of Buddha recitation and be gratified by ultimate bliss, which is one’s goal. The specifics of these merits are identical to those of seated meditation.
However, since recitation of the Buddha’s name and seated meditation are two aspects of the single subject of spiritual cultivation, if a practitioner’s defilements are excessive, the distracted spirit is first to be counteracted by Buddha recitation and the practitioner is subsequently to be led into that genuine realm of consummate quiescence through seated meditation. Furthermore, as far as the time of day is concerned, recitation of the Buddha’s name is more appropriate during the daytime or when one is faced with various kinds of external sensory conditions; seated meditation is more appropriate in the evening and in early morning or when one is far from such external sensory conditions. If practitioners apply well the recitation of the Buddha’s name or seated meditation at the appropriate occasion by constantly examining their particular surroundings and by assessing their mental states, the two will form one continuous practice until they easily attain the great power of absorption.