The Amitabha Buddha Chanting Service focuses on reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, and is one of the most important practices of the Pure Land School. The practice of reciting the Buddha’s name originated from the imprisonment of King Bimbasara and Queen Vaidehi by their son Ajatasatru. In their agony, they bemoaned the endless sins and transgressions of the saha world that bring much pain and suffering. Hence, the Buddha spoke to them on the method of liberation – single-mindedly reciting the Buddha’s name to realize samadhi, gaining great tranquility.
According to the sutras, “Reciting the Buddha’s name gains limitless merits; making a full bow to the Buddha eradicates endless unwholesome karma.” In today’s hectic life, we are always busy with family, career, and money matters, but often ignore the true mind which lives with us day and night, the intrinsic Buddha nature that every one has.
Reciting the Buddha’s name is the easiest method of practice. Through the recitations, we can focus our mind and spirit, using right thoughts to counter delusions, extinguishing the delusive mind. Reciting the Buddha’s name is contemplating our own minds. As we keep reciting, in the end, our thoughts will be clear and pure, and we will understand the mind is the Buddha, the Buddha is the mind. The benefits of reciting the Buddha’s name are endless.
First, all buddhas will be our guardians: It is said in the Amitabha Sutra, “Such good men and good women will be protected and attended to by all buddhas, and they will not digress from anuttarasamyaksambodhi (supreme enlightenment).” People who recite the Buddha’s name will be protected and empowered by the strength of all buddhas. Hence, when we have strength within our mind, we will have no fear and we will not digress from the path.
Second, we will often meet with benevolent friends: “One who loves another will always be loved by others; one who respects another will always be respected by others.” Humble Table, Wise Fare states, “When our minds become focused in reciting the Buddha’s name, we benefit ourselves; when others give rise to faith by observing us doing so, we benefit others.” Since like-minded people tend to stay together, when we recite the Buddha’s name, we only think of benevolent people. With a pure mind we will greet others with wholesomeness, and benevolent friends will naturally gather around us.
Third, we will be complete in merits and wisdom: “With one recitation of namo Buddha, all will attain buddhahood.” One recitation of the Buddha’s name embraces endless meaning, and we will be mindful of the virtues and auspiciousness of all buddhas which consist of infinite merits and wisdom. It is said, “The vessel of one recitation of the Buddha’s name can carry away sins and obstructions, so one will not fall into the samsara ocean of suffering. The content of one recitation of the Buddha’s name includes the scriptures of the Tripitaka – the bright light of wisdom.” In continuously reciting the Buddha’s name, we can accomplish a life complete in merits and wisdom. When reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha of infinite virtues, our mind will be contemplating the Buddha with continuous pure thoughts. As such, Amitabha Buddha is our mind, and our mind is Amitabha Buddha; the pure land is here and now, and here and now is the pure land.
Fourth, we will be joyous on passing away: It is indicated in the Sutra of Great Treasures, “By reciting the Buddha’s name loudly, the troops of Mara will withdraw.” Those who recite the Buddha’s name will have no fear in their minds. With right thoughts arising, they do not fear falling into hell or being reborn in the realms of animals or hungry ghosts. As we age, we can pass time by reciting the Buddha’s name, and when the end of life arrives, the Western Pure Land will manifest itself. We will be consoled and joyous on passing.
Renowned Chinese poet Bai Juyi wrote a wonderful verse which puts it so well, “I am almost seventy and can no longer engage in writing poetry. Reading the sutras is hard on the eyes, and cultivating merits too tiring. What is there to console my heart then? A recitation of Amitabha – Amitabha in the morning, Amitabha in the evening! Though life may be hectic and as fleeting as an arrow, I depart not from Amitabha. My advice to all beings in the dharma realms, come recite Amitabha together.” A well-cultivated person can harmonize reciting the Buddha’s name with life. The continuous recitations of the Buddha’s name should be as natural as drinking water, eating a meal, sleeping, brushing our teeth or washing ourselves. As such, we benefit from reciting the Buddha’s name here and now.
IBPS Dallas conducts the Amitabha Chanting Service to celebrate the birthday of the Buddha. We hope that devotees coming from different directions can let go of all their conditions, calm their senses, and recite the Buddha’s name single-mindedly, cultivating pure karma together. We should contemplate the sacred name of Amitabha Buddha joyfully, sadly, emptily or solidly, and transfer the inconceivable merits of the Buddha to all sentient beings, so they can be reborn in the pure land. “As the lotus blooms, we see the Buddha and become enlightened to birthlessness. The non-digressing bodhisattvas are our companions.”
During the Chanting service, if we can all be mindful of Amitabha while walking, Amitabha when sitting, keeping the compassion and wisdom of Amitabha Buddha in every thought, and practice the same in our lives afterwards, all benevolent people will certainly be assembling together. Then, a harmonious society and world peace will not be far off!