Venerable Ling Che was the 8th Patriarch of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism.
He said that there were 3 ways of reciting the Buddha’s name:
- Vajra Recitation – silent repetition with lips moving
So you can choose which way you want to recite Namo Amitofo, depending on your circumstances.
This is good for when you’re in amongst a lot of people in day to day life who may or may not be Buddhists. So you can recite Namo Amitofo silently to maintain your mindfulness and not disturb other people around you.
The drawback of this method is say there’s loud talking or music – it can drown out and overpower your mental recitation.
It’s also good for when you’re really tired – too tired to recite aloud or to even mouth the words. So it’s really good for conserving energy whilst staying mindful of the Buddha.
This can help you focus because you hear your own recitation with your ears. It’s also good when you’re in an assembly of other people who are reciting Namo Amitofo together. So you all recite together in harmony and in unison!
The drawback of this method is if you recite too loudly – you can waste your energy. So your energy can be dissipated really quickly – so you may not be able to recite for that long.
Also, if you recite aloud in public whilst not in a Buddhist context – you can disturb other people.
This is the best method. Here you recite silently but with your lips moving or with a very soft voice or whisper.
Here, you’re not wasting energy with a loud voice – so you can go longer. And here you can hear your own voice recite the words – so it helps you focus and stay mindful of the Buddha’s name.
Lessons from Master Ling Che:
- Silent repetition may lead to dizziness and
- Repetition in a high pitch will be laborious
- The tiny continuous voice within the teeth and lips of Vajra repetition is the best of all!
All 3 methods can be used according to one’s circumstances.
If your mind has been confused for a long time, it can not be fixed at once. One should not worry if the mind is not clear in repeating the Buddha’s name but one must work hard at it to be able to repeat it carefully, word by word and sentence by sentence.
The confused mind is a disease. Repeating the Buddha’s name is the medicine that cures it.
If the confused mind can not be cured – it is because hasn’t repeated the Buddha’s name sincerely.
When the mind is confused, one has to work harder at it and repeat carefully until every word and sentence is correct – and the confusion dispersed.
When the mind gets confused, it’s time to practice hard – to fix the mind and prevent it from scattering – after you’ve practiced for a long time, skill will develop and false/misleading thoughts will not arise. By then only reciting the Buddha’s name once will be able to control scattered thinking.
If you do not repeat the Buddha’s name, your false thoughts will arise without ceasing even for a moment (ksana) like how waves keep crashing one after the other. How can you awaken?
So Mindfulness of the Buddha – reciting the Buddha’s name: Namo Amitofo, Namo Amitofo, Namo Amitofo… or Amitofo, Amitofo, Amitofo… is a way of controlling your own mind – reining your mind in just like you rein a horse in to do good work for you.
This is a form of Shamatha meditation (as opposed to it’s complement meditation Vipashyana/Vipassana) where you focus your mind only on 1 object. When your mind starts to wander – gently bring it back to the Buddha’s name patiently over and over and over again. As soon as you realize your mind wandering to get absorbed in scattered thoughts – gently return your attention to Namo Amitofo again and again.
Become one with your recitation. There is only the recitation.
Over time, what you will find is that your scattered thoughts reduce. Whenever a scattered thought arises, it’s like a blip in your mind (like on those cardiac oscilloscope machines where you can see the blip in the heartbeat). Normally, it’s scattered thoughts everywhere – so your mind keeps blipping and blipping all over the place.
When you practice Shamatha – in this case, reciting the Buddha’s name, you are anchoring your mind down to 1 spot – Mindfulness of the Buddha. And preventing it from wandering wherever it goes. So you are preventing any other thoughts from arising in your mind.
Your mind likes to think, so you are intentionally giving it something to think – just 1 thought – Namo Amitofo! And you are preventing other thoughts from arising – preventing your scattered thoughts from arising and blipping up.
Over time, you will be able to catch those scattered thoughts earlier so that the blips arise – but when they do, because of your mindfulness being better, you will catch them earlier and the blips won’t be as big. So over time, your blips of false thoughts will become smaller and smaller – and sometimes, may not even appear any longer. So this is one way of how you can clear your own mind of wandering thoughts.