Special Topics

Q2 : To perform Buddha-name recitation, should we limit ourselves to only reciting Amitabha Buddha"? Or would reciting several Buddhas’ names afford additional blessings and protection?

Reciting any Buddha's name not only refers to reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, but actually encompasses all buddhas and bodhisattvas.

The method of Buddha-name recitation originated from the approach of Six Recollections. According to Scroll 33 in the Samyuktagama, there was a time when Shakyamuni Buddha and his sangha members were near the end of their summer retreat at Kapilavastu and were about to set out wandering and teaching elsewhere. Upon hearing this, Mahanama, the eldest son of King Dronodana, rushed to the vihara, attempting to stop them from leaving. The departure of the great spiritual teacher had left Mahanama's mind unsettled; he especially felt saddened by not knowing if or when he would receive the Buddha's teaching again. Knowing this, the Buddha then comforted Mahanama by teaching him that, whether or not one can be near the Buddha or the assembly of bhikshus, one should practice the Six Recollections: recollection of the Buddha, recollection of the Dharma, recollection of the Sangha, recollection of virtue (morality), recollection of generosity, and recollection of gods (deities). Recollection of the Buddha, in particular, means that one should constantly remember the Buddha's virtues and deeds, by contemplating how the Buddha had gone through the samsara of birth and death, and finally transcended it, attaining ultimate enlightenment and liberation. By recollecting on the Buddha, we establish a sincere devotion and develop in loving compassion, wisdom, and the mind of renunciation, which in turn helps us leave behind the afflictions of greed, aversion and ignorance.

The method of recollecting the Buddha underwent a significant development with the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism. With the growing popularity of Buddha statues and paintings, the approach evolved from the recollection of the Buddha's virtues and deeds to that of the Buddha's excellent bodily characteristics. The practice initially centered around recollecting Śākyamuni Buddha; later, however, the idea extended to all Buddhas of the ten directions in the universe. After Buddhism spread to China, with the Pure Land Buddhist teaching eventually rising to prominence, the idea gradually shifted to focusing on reciting Amitabha Buddha's name.

As to whether reciting several Buddhas'names will bring more blessing and protection for the practitioner, this notion stems from a similar misunderstanding that simply by engaging in diverse kinds of regular daily practice, one will automatically gain more merit or advance in one's practice. In fact, the Buddhas of all ten directions, despite their differing epithets, arise from the same all-encompassing wisdom and virtue. Their different names, such as Amitābha, Bhaiṣajyaguru, Maitreya, and Akṣobhya, actually reflect their respective vows and manifested bodies (nirmanakaya). The point of reciting the Buddha's name lies in how well we can concentrate our mind, as opposed to the number of recitations. Beginners are advised to choose a Buddha they identify with the most, and start with a daily recitation practice of 5 to 10 minutes, preferably at a set time of day. By reciting the Buddha’s name, one is empowered by the corresponding response of their compassionate vows. Practice being alone with the Buddha or Bodhisattva, and we’ll naturally develop in wisdom and merit, thereby enjoying peace and fortune.

Extended Reading:

Let's Recite the Buddha's Name

Q1: Why do Buddhists always greet each other with "Buddha Amitabha (Amituofo, in Chinese)"?

Q2 : To perform Buddha-name recitation, should we limit ourselves to only reciting Amitabha Buddha"? Or would reciting several Buddhas'names afford additional blessings and protection?

Q3: Is reciting the Buddha's name a practice exclusively for the sick and the elderly?

Q4: Are prayer beads or counters necessary when reciting the Buddha's name?

Q5: What is the difference between reciting the Buddha's name and chanting a dharani?

Q6: Is it proper to recite the Buddha chant while having a shower or using the toilet?

Q7: When ill, is it more effective to recite the name of Medicine Buddha or Guanyin Bodhisattva?

Resource: Issue 392 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Shu-ting Zhong (鍾淑婷)
Translation: Vicky Wei (韋徵儀) 
Editing: Chia-chen Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown