Gaining Buddhahood Through Amitabha-Recitation Is the Teaching of the Buddhas
“Gaining Buddhahood through Amitabha-recitation is the teaching of the Buddhas.” That is to say, “reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha” and thereby “gaining Buddhahood” is the goal of Buddhism. If we recite but do not become a Buddha, that is not the purpose of Buddhist teaching.
To learn the Dharma, we must first take refuge in the Three Gems. Yet taking refuge is not the goal but the first step, the foundation. The ultimate end of taking refuge is to attain Buddhahood. If not, it isn’t true learning of the Dharma or the taking of refuge. So it is with Amitabha-recitation. If the final purpose isn’t to become a Buddha, the practice is not real Amitabha-recitation.
There are four methods of “nianfo” (invocation or recollection of a Buddha). They are invocation at the level of absolute reality, meditative invocation, invocation by visualization and oral invocation of the Buddha’s name. The nianfo we speak of is not the first three kinds, but the fourth – recitation of the name. Of the four varieties, “name-recitation” is the simplest, most direct and most widespread. It can be practiced in any era, anywhere and by anyone. It is also the most sublime, surpassing and reliable form. So what we refer to here is name-recitation alone.
As for “Buddha,” there is Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, Bhaisajyaguru (Medicine) Buddha, Aksobhya Buddha. There are Buddhas of the past and future, the 1,000 Buddhas and the 10,000 Buddhas … Which Buddha’s name do we recite? Not those of the past and future Buddhas, and not those of the 1,000 and 10,000 Buddhas. We recite only “Namo Amitabha Buddha.”
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings