If not Amituofo’s Name, Whose Name Shall I Recite?
At sunset, the gloaming drum sounds urgent and alarming,
Reminding us of the unbearable pain and sorrow of the Saha World.
As I am thinking about all that is mundane and transcendental in life,
The only path out of misery is reciting Amituofo; if not, what else can we do?
These verses are profoundly stunning to the heart and soul. Like the sun rising and setting, life evolves from birth to death, young to old, in its mundane finality. So the saying goes, “the setting sun is beautiful, though it is near the twilight.” All the suffering and happiness are gone; even if happiness finally comes after suffering, and one is able to enjoy their old age, impermanence is still pressing. It does not wait for you to become sick and old. Whenever it arrives, death follows.
“The pressing dusk drum.” There are “dawn bells and dusk drums” in every Buddhist temple. At dusk, the drum starts out slowly and then gets faster and faster, urging us on; as we enter our twilight years and have little time left, we should let go of things in this world, including family and business, and leave a last will about inheritance so that we can leave this world without worries or regrets.
“The realms of the Saha World are full of sorrow and misery.” “Saha” means “to endure”; it is the name of our world, the six-realm samsara, which is immense and is pure suffering. If we call the three evil reams pure agony and the heavens pure joy, then the human realm would be part joy and part suffering. In the final analysis, all realms are but suffering.
The Buddha said that there are three kinds of feelings: suffering, pleasure (enjoyment), and neither suffering nor enjoyment.
The so-called "suffering" refers to what we face as pain-inflicting in itself. It includes physical ailments, as well as emotional ailments like an unhappy love relationship, or an unsuccessful career. Because these feelings are in themselves painful, they are called "painful sufferings." "Enjoyment" is "suffering from deterioration." Now, we are in good health; life is good and fulfilling, but we will eventually face death and be separated from our loved ones. In the end, it is always "former lovers set asunder; once glorious, now no longer." It causes deep pain. "Neither suffering nor enjoyment" means that there is no ailment, frustration, nor adversity that saddens us, nor enjoyment or good news that makes us happy. But there is still loneliness, boredom, and an inexplicable uneasiness in the heart, which is called the "suffering of transiency."
In this way, life is indeed miserable, always and everywhere, so goes the saying. “The realms of the Saha World are full of sorrow and misery.”
In the verse, “As I am thinking about all that is mundane and transcendental in life”, the mundane pathway is the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome practices, and the transcendental pathway includes the Four Noble Truths, the Twelvefold Chain of Dependent Origination, and the Three Studies and the Six Paramita (Perfections) that encompass all the Three Baskets of the Canon and the Twelve Categories of Scripture.
After a thorough and detailed examination and selection of all these ways, what is the conclusion?
I have learned that the mundane pathway does not lead me to liberation, and it is impossible for me to practice the transcendental pathway successfully. The only path to lead me out of the mundane misery and to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss is nianfo, Buddha recitation; hence, the conclusion: if not Amituofo, whose name shall I recite? Otherwise, I would be forever bound in the six-realm samsara.
As Master Daochuo explains, Mahayana Buddhism and its “first-principle truth and ultimate reality” are so profoundly abstract and mysterious that we should not even think about it. The second best Dharma path would be to “contemplate” the Hinayana realm of Arhats, but we are in no position to attain Arhat-hood, not even monastic practitioners are. If we try the least demanding path of rebirth in the realms of the heavens and humans, which is achievable by practicing the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Practices, even then, few practitioners may accomplish them.
What would happen to us if we could not even practice the minimum of the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Acts? What good are we capable of? The Master says:
When it comes to committing evil deeds, we are capable and swift, like a storm.
Therefore, we must have this self-awareness: even the mundane Dharma cannot be fulfilling, let alone the transcendent Dharma! Without the deliverance of Amituofo, no matter if one is a lay Buddhist or a monastic practitioner, in the end, we all are hopelessly lost in the void of darkness.
All of us will be trapped forever in the cycle of birth and death and dwell the longest time in hell. Yet, there is hope, the unconditional deliverance of Amituofo, for his power of vow is invincible and immeasurable. Only by reciting his name can we be saved out of samsara and reborn in his Pure Land.
Amitabha is our infinite life, infinite light. Where there is suffering, there is peace in the Buddha. In his arms, all our past lives are gone and are reborn anew, forever in the Buddha’s light, no more darkness.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Kevin Orro (Fozhu))
 Idiom: “The dawn of the bell, the dusk the drum” symbolizes monastic practice.
 The six realms include the three good realms of the six lowest heavens, the asuras, and humans, and the three evil realms of hungry ghosts, animals, and hells.
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