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 Why Do We Recite Namo Amituofo


       When it comes to Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha), some people may feel that he is distant from us, while others may consider him unreachable. Where is he? How can we connect with him? What does he look like? What is his voice like? All of these aspects seem unfamiliar to us. After all, Amituofo resides in the realm of the Buddhas, while we exist in the realm of ordinary beings. With such a disconnect between the two realms, how can we possibly reach his Pure Land?

       Amituofo reaches out to us through his name. Typically, people recite the Buddha's name with the thought, "I am praying to Amituofo for salvation," and they call out to him, saying, "Namo Amituofo, please come and save me! Please ensure that I can be reborn in your Pure Land." We tend to believe that we are the ones who are calling upon Amituofo. However, according to the teachings of Master Shandao, it is Amituofo who is calling upon us through his revered name.

       Amituofo explicitly urges us in his vows: "If you aspire to be reborn in my land, you will definitely attain rebirth in my Land of Ultimate Bliss!" If these words were merely empty promises, rebirth would be impossible. Here, the Buddha's calling becomes vivid and alive, and the name "Namo Amituofo" resonates deep within us. But where does this name come from? Some claim to have heard it from recordings, while others attribute it to the teachings of their masters. However, these observations only scratch the surface and fail to identify the true source. This name originates from Amituofo’s profound compassion!

       Think of it like watching a television program. We see and hear people on the screen and assume that the broadcast originates from the television set itself. However, in truth, it is transmitted from a distant television station. Similarly, when we recite "Namo Amituofo," we receive the essence of Amituofo's call, which has its own source. If that source were within our transient hearts or worldly realm it would fail, since our hearts are impermanent. How, then, could we find the path to liberation? When we recite the name of Amituofo, we are on the receiving end of the benefits embodied in that name, the source of which lies in the distant Land of Ultimate Bliss.

       Although the abode of Amituofo may seem distant, trillions of Buddha lands away, the Visualization Sutra assures us that "Amituofo is not far away." With just a few syllables of his name, which emanate from his compassionate heart, Amituofo establishes a profound connection with sentient beings.  Even before attaining Buddhahood, as Bhikkhu Dharmakara, he sent out a universal call to all sentient beings in every direction, proclaiming: "I will guide you to my Pure Land! How will I accomplish this? Through cultivating immeasurable merit and virtue over countless lifetimes, infusing them into my name. By relying on my name, all sentient beings burdened by sin shall be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. How should you rely on my name? Simply recite 'Namo Amituofo.' It is an effortless practice, and through it, you shall enter my Pure Land.”

       Thanks to Amituofo's heartfelt call, we now have the opportunity to recite "Namo Amituofo." The name we recite carries within its sacred syllables great significance. Even for a beggar, clad in tattered garments and bearing the marks of destitution, uttering a single "Namo Amituofo” would be an extraordinary occurrence.  Let us reflect upon our own journey in Dharma practice and ask ourselves: “Did we actively seek out Namo Amituofo, or were we graciously summoned by the Buddha?”

       We may think, "It was my neighbours, relatives, or Buddhist friends who urged me to learn the Buddha Dharma and recite Amitabha's name." In reality, they are not the true motivation. They are merely external conducive factors. The fundamental power comes from Amitabha Buddha's vows. In The Sutra of Infinite Life, there is a Gatha that goes like this:

“When I attain Buddhahood,
My name will be heard throughout the ten directions;
Should there be any place where it is not heard,
May I not attain perfect enlightenment.”

       Therefore, when we hear the name of Amituofo today, it is not due to our keen hearing but because the Buddha actively brings it to us from a distant place.

       In truth, the wisdom of the Buddha knows no bounds and manifests itself in myriad unfathomable ways. This includes the utilisation of reciting machines, which can be described as “the manifestation by Amituofo to spread the sound of Dharma.” One may ask, “What’s so remarkable about this plastic device?” Indeed, the plastic device itself may not hold much significance, but the name it recites, “Namo Amituofo”, is truly extraordinary. The Buddha wishes the sound of Dharma to be disseminated, and the sound of Dharma is the salvational sound of the name of Amituofo. It spreads widely in various ways - in the form of a reciting machine, enabling us to hear it; or of a written note, posted prominently for us to see; or it may be recited by fellow practitioners, allowing us to listen; or even as a song sung by Ji Gong in the TV series based on The Biography of Monk Ji Gong. In that series there is a catchy number even young children can sing:

Shoes are worn, hats are torn,
His robe is tattered and worn…
Namo Amituofo, Namo Amituofo.

       Through inconceivable causes and circumstances, the name of Amituofo reaches far and wide, enabling everyone to come into contact with it and gain an understanding. Our encounter with the name is passive, as it is not something that we can actively seek out.

       Amituofo actively reaches out to save us, and this initiative dates back to countless eons ago when he was Dharmakara Bodhisattva. He resolutely made vows on our behalf, fully aware of the critical nature of our situation, without wasting time consulting us. We simply enjoy the benefits without any involvement in his Forty-eight vows. It is Amituofo's Great Vow that encompasses all sentient beings in his compassionate embrace. He alone shoulders the responsibility of saving us all. Therefore, when we recite Namo Amituofo, we should remember that Amituofo keeps us in mind and genuinely desires our salvation. This brings us a profound closeness to the Buddha and a deep sense of security.


(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)

Excerpt from "The Gist of the Pure Land School."




Master Huijing

Master Huijing

Master Jingzong

Master Jingzong

Guiding Principles

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