Amitabha Has Been Thinking of You for Ten Kalpas and Waiting for You to Recite His Name in Your Lifetime
By Master Jueyue
When it comes to feelings,
No one in the whole world feels more deeply for us than Amitabha Buddha
[Amituofo in Chinese].
For over ten kalpas
He has been abiding in his name, quietly,
Yearning for us and calling us
To recite his name, Namo Amituofo.
The Buddha has been thinking of us for ten kalpas,
It’s enough for him to see us reciting his name during our lifetime.
The most beautiful thing in this life is that
I am reciting Namo Amituofo in the Saha world,
While the Buddha awaits me in his name.
As we recite the Buddha’s name, we no longer dwell in the Saha world,
Instead, we are residing in the Buddha’s mind,
In the name of Namo Amituofo
Let us take a look at how Amituofo
Turns us into Buddhas through our reciting his name.
01 Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
Namo Amituofo. Let us talk about the psychic power of ESP.
I wonder if you’ve ever experienced a situation where you are thinking about someone and then out of the blue, that person calls. This happens especially if you two are closely related.
Our teacher Master Jingzong once told me that sometimes when he was thinking about something and wanted to discuss it with his mentor, the Venerable Master (Master Huijing) then, unexpectedly, the master would just call him and help him solve the problem. This is probably the ESP between Master Huijing and our teacher at work. They were on the same wavelength when they were both thinking about the teachings of Pure Land Path. Since Amitabha reciters are residing in the Buddha’s name, the Buddha knows what’s on their minds and what is troubling them. He then arranges for someone who has a karmic connection with them to lend them a hand.
That’s why Master Huijing often tells us:
If you miss me, recite Amitabha’s name.
Like you, I dwell in the six-character name too.
Naturally, when we Amitabha-reciters need the help of the Venerable Master, we cannot expect him to call us [as he did Master Jingzong], but we will be in his compassionate thoughts, and receive the direct blessings of Amituofo. And, perhaps, the answer we've been seeking will suddenly become clear. In fact, the psychic power of telepathy can be felt not only by Amitabha-reciters but also by those who are close to each other, such as family members. If one is in trouble, the other will sense it too.
A filial disciple of Confucius named Zengzi was one day out on a mountain cutting firewood when some relatives went to visit his mother at home. Not being good at entertaining guests, his mother got very anxious and was desperate for Zengzi to come home soon to help her out. Out of anxiety, and without realizing it, she bit her finger. As the saying goes: a mother’s heart connects to her son’s. All of a sudden, Zengzi could sense his mother’s apprehension, and he felt a pang in his heart. He realized that his mother must be calling him about something urgent. He immediately put down everything and hurried home.
Actually, everyone has got a bit of a six sense. Those with stronger psychic ability may be able to send out telepathetic waves to strangers as well as to close friends and relatives. For instance, if a person of strong psychic ability tries to get the attention of someone walking in front of him by concentrating his mind on it, that someone may turn his head round without being aware of it.
02 Concentrating on the Buddha name
The Venerable Master has once mentioned a special program — “Photography Using Mind Power.”
What is photography using mind power? It is when a person concentrates his thoughts on something and uses a special camera to take pictures of the images in his thoughts.
However, this special way of taking photographs naturally requires the person to focus his mind with much intensity. Human minds are scattered and never at rest, our thoughts flitting about in 84,000 places at any given moment. It wouldn’t be surprising if the images come out all muddled if the person performing this special photography cannot concentrate with laser focus on his thought. If technology advances so much as to invent cameras that could capture our thoughts, we would not dare go out. Our thoughts are all vile and disgusting and not to be seen.
However, we Amitabha- reciters are not afraid to go out. Our minds may be filled with dark thoughts, but these will dissipate as Amitabha Buddha embraces us with his light. The images revealed may all be those of Amitabha. Even though we cannot concentrate because of our scattered and racing thoughts, that should not present a problem either since the Buddha resides on top of Amitabha-reciters’ heads.
The name of Amituofo is his light and his Dharma body. The Buddha’s virtue and merit are condensed into the six-character name, and are most concentrated and focused.
The function of the name Namo Amituofo is to focus on saving sentient beings. That has been the mission of Amitabha Buddha ever since he made his vow in the causal ground: he vowed that all sentient beings who recite his name will be reborn in his land and, should he fail to do so, may he not attain buddhahood. The Buddha is single-minded about his mission.
Amitabha-reciters are very blessed. Whether we recite Amitabha's name with a scattered mind, a focused mind, or even when we are crying, the Buddha’s name has the power of concentration — the power that leads us to rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
The name has the power of Amitabha’s concentration and we, on our part, should recite the Buddha's name single-mindedly and exclusively.
03 The mind power of Amitabha
The human mind can not only project images into the brain and have them captured by a special camera, it can even do incredible wonders if it is highly focused.
In the late Song and early Yuan dynasties, the great painter Zhao Ziang was particularly fond of painting horses.
On one occasion, he had to paint 108 horses and had already completed 107 of them, with the last one being a horse that had fallen on its back with all four legs in the air. He had spent a lot of time with horses, observing their temperament, expressions, movements, shapes, and so on. But he had never seen one spread-eagled on its back, so how could he paint that one?
Concentrating greatly by day and night, when he was eating, working and even sleeping, he tried to the point of obsession to conjure up images of the horse in that position. Then, one day, before taking forty winks, he was still contemplating the horse on its back with all four legs up, and he dozed off.
Just then, his wife entered the room for a rest. She lifted the mosquito net that was over the bed, and nearly jumped out of her skin because of what she saw: a horse was lying on the bed with its four legs in the air, and her husband was nowhere to be seen. She was deeply shocked and let out a big cry. She fell, hit her head on the doorstep and passed out.
Zhao Ziang had transformed into this horse and then changed back to himself after being awakened by the commotion. He didn’t know what had happened until being told by his wife. Ever since, he has been baffled by the curious incident. It was inconceivable to him that he had become a horse.
Later, when his “yuan” (connection) with the Buddha matured, he consulted a Dharma master who said, “The mind manifests the Three Realms. If we have been perceiving something for a long time, it gradually creates the karmic force which manifests that thing. So if you’ve been constantly thinking of horses and imitating them to such an extent that they have taken over your subconscious mind, you will become a horse.”
Zhao had an epiphany. He wondered: If the subjects of my painting are horses, I could become one if I always think of them; then wouldn’t I become a Buddha or a Bodhisattva if I paint them and have them on my mind all the time? After that, Zhao changed his style of painting. He no longer painted horses or other animals; he only painted images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Is it possible that we can really become a Buddha if we focus our minds on the Buddha and visualize him intently?
Zhang Ziang turned himself into a horse as a result of his laser-like focus on the animal. That was quite a feat. Horses belong to the three evil realms. If a person spends his whole life engrossed with horses, even if he fails to assume the look of a horse in this life, the chances are that he may succeed in his next life. It is not that difficult to become a horse. It can be explained by the principle of karma: whatever action one takes will lead to some corresponding consequence.
However, if we want to become a Buddha using our own mind power, it is extremely difficult to visualize the Buddha - an impossibility for ordinary beings. We don’t even know what Amitabha Buddha looks like. We can’t imagine the white light emitted from between his eyebrows, let alone the majestic appearance of the Buddha (made up of the 32 major characteristics and 80 minor characteristics).
If we recite the name of the Buddha even with a distracted mind, and cannot concentrate on the Buddha, not knowing what Amituofo looks like, as long as we practice Amitabha-recitation, we can become a Buddha.
That is achieved by the mind power of Amitabha, not ours.
The Sutra on the Visualization of the Buddha of the Infinite Life reads:
All the Buddha Tagathagas have bodies of the dharma realm, and so enter into the meditating mind of each sentient being. For this reason, when you contemplate the Buddha, your mind itself takes the form of his thirty-two major and eighty secondary characteristics. Your mind produces the Buddha’s image and is itself the Buddha.
The reason we are able to think of the Buddha and recite his name is that Amituofo comes to us of his own accord, melts the iceberg of our transgressions with the light of his name, slowly revealing the life of our Buddha nature, and ripens the roots of our potentiality so that we are willing to practice Amitabha-recitation.
When we recite the Buddha’s name, Namo Amituofo, his majestic physical characteristics, and his infinite light and virtues are manifested in our minds. We are in Amituofo’s mind, and Amituofo is in our minds. Amituofo and we are one and inseparable.
The moment we recite Amitabha’s name, we at once assume the appearance of the Buddha. However, unless we have the special yuan (the right condition and circumstances), we do not manifest it because we are still in the Saha’s world.
In Japan during the time of Master Honen (1133-1212), there was a pilferer named Mimishiro. One day while he was stealing something, he heard Master Honen speaking of the unconditional deliverance by Amitabha Buddha. He decided to give up his life as a petty thief and started practicing Amitabha-recitation. However, his former bad companions wanted him to remain in the low life. When he flatly refused, they got him drunk and dumped him in the middle of nowhere, about to kill him.
At that very moment, they saw the sleeping Mimishiro suddenly transforming into a golden Buddha. They were all blown away and had a change of heart: they all started reciting the name of the Buddha. Did Mimishiro become a golden Buddha in his sleep by his own power? Not at all, it was the power of Amitabha at work. The Buddha empowers those who recite his name to have the same merits as him, including manifesting his image.
04 The Buddha’s Mind Power Firmly Upholds Us
Though we are still ordinary beings, we can recite Amitabha’s name without any worries for our whole life till our rebirth to the Pure Land. This is because we are firmly supported by the power of the Buddha’s mind, merits and Vows.
Once we have left the Saha world and arrived at the Buddha land, we will be manifesting the look of the Buddha.
Master Tanlun, in his Commentary on the Treatise on Rebirth in the Pure Land, used two stories to describe the sustaining power of the Buddha’s mind.
The first story: A swan resurrected its master, Zi- an, by thinking of him single-heartedly.
Zi-an once rescued a Yellow Hu (an ancient Chinese name for a swan). After his death, the bird, unwilling to leave his master, flew to his grave every day, with a mind full of gratitude and wishing to repay Zi-an’s kindness, persistently calling his name: “Zian! Zian!” After calling like this for three years, Zi-an came back to life.
If a bird has mind power that can raise someone from the dead, think what the mighty mind power of the Buddha can do.
Amitabha has been calling us for not just three years, but for the last ten kalpas. He has been doing that with his name: “Namo Amitabha [Namo Amituofo], wake up, my child, come back home!” This is just so our Buddha-nature, lying dormant in samsara, can wake up to recite his name and be reborn in the Pure Land.
Today, after ten kalpas, we are finally awakened by Amituofo’s calling, reciting his name and going home to his Pure Land.
And Amituofo continues to call those who are still slumbering in the dream of the three domains so that one day their Buddha-nature will be awakened. They will start reciting the Buddha’s name and attain Buddhahood.
The second story - the mind power of a mother fish protects her eggs.
A mother fish laid her eggs in the summer but the roe had not yet hatched to be fish when the water dried up in winter. However, the roe survived the dry riverbed because their mother’s mind preserved and protected them. And the following summer, the eggs all hatched to be little fishes when the river was flooded with water again. If the mind power of the mother fish can protect her eggs during the dry season, imagine what Amituofo’s mind power can do.
We all are Amituofo’s most cherished children; even when we are wandering in the cycle of birth and death in the six-realm samsara, with his mind power and his infinite light, the compassionate father Amituofo embraces and protects our Buddha nature and our virtuous roots. As a result, our Buddha nature can remain alive and well even when we are shrouded in the darkness of ignorance.
When the ‘yuan’ (the right time and conditions) is ripe, our dormant Buddha-nature will be activated, and we ordinary beings will become Buddhas, like the roe turns into little fish. That is the power of the Buddha’s caring thoughts of us.
05 Becoming a Buddha by Buddha’s mind power
Therefore, attaining perfect enlightenment by thinking of Amitabha is achieved by the Buddha’s power, not our efforts. As Amituofo focuses his mind upon us and touches our hearts, we begin to recite his name and will be reborn in his land to become Buddhas.
There is a saying that “A mother’s thought of her child is as long as the flow of a river, but a child’s thought of his mother is only as short as a foot.” In the overall scheme of the cycle of life and death, the time we spend on thinking of the Buddha and reciting his name is very brief indeed. Our minds are filled with the five desires and six aggregates only.
But Amituofo has always been thinking of us, calling us, and protecting our virtuous roots, which would perish in no time without the protection of the Buddha’s compassionate mind power.
The fact that we were born as human beings in this lifetime with virtuous roots, have the chance to hear the name of Amituofo, and upon hearing it, develop deep faith in the Buddha is due to the power of Amituofo’s kind thoughts of us. The same is true with our aspiring to be reborn in the Pure Land and reciting “Namo Amituofo”.
The great power of the Buddha’s mind is like a huge magnet. All sentient beings in the ten directions are children of Amituofo, are attracted to him, and gradually move closer and closer to the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Although Amituofo exercises his mind power to all sentient beings in the same non-discriminatory way, our karmic yuan (connection) with the Buddha is different from person to person, and thus the timing of our returning to the Land of Ultimate Bliss varies. Some of us are like large iron nails, others as small as iron shavings, or shavings mixed with clods of earth, or even wrapped in plastic bags. Naturally, there is a difference in the force of attraction experienced by them.
In any case, all sentient beings in the ten directions are in the embrace of Amituofo’s powerful mind. Sooner or later, all of us will be attracted by the name of Amituofo, will be willing to recite it, and will be reborn in the Pure Land by manifestation in the lotus flower of the Buddha. We will all have the same solemn and majestic appearance as Amituofo.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team; edited by Householder Fojin)
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
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