Venerable Shen-Kai Answers
To many "Amitabha Buddha" is a symbol of Buddhism. To some practitioners of Buddhism chanting or reciting "Amitabha Buddha" is a method of cultivation. What is the meaning of Amitabha Buddha, what is the intent in chanting "Amitabha Buddha and how does this work? Once again, the Bliss Compass endeavours to dispel any misconception and show us the blissful culture of Buddhism.
1. We often hear of Buddhism practitioners chanting Amitabha Buddha; what is the meaning of Amitabha?
Amitabha means infinite brightness, infinite life and infinite merits. Indeed, it means infinity of all that is good. Generally, people only know that Teacher of the Western Pure Land (or Western Paradise) is Amitabha Buddha. But they do not know that they also have within themselves a Pure Land and Amitabha. This is known as the 'Pure Land of the Mind' and the 'Own-Nature Amitabha'.
2. Since we also have Amitabha Buddha in our mind, how should we cultivate so that we can manifest our Own-nature Amitabha?
i. If somebody scolds me with unkind words, I shall respond by saying "Amitabha Buddha". By this, not only am I not accepting the abuse, in contrast the infinite brightness that illumines with the recital of "Amitabha Buddha" eliminates the darkness brought by the abuse.
ii. If somebody gives me a present, I shall say "Amitabha Buddha". By this I mean, "thank you very much". Therefore, not only do we have infinite brightness in our heart, by virtue of giving the giver shall have infinite blessings and merits as well. In this way, we are in spiritual union with Amitabha Buddha.
iii. If I see someone who is well endowed, good-looking, kind and peaceful, I shall remark "Amitabha Buddha". By this, I congratulate the person for having such attributes similar to the Amitabha Buddha. I compliment him as Amitabha Buddha to mean that he is similarly well endowed.
iv. If I see a student studying, I shall say "Amitabha Buddha". It is also acceptable if you say that he is very hardworking or very clever. However, sometimes an intelligent person may be fooled by his own intelligence. There is no guarantee that a student who does well in his studies now will definitely grow up to be good. But, when we use the name "Amitabha Buddha" to compliment him, then we evoke the brightness to illumine in him. Not only will he do well in his studies and his career, he will also be a Bodhisattva when he grows up, or even become Buddha someday.
v. If we happen to pass by an abattoir, a place where pigs, cows or other animals are slaughtered, and since we understand that the effect of the karma of killing is rebirth in the realm of hell, and we make a verbal comment to that effect, is it appropriate? While we do not know whether the person who is committing the killing will be reborn in hell, but when we speak of hell, we immediately strike a resonance with hell. Because suffering and darkness prevail in hell, at the mention of the word, we have already struck an accord with suffering and darkness. If we say "Amitabha Buddha" instead, then brightness spontaneously illumines in our mind and the image of the abattoir will not take root in our mind.
vi. If we come across two parties bickering, quarrelling or fighting with each other, we do not join in. By our participation, we plant the cause to be reborn in the realm of the Asura, which is not a desirable thing. We only need to have Amitabha Buddha in our mind and say "Amitabha Buddha" just once, and then in future we will not be in spiritual union with the beings of the Asura realm.
vii. If we chance on seeing some traders in the market cheating on the scales, we immediately say "Amitabha Buddha". Because cheating arises from greed which resonates with the realm of the ghosts, it is a cause for rebirth in such a realm in future. By saying "Amitabha Buddha" just once, then not only do we not resonate with the realm of ghosts but also we are in spiritual union with Amitabha Buddha and we become illumined with infinite brightness.
viii. People in general have a curious nature. If we stumble upon someone else's secrets, we are driven by our curiosity to peek into it to find out more. If this person is committing a crime, this may spell trouble: our life may be in danger. By saying "Amitabha Buddha" in our mind and we quickly distance from it, then we are in union with all that are virtuous and bright. We do not resonate with darkness.
ix. If we come across a drowning man, of course, we save him if we have the ability. However, if we could not be of help and in the meantime someone else is saving him, we say "Amitabha Buddha". By calling out "Amitabha Buddha" just once, it strikes resonance with the drowning person and he immediately attain the brightness and accomplishment of Amitabha Buddha. Then, our mind is also in spiritual union Amitabha Buddha.
x. If a person tells you tales about someone else, those tales are not your business. The Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch states, "I see someone engaging in gossip-mongering, I do not participate. If I participate in the gossiping, then I have done wrong." That the person is wrong is his own business. Your participation means that you have also done wrong. If this person speaks a lot of ills about another person and in the end you say just once "Amitabha Buddha", that is good enough. If you participate in the gossiping, this person may go around speaking ill of you too. But, when you say "Amitabha Buddha", then you are in resonance with brightness and that person would not be able to invent gossips and speak ill of you. Therefore, "Amitabha Buddha" is indeed really very useful. Regardless of whether the situation is good, bad or neither good nor bad, when we say "Amitabha Buddha", our mind will be at ease and we attain brightness, and in this way we resonate with brightness.