Whole - Body Buddha Recitation

Update: 27/11/2007
Buddha recitation involves every inch of the whole body into practice. Neither visualization nor imagination is needed in this process. The realm will emerge of its own accord. When one recites the Buddha’s name, their fingernails, toenails, elbows, knees, chest, head, belly, etc. also take part in the process.

Whole - Body Buddha Recitation


Though not as easy to achieve as many people suppose, Buddha recitation is one of the grandest fountains of joy that a Buddhist might find in their cultivation. A large number of cultivators still believe that they should seek more complicated methods such as Zen or tantric because Buddha recitation is not difficult enough to challenge their determination. There is, however, more to say about Buddha recitation. Though everyone might have read the patriarchs’ defense of the Mantra recitation method, the majority tends to assume that such simple practice does not match their high hope to cultivate the mind. In actual fact, Buddha recitation is not essentially easy.


First of all, it is crucial to trust the mind. Without trust, one’s actions do not have consistency. Once the law of causation is relied on, all events in life are seen as the result of Karmic power. One should not credit their success to individual ability and blame bad luck for failure. Talents or clumsiness is the outcome of not only learning effort, but also of fate and karma. Success or failure is merely a message of karmic power. Therefore, it should be listened and followed.


Secondly, it is important to trust Dharma. One should take Dharma as the path of liberation, continuously learn the scripture to see the Buddha, Bodhisattva and patriarchs, who dedicated their whole lives to benefit self and others, as good examples to follow on the path of guiding sentient beings.


Thirdly, it is the practice of Buddha recitation that should be trusted. One should understand that the mission of this method is to take sentient beings to the Pure Land of Amitabha. One often thinks Pure Land is just an illusion created by the mean of Buddha, but they cannot realize what they eyes perceive, all the objects and sceneries, are also an illusion. If, however, one sees the Pure Land as real and the Saha World as illusory, then their assumption is also wrong due to the fact that the Buddha heart does not have room for what so-called the polarization of real or unreal.


The cultivation process also includes the need to have belief and to find the means to realize that belief. Many believe Zen to be the preeminent path in order to become an enlightened Buddha within one incarnation, whereas Buddha recitation is just a simple, temporary mean. In this case, those who have harbored the doubt of Buddha recitation should keep it till the end and practice the Zen method. There comes a day when they happen to understand that the realm emerging when they practice Zen is not different from that when they recite the Buddha’s name.


Also, those who think the tantric method is the best instead of Buddha recitation should keep on practicing it with earnest effort. When entering the realm, they shall realize that any state they enter with any method is essentially the Buddha’s heart. As a result, they will be able to cast off the doubt of whether Buddha recitation deviates the venerable state of heart and mind. It is appropriate to follow the method that one believes to be the best and doubt others. Nevertheless, it is gravely wrong if they use their doubt to create their own way of reasoning which denies the methods they do not follow. A cultivator’s doubt or belief should be earnest, and not be solved by logical reasoning.

When a person sets doubt, their mind, heart and body should also be a mass of only doubt. An honest mind of doubt has no place for logical reasoning and inference. Practicing Buddha recitation by using this doubtful mind is an expedient method.


The only problem here is how people still try to distinguish the preeminent from the mediocre methods even in their dreams. Only when cultivators come to realize everything they are looking at, vehicles, people, objects, etc. are only illusions from their dreams will they understand that no practicing method is distinctive from another. Dreams happen not only in sleep. To better understand how it feels to live in dreams, one just needs to recall their childhood experiences, for instance, when they went to school in their hometown; when they played football with other kids in the village; when they cycled in the streets around Saigon. In doing so, they might see memories all went by like beautiful dreams.


And for this moment when one is sitting in front the computer, the television, or walking meditatively, is everything they see real? In fact, they are just illusions, like evening clouds or the illusory flowers in an empty sky. All practicing methods are essentially equal; dreams and reality are inseparable. After all, reality and illusion have no place to stay in the Buddha’s mind.


The practice of Buddha recitation starts with one’s words. Cultivators should never use their words to pray and to curse at the same time. If possible, one should try to be a vegan, as it is impossible to effectively practice Buddha recitation, liberate the self and benefit others if a person keeps killing and eating other races’ meat.


It is important to practice with earnest effort to a thorough level when one only have and express good thoughts in all situations of life, talking on the phone, playing with kids, persuading others not to do bad things and to release encaged animals, struggling with pain in sickbed, etc. Once every word uttered is of good intent, it is called Buddha recitation.


The practice of Buddha recitation should be taken through actions. One should exemplify moral conducts against murder, stealth, violence and indecency. It is of waste for Buddhist cultivators to recite the Buddha’s name while harming others. One can never liberate themselves once their words and their actions are at odds.


The practice of Buddha recitation is reflected through every step taken in life. One should take and follow the path of enlightenment and try not to betray or harm others under all circumstances. Every step should go with Buddha recitation. No visualization and imagination is needed. One’s step becomes the footprint of Amitabha as long as they practice Buddha recitation with earnest effort.


The practice of Buddha recitation comes from the way one looks at life. Cultivators should try not to look where they think can disturb their inner peace; not to use their eyes to threaten or seduce others. To success in turning Buddha recitation into actions, they should get rid of the harmful habits in the first place.


When cultivators practice Buddha recitation with earnest effort, everywhere in the time-space world through their eyes becomes Buddha recitation. When going out, one should not try to define the people they look at as beauties or beasts, as they are all illusions. Everything a Buddhist cultivator sees in the time-space world should be different incarnations of Amitabha. However, they should try not to visualize or create more imaginary images, as the dream they are living in does not need more illusions. They just need to practice Buddha recitation, and one day they might see the Buddha’s realm emerge.


Buddha recitation should also be practiced with one’s listening. Instead of learning to unlock charkas and praying for illusory powers to bedevil their mind, cultivators should listen to their heart’s whisper, or the words of the Buddha. They should keep emotional temperance and quit the bad habit of listening to what they like and ignoring what they hate. As a person’s listening ability exists by nature whether they are aware of it or not, one should listen to the words of their heart that come out and avoid choosing what to follow or what to ignore. Let it be.

As long as one keeps practicing Buddha recitation with earnest effort, one day everything they hear becomes the Buddha’s words. Even when they happen to be in places where people curse to fight against each other, all they know is that everything is merely a dream on their path. However, they should also know that leaving this dream results in their exit from the Buddha’s realm. The wave is made of water, and it is water that forms the wave. The wave and water, like the dream and the Buddha’s path, are inseparable.


Practicing Buddha recitation means to involve every inch of one’s body in. Neither visualization nor imagination is needed in this process. The realm will emerge of its own accord. Cultivators’ fingernails, toenails, elbows, knees, chest, head, belly, etc. always practice when they recite the Buddha’s name. Living with Buddha recitation makes different body parts an entirety. Every single movement of the body becomes involved in Buddha recitation, including minor activities such as walking and sitting. Those who practice Buddha recitation might feel relieved and pleased, but they should not harbor a sense of affection or attachment to this activity. Enjoying or disliking doing something is the mindset of a sentient being, not the Buddha’s mind that cultivators are practicing.

Practicing Buddha recitation directs cultivators to the state of the Buddha heart. Once different body parts become one with the practice, cultivators should not try to distinguish reciting from not reciting. The heart of Amitabha will never leave us and, to be more precise, has never left us since birth. It is wrong to say a sentient being should try to have the Buddha heart, as it is not the purpose of practicing Buddha recitation.


In genuine Buddha recitation, only the peaceful, unsullied self is present, and therefore, it is impossible to differentiate a sentient being’s mind and the Buddha mind. A person’s practice can only be called “genuine” when the Buddha mind always stays inside their heart, mind and body whether they are chanting or thinking of Buddha recitation or not.


Practicing Buddha recitation can be extremely simple like the way old women in the countryside do though they cannot read or write. They hold the mala beads in their hand, draped between their index and middle fingers, and start counting one bead after another and pulling it toward them as they recite the mantra. In some cases, they might recite only two mantras or nothing at all. As long as one keeps their unsullied mind until the entire body feels the recitation of the Buddha’s name, they can choose the practice method that suits them.


The practice succeeds when one can feel the Buddha recitation anywhere in the time-space world. They should keep on practicing, and remember whether they are sleeping or awake, with or without practice, this world is all along an illusion; and trying to get rid of the illusion never brings them the reality.


Happiness is when one walks their own life, their whole body keeps reciting the Buddha’s name in order to feel and treat others with a mind of compassion. How about liberation? It is needless for cultivators to separate the realm of liberation from imprisonment when all they see in the time-space world is the recitation of the Buddha’s name. Once abandoning Buddha recitation, however, cultivators might have difficulties seeing these two realms.

Translated into English by Thanh Nguyen
Nguyên Giác Phan Tấn Hải

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