Question: How do I ascertain if my faith in Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha) is strong enough? Can you ask some questions to assess my faith?
Answer: For this case, there is no need for me to ask, as it can be known by your asking, that you do have faith in Amituofo, but that it is still not of the ideal strength yet. This can be known as one who has strong faith already, or who has no faith will not ask about their faith at all. Only those who have faith but with some doubt will ask.
Q: Recently, during my Nianfo (practice of mindfulness of the name of ‘Amituofo’), there is an ‘inner voice’ that asks – ‘Is my faith enough? Am I sure Amituofo will receive me at my last moment?’ So, I got a little worried.
A: The arising of such doubts is natural if faith is not strong enough yet. What you should do, when not practising Nianfo, is to take some time before your shrine at home, to ask yourself this question – ‘What exact doubts do I have, in the great time-tested Nianfo practice, as taught perfectly by all Buddhas in the sutras, and as further illuminated upon by the Pure Land Patriarchs?’ Do note all your questions and send them to your specialised Pure Land Dharma teacher(s) for answering. All these questions can be answered adequately by proficient teachers, thus transforming your doubts to faith.
Q: When the questioning arose during Nianfo, I tried to focus stronger on Amituofo’s name. I told myself that no matter what, I will just hold on to it, as if it is my only spiritual lifeline, and that I should persevere sincerely. However, whenever I stopped my Nianfo, the ‘voice’ came on again. How can I overcome this?
A: Your way of rectifying the problem during Nianfo is right, as any other thoughts, including about Nianfo, should be seen as stray thoughts to be avoided in the midst of wholehearted practice. However, there might be some unanswered doubts, which is why there are the recurring questions. Do try the above, to list and ask your questions to solve the doubt problem theoretically. More time should also be spent on study of Pure Land teachings via courses and other proper materials. Inspiring testimonials by Nianfo practitioners, such as these listed at http://purelanders.com/category/testimonials can also be read to fortify faith, as they are about the passing of karmic ‘tests’ that affirmed their faith.
When Nianfo is practised very sincerely, there will be connection to the blessings of Amituofo, as conveyed through his light, regardless of whether they are seen or not, as listed at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/04/the-twelve-blessings-of-amitabha-buddhas-light Blessings include increase in spiritual purity, joy and wisdom (which are antidotes for the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion). When experienced, doubts will naturally fade away. Thus, increased duration of sincere Nianfo practice will solve the doubt problem practically. Do practise extended Nianfo sessions until this effect is experienced, to dissolve vague nagging doubts. Make a firm resolution to Nianfo until doubts no longer arise. The collective energy from group practice sessions helps to better motivate too.
Sincerity In Nianfo Is Really The Key