Translations

How To Cut Stray Thoughts During Nianfo? 如何念佛时断除杂念?

‘至于念佛,心难归一,当摄心切念,自能归一。

‘As for Nianfo [practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – “Amituofo”], if the mind is difficult to be unified as one [without being scattered, you] should gather in the mind with sincere mindfulness [of Amituofo’s name], which will naturally be able to unify it as one [to be wholehearted (and thus single-minded) without being scattered (一心不乱)].

摄心之法,莫先于至诚恳切;心不至诚,欲摄莫由。

The method to gather in the mind, is none other than to first have utmost sincerity [and earnestness; for if the] mind is not utmost sincere, [even if] desiring to gather it, there is no way.

既至诚已,犹未纯一,当摄耳谛听。无论出声默念,皆须念从心起,声从口出,音从耳入。

If with utmost sincerity already, but yet to be purely singular [in mindfulness, you] should gather in the ears with attentive listening. Regardless of aloud or silent recitation [during Nianfo], all must be recitation that arises from [the utmost sincere] mind, with the voice from the mouth exiting, and its sound from the ears entering.

(默念虽不动口,然意地之中亦仍有口念之相)。

(For silent recitation, although there is no opening of the mouth to recite, however, within the mind ground, there is still also the “form” of the mouth reciting [and thus the mental sound that exits for entering the mental ears].) [However, there is no need to visualise this, as you should only sincerely recite and sincerely listen to your sincere recitation.]

心口念得清清楚楚,耳根听得清清楚楚,如是摄心,妄念自息矣。’

With the mind [and thus the] mouth reciting very clearly, and the ear root listening very clearly, thus gathered is the mind, and false [or stray] thoughts will naturally cease.’

– 净土宗十三祖印光大师
(复高邵麟书四)

– Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang
(Fourth reply letter to Gao Shaolin)

Summary: To gather in (or calm and concentrate) the mind to prevent scatteredness (due to having stray thoughts), there should be utmost sincere (wholehearted) reciting and listening to one’s own Nianfo, be it aloud or silent.

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!