Question: Does it matter how the name of Amituofo is verbalised? For example, the Cantonese say ‘Aw mee tor fatt’, the Teochews say ‘Ah mee tor hoot’, etc.
Answer: In different countries, in different languages and even dialects of each language, the name of Amituofo might be pronounced differently. However, as long as the understanding of the significance of the name is correct, and the intention behind chanting is with right faith and aspiration, it is alright. This is so as the motivation (why) of the chanting matters more than how it is physically chanted. It is this pure intention that creates the pure karma and connection to Amituofo too.
Even in the Chinese language, when free from any dialect, the name is sometimes chanted with popular variations of ‘Ah-mituofo’, ‘Oh-mituofo’, ‘Er-mituofo’… If we want to be truly technically correct linguistically, it should be the first – ‘Ah-mituofo’ (阿弥陀佛), which follows the first syllable of the name in Sanskrit – ‘Amita(bha/yus) Buddha (fo)’. In the Japanese tradition, Amituofo’s name is also pronounced first with ‘Ah’, followed by ‘mida’ (A-mida, which means ‘Amita’). The Heart Mantra of Amituofo also uses ‘Ah’ in ‘Om Ami Deva Hrih’.
It is worth noting that even ‘Ah-mituo-fo’, as transliterated, differs from the original Sanskrit version of ‘Amita Buddha’. Yet, this is no cause for concern due to the reasons in the first paragraph. Thus, it is okay to be slightly flexible with the pronunciation. It is the wholeheartedness (single-mindnedness) that matters. However, it is also important to learn and share about the pronunciation as close to the original (‘Amita Buddha’) and time-tested traditional (e.g. ‘Amituofo’) versions as possible, so as to lessen more changes over time, which might cause further confusion for future generations.
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