Question: How does Nianfo practice (of being mindful of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) by itself express refuge in the Triple Gem (Buddhas, Dharmas and Sangha) for connection and blessings?
Answer: As all Buddhas are equally perfect subjects of refuge and are interconnected, being mindful of Amituofo via Nianfo connects to all Buddhas for blessings. This is attested by Sakyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) in the Amitabha Sutra (阿弥陀经) as follows –
‘… if there are good men and good women [which includes us], who hear this [Amita(bha)] Sutra, accept and uphold it [by practising Nianfo sincerely], and hear all these Buddhas’ names [as listed earlier], all these good men and good women will, by all Buddhas, be mindfully protected, and attain non-retrogression [which is non-backsliding progress assured] for Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi [Buddhahood].’
Note that beyond the 38 Buddhas listed in the sutra, hearing all Buddhas’ names is not essential for there to be protection by all Buddhas, as it is impossible to finish (listing and) hearing the names of every single Buddha mindfully. The listed Buddhas represent all Buddhas being willing to support all who are mindful of Amituofo. Even if there is only mindfulness of Amituofo without hearing any other Buddha’s name, as Amituofo is interconnected to every other Buddha, all Buddhas will support the practitioner.
The all-inclusiveness of Amituofo is represented in the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Repentance Text (八十八佛大忏悔文) as the 89th Buddha, who is equivalent to all the 88 Buddhas listed (and all other Buddhas not listed) together, in this format – ‘Homage To (And Refuge For Life In The) Dharma Realm’s [Universe’s] Treasury Body [Dharmakaya 法身; universal body of all Buddhas interconnected as one, that pervades all space and time] Amita[bha] Buddha’ (南无法界藏身阿弥陀佛). In actual Nianfo practice, we just need to be mindful of Amituofo’s name, instead of this extended form.
As all Dharma teachings are likewise interconnected, and since practising Nianfo well leads to Pure Land, where all Dharmas can be learnt, practised and realised perfectly, being mindful of Amituofo via Nianfo connects to all Dharmas for blessings.
As all in the Sangha are led by perfect Sangha members who are Buddhas, and since all Buddhas are interconnected as mentioned above, being mindful of Amituofo via Nianfo connects to all of the Sangha for blessings. All of the above can be summed up by the following verse –
Verse On Nianfo As Mindfulness Of Triple Gem
For refuge in the Buddhas,
rely on direct mindfulness of Buddha [Amituofo],
as Amituofo represents all Buddhas.
For refuge in the Dharma,
rely on the Dharma of mindfulness of Buddha,
as mindfulness of Amituofo represents all Dharmas.
For refuge in the Sangha,
rely on the ultimate Sangha [leader],
as Amituofo represents all of the Sangha.
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