Question: Is mindfulness of ‘Namo Amituofo’ (Homage to [and refuge in] Amitabha Buddha) to reach his Pure Land different from mindfulness of ‘Namo Buddhaya’ in terms of Sakyamuni Buddha?
Answer: Yes, there are differences. Nianfo (Practice of mindfulness) in terms of Amituofo is based on the Three Provisions (which includes Faith in his vows to receive us to his Pure Land, and Aspiration to reach it), but Nianfo in terms of Sakyamuni Buddha is usually not in terms of this.
Also, ‘Namo Buddhaya’ strictly speaking, is actually generic in meaning, not about any Buddha in particular, unless thinking of one particularly. Even though they are interconnected, if not in terms of Amituofo, or in terms of all Buddhas, it lacks the right focus for reaching Pure Land.
Unless one is able to be mindful of Amituofo via ‘Namo Buddhaya’, it is better to stick to Amituofo directly, as taught by all Buddhas. Simply ‘Amituofo’ will do too, if there is already the right sense of homage and refuge.
The Three Provisions For Rebirth In Pure Land