Q&A

The First & Last Fruitful Spiritual Practice For This Era

Question: Is there a need to learn meditation or other practices first, before learning to practise Nianfo (which is mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’)? 

Answer: Training in meditation and other practices separately is not a must, as Nianfo is already unsurpassable meditation, as can be seen at http://purelanders.com/2012/01/16/buddha-mindfulness-is-supreme-meditation Nianfo learnt and practised well is a comprehensive and complete practice.

It is comparatively harder to meditate conventionally than to Nianfo. Thus, Nianfo should be learnt first, while conventional meditation is optional for practice. Life is short and unpredictable. 

It is good to have clear focus for learning and practice as quickly as possible. The Pure Land path by itself is already the Easy Path, that needs not be made more difficult.

This is not being sectarian (or wrongly discriminating) but being focused (rightly), to encourage focus on the last teaching to endure this Dharma-Ending Age, that will still prove fruitful. Fruitfulness is in terms of being able to break free from rebirth; not just learning to be a better person with better conduct for a better life in Samsara. These are great differences. Note too, these important quotes:

末法亿亿人修行,罕一得道;唯依念佛,得度生死。

–《大方等大集经》

In the Dharma Ending Age, when 100 million of 100 million people practise the Dharma, it is rare that one will realise the way; Only depending on mindfulness of Buddha, is liberation from life and death possible.

– Mahavaipulya-mahasanni-pata Sutra

当来之世,经道灭尽,我以慈悲哀愍,特留此经,止住百岁。其有众生,值斯经者,随意所愿,皆可得度。

– 《无量寿经》

In the world of the future, when the paths of the sutras [to enlightenment] are destroyed and ended, I, with loving-kindness, compassion and empathy, will specially retain this sutra, to dwell for one hundred years [longer]. If there are such beings, who encounter this sutra, they can, as they wish, according to their aspirations, all attain deliverance.

– Sakyamuni Buddha (Immeasurable Life Sutra)

Thus, a responsible teacher aware of the above would focus on teaching Nianfo accordingly. As an example, if a child has a terrible stomachache, knowing medicine A can cure it quickly and permanently, versus medicine B that can only relieve partial pain, a good doctor offers A(mituofo) straightaway – to deliver the child from the sickness once and for all.

Related Articles:
Why Is Nianfo The Best Practice For Right Mindfulness?
https://purelanders.com/2016/03/02/why-is-nianfo-the-best-practice-for-right-mindfulness
Pure Land Practice With Samatha & Vipassana Meditation
https://purelanders.com/2009/09/14/pure-land-practice-with-samatha-vipassana-meditation

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!