Translations

Two Meanings Of Námó 南无的两个意思

归命,如波罗蜜例,倒语法也。归义有二。 

‘Refuge [or return for] life’ [i.e. 南无: Námó, which also means ‘homage to’], like [the word] ‘Pāramitā’ [for] instance, [is with] inverted grammar. ‘Return’ has two meanings.

Note: Inverting of word order (i.e. anastrophe) is used for heightening effect. For example, ‘Pāramitā’ is structured as ‘(the) other shore (to be) reached’ (彼岸到), instead of ‘to (the) other shore’ (到彼岸). Likewise for emphasis, ‘Námó’ (归命) is structured as ‘refuge for life’, instead of ‘lifelong refuge’. 

一者归投义,言世人至重者身命,举身命而归依,诚敬之至,无二心也。

[The] first [is the] meaning [of] return [to] seek refuge, speaking [of] what [the] world’s people [have] most attachment [to, which are their] bodies [and] lives, [with] all [of their] bodies [and] lives taking refuge, [with] sincere reverence [to] the utmost, [which is] without [a] second[ary] mind.

Note: When we recite ‘Námó Āmítuófó’ (南无阿弥陀佛, which means ‘[homage to and] refuge for life in Amitā[bha Buddha’), the first meaning is to always take refuge in Amitābha Buddha, whom we aspire to connect to, for reaching his Pure Land. This refuge should be steadfast for life, even when approaching the end of life. Even when our worldly bodies and lives have to be given up, this sincere refuge must never be relinquished for refuge in anyone or anything else. If unwilling to give up what is worldly, to ‘return’ to Āmítuófó, we will be unable to enter his Pure Land.

二者归元义,举身命而归依,即是总摄六根还归一心也。

[The] second [is the] meaning [of] return [to the] original [mind (本元), with] all [of their] bodies [and] lives taking refuge, [it] is [to] totally gather [the] six [sense] roots [to] return [to the] one mind, [wholeheartedly and single-mindedly].

Note: The second meaning is to return to our ‘self-nature’s Amitābha Buddha’ (自性弥陀), or our unawakened Buddha-nature, to easier connect to the actual Amitābha Buddha. Wholehearted practice of mindfulness of Buddha (一心念佛) is thus the practice of connecting our Buddha-nature to Amitābha Buddha.

净土宗八祖莲池大师
(佛说阿弥陀经疏钞)
Pure Land Tradition’s 8th Patriarch Great Master Liánchí
(Commentary [On The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha Buddha])

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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