Question: When practising mindfulness of Buddha’s name, a childhood memory of me having a snack arose. On another occasion, a childhood memory of me cheating in a test arose. What should I make of them?
Answer: These are all distractions, stray thoughts. ANY thought that is NOT the name of Budddha during the practice IS a distraction. If on the deathbed, with greedy attachment to the worldly snack as the last thought before rebirth, Pure Land cannot be reached, as it represents distraction from wholehearted seeking of birth in Pure Land. If there is guilt for a past mistake, it is aversion, that also becomes a distraction if clung to.
Practising mindfulness of Buddha’s name is to abide peacefully upon Buddha’s name (安住佛号), not to abide disturbed upon deluded attachments and aversions, to be driven further away by them. Once they arise, they only should be seen as reminders to immediately return to abide peacefully upon Buddha’s name – even more sincerely, to reduce such stray thoughts. It is the very way to dissolve greed and guilt. Only review your memories AFTER the practice session.