Question: How can I have more confidence in my Niànfó Practice, on my ability to connect to Āmítuófó to reach his Pure Land?
Answer: The key to gauge your Practice is by checking if you still persevere with regular Niànfó despite all kinds of physical and mental difficulties in life – such as sickness and distress. The more often obstacles are overcome and transformed with Niànfó, to gain calmness, clarity and even bliss, the more confidence you will have.
There might be some natural lack of confidence in one’s Self-power at first, but there should never be lack of Faith in the Buddha’s Other-power. Anyway, it is exactly because we realistically lack confidence in our unenlightened selves that we take wholehearted refuge in Āmítuófó (一心归命). Yet, because of this sincere refuge taken, as expressed with Niànfó, we should have confidence.
As reminded by the Pure Land Patriarchs, there should not be self-defeating over-emphasis on Niànfó skill in terms of self-powered deep concentration, as it is profound sincerity that matters more. Even if there is high concentration, without sincerity, Pure Land cannot be reached. It is also with sincere Niànfó that concentration will increase with connection to Āmítuófó’s blessings. The above is in terms of polishing Practice.
There should also be continual learning of Pure Land teachings to keep pumping up Faith to be more profound, and Aspiration to be more sincere, as these two provisions power the third provision of true Practice. When doubts big and small are clarified and dissolved, Faith is maximised. When the contrasting pros and cons of being trapped in rebirth versus being liberated in Pure Land are seen clearly, Aspiration is maximised too.