Is Recitation Of The Buddha’s Name Alone Able To Eliminate Karmic Obstacles For Rebirth In Pure Land?
Question : Is recitation of the Buddha’s name alone able to eliminate karmic obstacles?
Answer: Śākyamuni Buddha, in the Sūtra On Contemplation Of Immeasurable Life Buddha, taught that, ‘If good men and good women, only with hearing of the Buddha’s name [Āmítuófó], and the two Bodhisattvas’ names [Guānshìyīn Púsà, Dàshìzhì Púsà], they will eliminate immeasurable kalpas’ transgressions of births and deaths, furthermore if recollecting mindfully.’ Therefore, when mindful of the Buddha and/or Bodhisattva(s), this is able to have extremely great meritorious power for eliminating transgressions.
Question : According to the sūtra’s text above, must all three sacred names of the Buddha and two Bodhisattvas be recited?
Answer: The Buddha also taught thus in this sūtra, ‘Reciting the Buddha’s name [Āmítuófó] thus, in thought to thought within, eliminates eighty koṭis’ kalpas’ transgressions of births and deaths. When their lives are ending, they will see golden lotus flowers, similar to the sun disc, abiding before these persons. As if in one thought moment, they will immediately attain rebirth in the Land Of Ultimate Bliss.’ Therefore, even with the utmost sincere mind only reciting this one Buddha’s name, this is not only able to eliminate heavy transgressions, we will also be able to directly attain birth in his Pure Land. Of course, the two Great Bodhisattvas also have the ability to receive and guide us to his Pure Land.
Question : Some however say that ‘reciting one line of the Buddha’s name is not enough’?
Answer: Of course, it is better to, in ordinary times, to be able to learn and cultivate more of the Dharma. However, just before rebirth, there is only one last thought. If not mindful of Āmítuófó then, who should we be mindful of? Even if wishing to recite more, and to cultivate more, there will already be no more time. Just like when a thief has broken in, there is only need to call the police, with the police able to take care of everything, there is no need to inform others. Even if others are informed, they will not be able to help. Reciting Āmítuófó’s name is to recite the one Buddha who represents immeasurable Buddhas. How can this be with inadequate power of meritorious virtues and blessings, to receive and guide us?
Question : There are also some who propose that there must be recitation of the Earth Treasury [Kṣitigarbha] Sūtra to eliminate evil karma when approaching life’s end, and to deliver karmic creditors?
Answer: Reciting of sūtras definitely creates meritorious virtues. However, as the Earth Treasury Sūtra has three scrolls, with the upper, middle and lower, it is too long, with too much contents. What if there is reciting of its teachings on hell, with the mind mindful of hell then? Actually, the Earth Treasury Sūtra is fundamentally a sūtra that promotes recitation of Buddhas’ names. If when approaching life’s end, still reciting this sūtra, yet not focusing on reciting any Buddha’s name, this is like reciting an ‘advertisement’ for recitation of Buddha, yet not directly reciting the Buddha’s name. If desiring to seek birth in his Pure Land, this is to ‘invert the roots and the branches’ (i.e. prioritise the secondary over the primary). Like that said above, reciting of the Buddha’s name is already able to directly eliminate evil karma. (Because that eliminated is only evil karma that obstructs rebirth in Pure Land, while as there is also extremely much evil karma from past lives, rebirth in Pure Land is still ‘with carrying of evil karma to be reborn’ there.) Offering guidance with reciting of the Buddha’s name is also able to directly deliver possibly present karmic creditors, while protecting those reciting.
Question : When encountering those who say ‘reciting one line of the Buddha’s name is not enough’, I would say, ‘If you feel that reciting one line of the Buddha’s name is not enough, recite more lines of it then!’
Answer: Just like when wishing to call the police, if the dialing has yet to be done properly, with the call yet to connect, there should be continuous attempting to call until there is connection. The Buddhist teachings promote more reciting of the Buddha’s name when in ordinary times, also promoting support-chanting for one another when approaching life’s end. All these is cultivating and learning, for accumulating of the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration (i.e. Vow) and Practice (of mindfulness of Buddha’s name with profound Faith [深信] and sincere Aspiration [切愿]). This is just like practising to wholeheartedly ‘call’ Āmítuófó. In ordinary times practising ‘calling’, is for preparing, to be able to more smoothly have ‘speed dialing’ during urgent moments!
Question : On reciting of the Buddha’s name, how much and how long must this be done, to then attain birth in Pure Land?
答: 《无量寿经》云: 「诸有众生，闻其名【阿弥陀佛】号，信心欢喜，乃至一念至心回向，愿生彼国，即得往生」。也说: 「十方众生，至心信乐，欲生我国，乃至十念，若不生者，不取正觉 【成阿弥陀佛】。」《阿弥陀经》云: 「若有善男子、善女人，闻说阿弥陀佛，执持名号，若一日、若二日、若三日、若四日、若五日、若六日、若七日，一心不乱。其人临命终时，阿弥陀佛，与诸圣众，现在其前。是人终时，心不颠倒，即得往生阿弥陀佛极乐国土。」
Answer: The Immeasurable Life Sūtra says, ‘All sentient beings, who hear his name [Āmítuófó], with the faithful mind joyful, and even with one thought, with the sincere mind dedicate, aspire to be born in that land, will immediately attain rebirth there’. It also says, ‘of the ten directions’ sentient beings, with the sincere mind of joyful faith, desiring birth in my land, and even with ten thoughts, if there are those not born there, I shall not obtain Right Awakening [as Āmítuófó].’ The Amitābha Sūtra says, ‘if there are good men and good women, who hear this said about Āmítuófó, firmly uphold mindfulness of his name, if for one day, if for two days, if for three days, if for four days, if for five days, if for six days, if for seven days, wholeheartedly without being scattered, when these persons approach life’s end, Āmítuófó, with many in his noble assembly will appear before them. When these persons’ lives are ending, their minds will not be inverted, and they will immediately attain rebirth in Āmítuófó’s Land Of Ultimate Bliss.’
According to the sūtras’ text above, the durations needed for those reciting the Buddha’s name to be reborn in his Pure Land, can be as short as between one to ten thought moments, and as long as between one to seven days. Those complete with Faith, Aspiration and Practice, are then able to immediately be reborn in his Pure Land. However, generally, even if those reciting the Buddha’s name are with Faith in ordinary times profound enough, because their Aspiration is still not sincere enough (i.e. yet to aspire for immediate rebirth), therefore although having Practice with Faith and Aspiration, they are yet to be immediately reborn. When approaching life’s end, if still yet to have adequate ‘revulsed renunciation of the Sahā World, and joyfully seeking of the Land Of Ultimate Bliss’, Aspiration is because of this, still yet to be sincere enough. When with more intense pain and suffering, if having good-knowing friends’ skilful guidance and uninterrupted support-chanting, these are able to encourage sick persons to give rise to even more sincere Aspiration for birth in Pure Land, then expediting rebirth.
Those not having Faith in that the Buddha spoke above, are the same as those with Faith’s provision still inadequate, therefore thinking then, that ‘reciting one line of the Buddha’s name is not enough’!
Meaning Of Āmítuófó’s Name
The One Dharma Door Of Upholding The Buddha’s Name Includes And Brings Together The Ten Thousand Practices
Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings
Which Sūtra Should I Chant For The Deceased?
The Three Provisions