Top Ten Niànfó Group Cultivation Challenges
The following is from general observation of several Buddha recitation (念佛) retreats and group cultivation sessions; not about any particular ones. Due to some retreats or group cultivation sessions being ‘too’ big, and with constraint of manpower for control, the below might not apply fully. There might also be good reasons for implementing certain methods instead of others.
 Sūtra Recitation: Having too much or too lengthy sūtra-chanting, perhaps with that not directly associated with mindfulness of Buddha too. This reduces the time for seated Niànfó (坐念念佛), which best aids the body and mind to peacefully abide on the Buddha’s name (安住佛号).
 Prostration: Having too many prostrations with recitations (拜念), that can exhaust the body and deplete energy, especially for the old, weak and sick. This reduces the time for seated Niànfó, which best aids the body and mind to peacefully abide on the Buddha’s name.
 Circumambulation: Having too much circumambulation, with many turns needed, that can distract the mind as there is need to constantly look out for what is ahead. This reduces the time for seated Niànfó, which best aids the body and mind to peacefully abide on the Buddha’s name. This can also exhaust the body and deplete energy, especially for the old, weak and sick. Those not able to walk much (or at all) thus have to forgo attending of such retreats.
 Buddha’s Name: The longer six-worded (六字) form of the Buddha’s name (Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛) is used throughout for Niànfó, which is with the addition of (Námó: 南无) in front. There is thus no practice of the shorter four-worded (四字) form of just ‘Āmítuófó’ at all, which is what will be practised on the deathbed for easier practice and focus, as taught by the Pure Land Patriarchs (净土祖师).
 Tune: The tune used for Niànfó being too complex in terms of changes, and with long gaps. The need for all to stay in tune, and the tendency to fall out of tune thus increase, with the latter likely to disrupt harmonious Niànfó. The long gaps also allow more stray thoughts to arise in between. That which will be practised on the deathbed for easier practice and focus should be practised the most. It is simple, with minimal changes, and easy to follow: https://purelanders.com/mp3. This should also be the tune used the most for everyday practice, as death can come at any time. (Most of those truly dying cannot recite the six-worded form of the Buddha’s name with a complex tune, what more with long gaps.)
 Break: Lunch and tea breaks might be too long, thus allowing for many distractions, also wasting precious time that can be spent on more Niànfó practice.
 Talking: There is too much talking by the retreat master, administrators and/or retreatants among themselves, thus allowing for many distractions, also wasting precious time that can be spent on more Niànfó practice. To aid focus, that necessary must be spoken, with nothing more.
 Motivators: There is lack of key motivational reminders at the beginning and throughout the retreat. There should also be at least one discipline master (or more if needed) carrying an awakening stick (香板) watching throughout the retreat, to gently awake those who have fallen asleep, or who are distracted.
 Rules: Rules should not be too many and complicated. They should be streamlined and informed before the retreat begins, for agreement to them before signing up, so that time spent for going through these rules at the retreat can be saved.
 Rigidity: While the main practice is seated Niànfó on a cushion or chair, which almost mimics deathbed moments (without lying down), there should be allowing of prostration where retreatants are, and circumambulation at a designated area, to thus be reasonably flexible, not totally rigid, for those who prefer to perhaps stretch and/or ward off drowsiness for a while. (Most of those truly dying can neither prostrate nor circumambulate.)
Solution: While it might seem challenging to meet the criteria above, this is possible: https://purelanders.com/2018/01/10/pureland-practice-fellowship-retreat-reviews.
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 Top Ten Niànfó Group Cultivation Challenges
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[10B] Top Ten Difficulties In This Defiled Land Vs Ease In That Pure Land (2)
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 (Afterword On) ‘Practices With Ten Great Obstacles’ Or ‘Ten Kinds Of Non-Seeking’
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