How Does Reciting Námó Āmítuófó Differ From Reciting Āmítuófó? 念南无阿弥陀佛和阿弥陀佛有何分别?

How Does Reciting Námó Āmítuófó Differ From Reciting Āmítuófó?

Question: How does reciting ‘Námó Āmítuófó’ (南无阿弥陀佛) differ from reciting ‘Āmítuófó’ (阿弥陀佛)?

Answer: ‘Námó’ (南无) means ‘homage to’ (礼敬) and ‘refuge (皈依) for life in’ (皈命). Thus, the six-worded (六字) ‘Námó Āmítuófó’ expresses ‘homage to and refuge for life in Āmítuófó’.

While the above is so, this does not mean that we have no equivalent sense of reverence (恭敬) when we recite the four-worded (四字) ‘Āmítuófó’ only. In fact, it is only when there is adequate reverence naturally, that we should omit ‘Námó’.

It is in such reverence, that there is profound Faith (深信) in Āmítuófó and sincere Aspiration (切愿) to reach his Pure Land (净土). With this Faith and Aspiration (信愿) expressed through the Main Practice (正行) of mindfulness of his name (念佛), the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) are thus complete.

For beginners, it is good to recite more of the six-worded version, to nurture reverence, before perhaps reciting the four-worded version only, to save time and energy, and for easier focus for longer practice sessions. Sincere prostration to the Buddha before recitation helps to nurture reverence too.

For long-time practitioners, who are still unsure, on whether they have enough reverence, they can perhaps recite the six-worded version for a few times first, before switching to the four-worded version for the rest of the practice. This applies to support-chanting (助念) too.

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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