Pure Land Buddhism (Chinese: 淨土宗) is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism focused on achieving rebirth in a Buddha’s Buddha-field or Pure Land. It is one of the most widely practiced traditions of Buddhism in East Asia.
Pure Land is a tradition which is primarily focused on achieving rebirth in a Buddha’s “pure land” or buddha-field (Sanskrit: buddhakṣetra), which generally speaking is a Buddha’s field of influence. Some Buddha-fields are considered to be superior places to spiritually train for full Buddhahood, since a Buddha has compassionately “purified” it for this purpose and since in these realms, one can meet a Buddha face to face and study under them. The most common pure land today is that of Amitābha, called Sukhavati, “Land of Bliss”.
For many Buddhists, simply chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light, is a complete mindfulness and devotional practice. Taking refuge in this way brings a feeling of immediate peace. Shakyamuni Buddha taught this method in the Amitabha Sutra. This simple, yet divinely rich practice combines devotion with mindfulness, of the sacred name of the Buddha.
The Buddha taught us many ways to practice in decades of teaching the Buddha Dharma, mapped out in 80,000 discourses and Sutras. Some of these are “learning practices” such as “Sutra recitation.” Others are vastly intricate and beautiful, such as Vajrayana visualization Sadhanas. Yet, for most of us, the sublimely simple practices are the best way to approach the Dharma, from mindfulness practice, to the most misunderstood of practices, chanting Amituofo. Ten Benefits of Chanting Namo Amituofo Practice Shakyamuni Buddha taught the 10 great benefits of chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha, as a complete practice, in the Amitabha Sutra. This is a devotional mindfulness practice. Single-Pointed focus and mindfulness is the ultimate goal, and can be achieved a number of ways.
Zen Koans are blissfully challenging. Watching the breath is a relaxing mindfulness practice. Chanting the Name or Name Praise of Amitabha is another quintessentially simple — yet penetratingly deep — practice. It makes the focus of our mindfulness, the Perfect Buddha. These ten great benefits of chanting Amitabha, as taught in sutra, include protection, support of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, purification of negative karmas, restful sleep, a peaceful mind, and rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. When you participate in this elegant and powerful practice, you feel immediate peace and comfort.
The entire practice is to mindfully chant the name — sometimes just the name, sometimes as a praise — of the Buddha of Infinite Light, Amitabha. Often this is embellished with the wondrous sound of the hypnotic fish drum, or the regular gong of a bell. Sometimes it is chanted musically; sometimes spoken; sometimes whispered. The immediate reward: a feeling of peace and protection. Many Buddhists — in Non-Pureland traditions — tend to think the practice is too simple, too reliant on faith and praise. If we think this way, we are missing the point. Single-Pointed Focus on Amitabha Like other traditions with single-focus meditation methods, Pureland Buddhist’s chant the name of Amitabha over and over. Mindfulness of the name of Amitabha is a powerful and profound practice. Instead of remaining mindful of something mundane, such as breath, or your walk in the park, Amituofo chanting keeps our mind focused in the present moment on the Enlightened Perfection of Amitabha Buddha. The entire practice is to simply chant, or say, with mindfulness: Amitabha, Amitabha, Amitabha… nothing else. Or using the Chinese version of the name Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo. Fo translates as Buddha. Keep the mind focused, in the present moment, on just the sound of your own voice: Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo.