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Buddha's Name Recitation

At the beginning of 2014, Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center invited Venerable Guo Xing, Abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center, to lead a 2-day non-residential retreat. What a wonderful blessing to start the new year. In this retreat, we applied the method of “reciting the Buddha’s name.” This method was first introduced to us last year and was greatly appreciated by the participants.This year, we were fortunate to have Ven. Guo Xing back and lead another retreat with this simple but effective Chan practice method. The Venerable said that our six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, thoughts) are like six animals that constantly want to run out and to contact the external six sense fields (form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought).The way to keep the animals inside is to tie them with a rope. Likewise, the method is like the rope to keep our six sense organs still, and in this two-day retreat the method of reciting the Buddha’s name is the rope. Recitation of the Buddha’s name is not only a pure land method, but also a Chan meditation practice.

Along with the sound of dharma instruments, we started chanting “Amitabha.” While sitting down, we chanted “Amitabha;” in walking meditation, we chanted “Amitabha.” Even when eating and going to the washroom, we were reciting “Amitabha” quietly in our mind. The Venerable reminded us that while chanting “Amitabha” with our mouths, we use our ears to listen to other people’s chanting. Meanwhile, we shall collect our sight, not look around, and synchronize our footsteps with the chanting of “Amitabha,.” Engage our whole body and mind in chanting “Amitabha,” and eventually our body and mind will be immersed in the name of Amitabha Buddha. This method allows us to collect the six sense organs into one to focus on the Buddha’s name, if we are able to chant single-mindedly with no other thoughts, whatever we see, hear and think of will be the Buddha’s name, thus leading to the cultivation of Samadi. When the Chan Master Lai Guo was using this method of practice, he was able to recite the Buddha’s name in all places and all time, even in his sleep. The Venerable said that we should emulate Master Lai Guo’s spirit when we practice reciting the Buddha’s name. Although the Master’s attainment seems very distant, the Venerable believes everyone can reach it only if one sets the mind to it.

Half way through the day, wondering thoughts began to surface. “Why are we using this method? I don’t experience anything. I think Hua-tou method is more effective.” Maybe these wondering thoughts were not unusual. The Venerable answered my doubts in his dharma talk. He said that when we were reciting Buddha’s name, we might wonder why we were doing this, this was really boring, etc. That is because we have not gained the right view of emptiness yet. If we are able to recite the Buddha’s name with our whole mind, all sights, sounds, and thoughts will be the Buddha’s name. We will then realize that all external objects, including all the sounds, sights and thoughts, are the Buddha’s name. There is no difference between the Buddha’s name and all phenomena. The Venerable asked: “At that time, would you still be angry when hearing someone scolding you?” Hearing the sound of scolding is not different from hearing the Buddha’s name. All phenomena are within the mind.

We were very fortunate and thankful to Venerable Guo Xing for leading this retreat. He taught us the correct view of Buddha Dharma, which is very important because the right view is the driving force to direct our practice, and it guides us to go on the right path. Thanks to all the venerables and volunteers for their concerted efforts and work in making this retreat wonderful.

(Shared by DDM Vancouver Center)

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