Special Topics

​Buddhist Circumambulation (Walking Meditation and Buddha Name Recitation)

Circumambulation, originating in early Buddhism, was the ritual of circling around the Buddha to express respect. After Buddhism was introduced to China, Buddhists continued the tradition of circumambulating the Buddha's statue or a stupa, and is now being widely integrated into Buddhist practice and Dharma assemblies within Chinese Buddhism.
The Circumambulation that commonly occurs in the Seven-day Amitabha Recitation Retreat is also known as "Walking Meditation and Buddha Name Recitation". Practitioners recite and listen to the Buddha's name, while walking slowly to unify their physical, verbal, and mental actions.
1. Keep the head up and tuck in the chin. Straighten the spine and lower back, without letting your abdomen protrude. Relax every part of the body as much as possible from head to toe.

2. Join palms together and look slightly downward. (See picture c1)

3. Recite the Buddha's name. Listen to the sound of the wooden fish and others' recitation.
1. As we leave the starting point of our seats, follow the sound of the wooden fish and recite "Namo omi tuo fo" (Homage to Amitabha Buddha). 
(See picture c2)
When reciting "Namo (Homage to)", step out your right foot.
When reciting "o mi (Ami)", step out your left foot.
When reciting "tuo (tabha)", step out your right foot.
When reciting "fo (Buddha)", step out your left foot.
2. When we hear the sound of the chime bell, change the tune to recite "O mi tuo fo" (Amitabha Buddha).
Recite "O" on the right foot. 
Recite "mi" on the left foot.
Recite "tuo" on the right foot.
Recite "fo" on the left foot.
3. When we reach the front of the Buddha statue, show respect by the raising the triangular hand gesture as illustrated in Picture c3 (without stopping to bow). Afterwards, carry both palms facing upward at the waist area, with one hand cradling the other as shown in Picture c4, to continue walking meditation along with the recitation of the Buddha's name.  
4. When we return to our seats, we make a bow, sit down, and continue reciting.
When reciting the Buddha's name, we need to recite wholeheartedly and also listen mindfully. Following the sound of the wooden fish while listening to others' recitation, we focus our minds on the rhythm of the group recitation. We are aware of exactly what we are reciting and what we are hearing. There is no wandering thought at all in our minds.
When beginning to circumambulate, relax, and look slightly downward, without looking around you. We care neither about our destination, nor about how others walk. Rather, we focus only on the recitation and the steps. Wholeheartedly following the recitation of Buddha's name, we continue walking meditation with peace and ease.
Besides paying attention to the recitation and our steps, we can also contemplate that every step is like a lotus blossom, and we feel that we are walking on lotuses. Contemplating that we step on lotuses as we recite Amitabha Buddha's name, our bodies and minds will become soft, light, and calm.

Resource: Issue 323 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Hsiao Chen-an
Editing: Angela Chang, Keith Brown

Extended Reading:
Practice Walking Meditation to Experience Chan in Motion

Slow Walking Meditation

​Fast Walking Meditation


See all the articles of the column, Walking Like the Buddha.