Special Topics

Q5: What is the difference between reciting the Buddha’s name and chanting a dharani?

Both Buddha-name recitation and dharani chanting are methods of practice used to help us cultivate concentration. Chanting a dharani is equally meritorious to reciting a Buddha's name, without one being superior or inferior to the other. People are different in their karmic capacity and spiritual inclination regarding Buddhist practice. While some like chanting a dharani, others prefer reciting the Buddha's name. Buddhist practice, regardless of the method used, is intended to help us focus our mind, thus developing in wisdom.

There are generally two approaches to reciting the Buddha's name: reciting with a scattered mind, and reciting with a concentrated mind. The former can be practiced at any time and place, by reciting out loud or silently in the mind, or even by reciting the Buddha's name mentally while in conversation with others. The latter is practiced with the resolution to attain enlightenment within a fixed time period. During a seven-day Amitabha Buddha Recitation Retreat or a seven-day Buddha Name Recitation Chan Retreat, it is usually carried out with continuous and loud chanting. Also, the eminent Pure Land Buddhist Master Yin Guang proposed the method of counting the number of recitations, which is different from keeping count of recitations. Keeping count requires one to use prayer beads or a counter to keep track of how many times one recites the Buddha's name. Counting the number involves mentally counting a number for each recitation of the Buddha's name: for example, "Amitabha Buddha, one", "Amitabha Buddha, two", and so forth. After counting to 10, one then starts the cycle over again. Repeat the counting this way, and you can achieve concentration and reduce drowsiness and discursive thoughts.

Extended Reading:

Let's Recite the Buddha's Name

Q1: Why do Buddhists always greet each other with "Buddha Amitabha (Amituofo, in Chinese)"?

Q2 : To perform Buddha-name recitation, should we limit ourselves to only reciting Amitabha Buddha"? Or would reciting several Buddhas'names afford additional blessings and protection?

Q3: Is reciting the Buddha's name a practice exclusively for the sick and the elderly?

Q4: Are prayer beads or counters necessary when reciting the Buddha's name?

Q5: What is the difference between reciting the Buddha's name and chanting a dharani?

Q6: Is it proper to recite the Buddha chant while having a shower or using the toilet?

Q7: When ill, is it more effective to recite the name of Medicine Buddha or Guanyin Bodhisattva?

Resource: Issue 392 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Chien-rong Chiu (邱千容)
Translation: Carrie 
Editing: Shu-jen Yeh (葉姝蓁), Chia-chen Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown