Q1: Why do Buddhists always greet each other with “Buddha Amitabha (Amituofo, in Chinese)”?Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Buddha Name Recitation
Those who are new to Buddhism may have many questions, yet do not know to whom or where to turn for answers. The following compilation of common questions and answers related to Buddha name recitation is intended to create a smoother path for beginners to practice.
Q1: Why do Buddhists always greet each other with “Buddha Amitabha (Amituofo, in Chinese)”?
A: "Amituofo" is always used whenever Buddhists meet or say goodbye; to express gratitude, apologies, praise, anger, or sadness; or, when something unexpected happened. Why is "Amituofo" used so frequently?
The custom of reciting "Amituofo" on every occasion among Buddhists started with Chan master Yongming Yanshou (904 – 975 CE) of the Later Tang during the Five Dynasties, who advocated reciting the Buddha's name 100,000 times daily. This entails reciting the Buddha's name every moment of the day, be it sitting, standing, walking, lying down, during conversation or in silence, as well as whether moving or in stillness. Whenever people called him or asked him for guidance, his conversations always began and ended with "Amituofo". Thus, the practice of "recollecting the Buddha's name in every thought" was passed down from one generation to another to form a part of ordinary people's daily life, which in turn shaped the tradition of Chinese Buddhism.
"Amituofo" is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word "Amitabha", which means immeasurable light and immeasurable life. Saying "Amituofo" to each other is both a kind of greeting and a form of well-wishing. Not only do Buddhists feel happy and inspired when they hear this, but non-Buddhists also feel a sense of peace.
Moreover, chanting "Amituofo" can help us to transform our thoughts. Master Sheng Yen often advised that we turn our thoughts to the Buddha's name whenever we are upset or on the verge of losing our temper; this helps to halt our emotional roller coaster. In time, we develop the habit of chanting the Buddha's name. Thus, whenever anger arises, it then subsides with the recollection of the image of the compassionate and serene Buddha Amitabha. Practicing this way, our angry and hateful thoughts will gradually be reduced.
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: Shu-jen Yeh (葉姝蓁)
Editing: Leefah Thong, Keith Brown