Special Topics

The Key to Training the Mind—Single-minded, undisturbed concentration through Buddha-name recitation

All Buddhist methods of practice are meant to help us attain ultimate freedom and liberation. We can recite Buddha's name when we have mental afflictions, or when we experience distress and difficulties. Reciting the Buddha's or Bodhisattva's name helps us focus our mind and cultivate concentration.

In the Introduction to Buddhism, Master Sheng Yen taught us the method of Buddha-name recitation, which includes the names of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and not just reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha. For example, a seven-day Amitabha recitation retreat is specifically designed for the practice of reciting Amitabha Buddha's name for seven consecutive days; likewise, the same goes for the seven-day Buddha-name recitation retreat dedicated to the Medicine Buddha (Bhaiṣajyaguru-vaiḍūryaprabhārāja), Maitreya Bodhisattva, Earth-Treasure (Kṣitigarbha) Bodhisattva, Guanyin (Avalokiteśvara) Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.

How do we practice the method of reciting the Buddha's name? There are two principal ways to go about reciting the Buddha's name: using scattered mind, and with a focused mind. We can do the former at any time or place, by chanting out loud or silently in our mind, even when in conversation with someone. The latter method is used during a specific time period set aside for engaging in intensive practice, where we normally recite the name out loud continuously while listening to our own recitation.

Master Yin Guang encouraged people to count the number of recitations, which is different from keeping count of recitations through a device such as a string of beads. The former requires practitioners to silently count a number for each recitation, from one to 10, in a complete cycle. If we repeat this cycle continuously, we will find that it helps us achieve focused concentration. When our recitation practice reaches the state of single-minded concentration without confusion, we are naturally able to recite the Buddha's name with a concentrated mind, rather than with a scattered mind.

Extended Reading:

Modern People's Mental Issues - Too many wandering thoughts

Modern People's Mental Issues - Materialistic Obsession

Modern People's Mental Issues - Chronic Depression

Modern People's Mental Issues - Intense Anger

Buddhist Methods for Training the Mind - The Seven Stages to Regulate the Mind

The Key to Training the Mind—Chan Practice

The Key to Training the Mind—Single-minded, undisturbed concentration through Buddha-name recitation

The Key to Training the Mind—A focused mind through upholding a dharani/mantra

Resource: Issue 316 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Venerable Guo Shyang
Translation: Cheng-yu Chang (张振郁) 
Editing: Keith Brown, Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠)