Amita Buddha [Amituofo] is the
Buddha Of Immeasurable Light;
Buddha Of Immeasurable Life;
Buddha of Immeasurability.
On many occasions, Chinese Buddhists often say ‘Amituofo’ (阿弥陀佛), which is the name of Amitabha Buddha in Chinese. At first, it can seem bewildering to those unfamiliar because, as portrayed even in the movies, it can be used to express good will, greetings, welcome, farewell, apology, gratitude, approval, disapproval, praise, rejoice… including shock and grief!
It can also be used to punctuate the beginning and end of sentences formally, to gather attention when sharing the Dharma. And of course, it can be used as a direct appeal for blessings. How is this name usable in so many contrasting situations, and what does this ubiquitous name really mean?
Beyond Amitabha Buddha himself, Amituofo also represents our Buddha-nature, or the potential for Buddhahood (as our ‘self-nature Amituofo’). The only difference between the Buddha-nature of Amitabha Buddha and ours is that he had already realised his fully, while we have yet to.
As such, when we say or chant ‘Amituofo’, it is the practice of aligning our unrealised Buddha-nature to Amituofo’s realised Buddha-nature. It is to connect to both Buddha-natures via mindfulness of a Buddha, to help further awaken ours. Since it is always a good time to remind ourselves and others to do this, there is simply no occasion when it is not appropriate to say ‘Amituofo’!
This practice of saying ‘Amituofo’ as much as possible was partly popularised by Chan Master Yongming Yanshou (永明延寿禅师: 904-975) near the end of the Tang Dynasty, who later became the Pure Land Tradition’s 6th Patriarch (净土宗六祖). Committed to mindfulness of Amituofo’s name 100,000 times daily, to meet this target, he recited it seemingly all the time, verbally or silently.
Even when talking or eating, he would be reciting mentally. He also encouraged all to do the same, so as to nurture and express the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice to be reborn in Amituofo’s Pure Land, where Buddha-nature is most swiftly realised through Amituofo’s guidance.
When called by others, since he would be mindful of ‘Amituofo’ mentally then, he would do his best to respond with the name of ‘Amituofo’ physically, using it to represent what to be said. For all short responses that need no further details, instead of saying ‘Hi’, ‘Bye’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’… he would simply say ‘Amituofo’. It became the universally auspicious response, that can even stand for opposite answers because it is a ‘forced reset’, that re-calibrates the chanter and listener to their Buddha-natures for the right answer. For example, if asked whether it is okay to harm someone, replying with ‘Amituofo’ would surely mean ‘No’! But if asked whether someone should be helped, the same reply would mean ‘Yes’!
If you encounter any suffering, why just sigh or exclaim helplessly in sorrow and exasperation? Why not recite Amituofo’s name? Doing so sincerely is so much more fruitful, as it creates merits (meritorious virtues) and offers blessings instantly. It is support-chanting for one and all!
Constant recitation also gives rise to peace and bliss of body and mind, as we connect to our Buddha-nature with Amitabha Buddha’s blessings. Reciting aloud reminds others of this too, encouraging them to also recite. This is how our Five Poisons of attachment, aversion, delusion, arrogance and doubt that cause suffering can be reduced and eradicated. With so many wonders, no wonder Amituofo’s name is so popular!
Amita Buddha [Amituofo] is the
Buddha Of All-Compassion;
Buddha Of All-Knowing Wisdom;
All Buddhas [in essence].
The Sacred Name of Amita Buddha (Amituofo)
How Does Nianfo Eradicate Our Five Poisons?
Top 10 Reasons Why Amituofo is So Popular (Significance of the 17th Vow of Amituofo)