Question: Some ‘Buddhists’ have strong objection to the chanting of ‘(Namo) Amituofo’ (南无阿弥陀佛: [Homage to and refuge in life in] Amitabha Buddha), for personal practice, and even as a greeting. (This seems to be due to grave misunderstanding [and lack of understanding] of the precious related Pure Land teachings.) There is instead encouragement to chant ‘Namofo’ (南无佛: Homage to and refuge in Buddha[s]), which can mean ‘Homage to and refuge in all Buddhas’ or just ‘Sakyamuni Buddha’. How should we view this?
Answer: One of many reasons why the name of ‘Amituofo’ is so popular that it has become a universal Buddhist greeting for so many centuries, is due to its multiple layers of profound meanings. ‘Amituofo’ in Sanskrit is ‘Amita Buddha(s)’, which means ‘Buddha Of Immeasurability (in light, life and all virtues)’ (无量光寿之佛) AND ‘Immeasurable Buddhas’ (无量佛), that is, ‘ALL Buddhas’. Thus, Amituofo’s name is shorthand for all Buddhas’ names as one name too. This is how sincere chanting of Amituofo’s name as a sustained practice or greeting is win-win, as this praises one and all Buddhas at once!
Also, according to the ‘Amitabha Sutra’ (阿弥陀经), ALL Buddhas are mindfully protective of all who uphold the sutra’s teachings, the key being mindfulness of Amituofo’s name! This means there is no loss of blessings via mindfulness of just ‘one’ Buddha, since he represents all other Buddhas too. As Sakyamuni Buddha taught in the ‘Sutra On Rebirth As Aspired’ (随处往生经) , he wishes us to practise mindfulness of one instead of all Buddhas for focus. Representing all yet focused as one, Amituofo’s name functions thus!
In actualising the 17th vow of Amituofo in the ‘Immeasurable Life Sutra’ (无量寿经), ALL Buddhas will greatly praise and proclaim the name of Amituofo too. This is why Sakyamuni Buddha personally mentioned Amituofo’s name in almost 300 sutras, as mindful Practice with it powered by right Faith and Aspiration will lead to his Pure Land, where progress to Buddhahood is swiftest. Selfless as all Buddhas are in working together, Sakyamuni Buddha was never ever bothered that Amituofo’s name might exceeds his in popularity.
Why Do Buddhists Say ‘Amituofo’ So Much?
Amituofo As One & All Buddhas
Why Be Particularly Mindful Of One Buddha?
The Fastest Way To Buddhahood