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Somebody, Please! Anybody?

a person holding a black letters
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To be sincere
is to be wholehearted,
and thus single-minded.

— Shilashanti

In a Taiwanese comic book《怪奇微微疼》of ghost stories (by 微疼) is a full page drawing of a frowning guy having a supernatural disturbance, with clenched fists and closed eyes on a bed in the dark. The words around him, which reflect his thoughts read… ‘Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó. Or the Earth God? Èrláng God? Zhùshēng Goddess will also do. Please come to save me once. Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó. Jade Emperor. Guānyīn Púsà. The Thus Come One, Lord Buddha. Anyone will do, come and save me! Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó, Námó Āmítuófó.’ (南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛。还是土地公公?二郎神?注生娘娘也好。拜托来救一下。南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛。玉皇大帝,观音菩萨,如来佛祖。随便哪位都行,来救救我啊!南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛,南无阿弥陀佛。)

‘Námó Āmítuófó’ (南无阿弥陀佛) means ‘Homage to and refuge for life in Amitā[bha] Buddha (of Immeasurable Light [and Life])’. ‘Guānyīn Púsà’ means ‘Contemplator Of (The World’s) Sounds Bodhisattva’ (观世音菩萨). ‘The Thus Come One, Lord Buddha’ (如来佛祖) is a misnomer because both Thus Come One and Lord Buddha can refer to any Buddha. That said, it is usually used to refer to Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛). The other names are those of deities mainly from Taoist culture.

This scene seems to reflect the experiences of many facing similar problems. They might then recite a string of names or alternate between them, pleading for help. In confusion and desperation, the names might even cross faiths, when they might have very different doctrines. If this is done, as in many cases, there is usually no quick and clear help, (though no disturbance will last forever). Why is this so? The fact that there are many names recited without staying focused on any one shows that there is actually lack of strong faith in any particular one Buddha, Bodhisattva, god or goddess, which makes it hard to connect to any one firmly.

There are also considerations of whether the one whose name is recited even exists (beyond myth and legend). And if s/he does, is s/he powerful enough to know help is needed, and be able to render help? In this sense, there might be no equal efficacy. Despite these issues, it is worth noting that ‘Námó Āmítuófó’ was recited the most number of times, and repeatedly too. This is probably because Āmítuófó is the most popular Buddha among all Buddhas, especially in the Chinese-speaking world, with recitation of his name thus naturally being popular too — even among non-Buddhists.

As attested by many Buddhists, wholehearted (i.e. sincere) recitation of ‘(Námó) Āmítuófó’ will definitely be efficacious. (This is the main reason why recitation of his name is popular.) Likewise is it for recitation of ‘(Námó) Guānyīn Púsà’, especially since the Bodhisattva is the manifestation of an ancient Buddha too. The point is to stay focused. Just like one who has confidence in the police will keep calling the cops till there is connection for help, so should we be singleminded in recitation of any Buddha’s or Bodhisattva’s name. The fault is not with them not being helpful enough, but with us not being sincere enough, for there to be proper connection.

Some long-time Buddhists also make the same mistake of not being sufficiently sincere in recitation of any particular Buddha’s name, Bodhisattva’s name and mantra, while trying to juggle them during emergencies. They thus ‘conclude’ to others that a certain Buddha, Bodhisattva or mantra ‘seems’ more efficacious than another. Since all Buddhas are equally enlightened and all-knowing, with perfect compassion and wisdom, since most famous Great Bodhisattvas are remanifested Buddhas, and since all mantras are expressions of the essence of the Dharma’s power, how can one be less efficacious than another? To claim a Buddha, Bodhisattva or mantra is inefficacious is most slanderous!

To be insincere
is to have no heart,
or be half-hearted,
and thus scatter-minded.


— Shilashanti

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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