We Should Hold and Recite the Buddha’s Name with Respect
Respect, in Chinese, is composed of two characters: “reverence” and “esteem.” It means having reverence on the inside and showing esteem on the outside. Be devout, respectful, and filled with utmost sincerity; in addition, thoroughly put down everything else and rely on [Amitabha name-recitation] completely.
Respect is very important for us Buddhists; as the saying goes, “The Dharma is sought from the midst of respect”; with 10 percent of respect, one gains 10 percent of benefits, and, likewise, with 100 percent of respect, one gains 100 percent of benefits. Actually, not only Buddhists, but people in general should harbor a mind of respect towards everything; therefore, the Confucian text The Great Learning states “Sincerity on the inside manifests on the outside” and “One who seeks with sincerity is not far from success.” The classic texts also say “Virtuous ones are respectful towards all.” They have only a mind of respect towards everyone and everything, anytime and anywhere. “Reverence” refers to reverence within, and “esteem” refers to esteem on the outside. So then why should the Buddha's name be recited with respect?
What kind of people do we know ourselves to be? Iniquitous mortals in the cycle of birth and death, full of greed, hatred, and ignorance, without any power to escape the three domains and six realms of samsara, only to increase not merits but evil karma that further entrap us. Now, we are fortunate to accept that Amitabha made vows, cultivated, established the Land of Bliss, and dedicated his merits and virtues, all for us sentient beings. Those who understand this point will recite Amitabha’s name with respect.
The word “should” means to encourage us to have a mind of respect, by comprehending that we are ordinary mortals without the conditions to be free from samsara on our own and that only Amitabha’s deliverance is the way, as well as to be reborn [in the Land of Bliss] and attain Buddhahood. Therefore, this is what is meant by respect in “Be devout, respectful, and filled with utmost sincerity.” The meanings of “devout, respectful” and “filled with utmost sincerity” are the same; in other words, within one’s mind, he is earnest and sincerely respectful. The phrase “thoroughly put down everything else and rely on [Amitabha name-recitation] completely” means to thoroughly put down one’s self power and mind of attachments to other Dharma cultivation methods; thoroughly put down any doubt towards Amitabha’s deliverance (through recitation of his name), and instead rely on it with your mind and body completely. This is the essential meaning of respect.
In the phrase, “hold and recite the Buddha’s name,” “hold” is just “recite.” It doesn’t matter whether or not you know, believe, or have a pure mind; just always recite Amitabha’s name exclusively.
“We should hold and recite the Buddha’s name with respect.” What is the meaning of “hold?” It is essentially to grasp something; if tangible, we use our hands; otherwise, we recite with our minds and mouths. Therefore, “hold” is simply “recite the Buddha’s name,” a.k.a. reciting Amitabha’s name. Those who do so exclusively will naturally be included in Amitabha’s deliverance, which conforms to the essence of the Easy Path.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not you know, believe, or have a pure mind; just always recite Amitabha’s name exclusively.” It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone knows the contents of Amitabha’s deliverance or that it is the Easy Path, nor whether or not he believes in it, or whether his mind is pure or confused and scattered, with or without greed, hatred, and ignorance. All of this is inconsequential; all he needs to do is just recite Amitabha’s name exclusively, and that alone conforms to “hold and recite the Buddha’s name.”
Of course, one who can always recite Amitabha’s name exclusively, without interruption or reversing course, usually has some degree of understanding and acceptance; the discussion of whether or not one has faith, knowledge, and purity of mind pertains to those who are at rock bottom. Even though we don’t have complete knowledge or faith, and our greed, hatred, ignorance, and discursive, miscellaneous thoughts are overwhelming, if we recite Amitabha’s name exclusively, we are already walking entirely along the direct, non-retrogressing Easy Path. So we can’t just stop at studying or believing but put what we learned into practice, by making Amitabha name-recitation our daily livelihood. In other words, Amitabha name-recitation BECOMES our daily life, and vice-versa.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings