March 13, 2019 at 8:10 am #3330
Rev. Satya Robyn (temple host)Moderator
I’m currently reading D. T. Suzuki’s second volume of selected works which centres on the Pure Land. He’s just described four different kinds of nembutsu, or ways of practising nembutsu, and I’d be curious to hear what you think and which of these you practice yourself…
The first is to say the nembutsu as a way of thinking “…of the Buddha as possessor of all the virtues Buddhists could think of”, as a way of conjuring these qualities and allowing them to rub off on us.
The second is the idea that the name of Amida itself contains “innumerable merits”, and by speaking the name as a kind of mantra we are influenced by this power. He also speaks of this kind as being the effect of uttering many thousands of nembutsu a day – a kind of contemplative trance – where (paraphrasing) the Buddha’s grace can enter us.
The third is the sincere calling out of a being convinced of their foolishness, as if needing help from a parent. “The nembutsu for this class of devotees is the last cry they utter in their desperate efforts to be delivered from the miserable situation in which they are.” This for me is the first step of the 12 steps, the gates of contrition, the calling out which is always answered.
The fourth is what he calls ‘Zen nembutsu’ which is an enquiry into who it is doing the reciting. As he penetrates this mystery, “the realization dawns on him that he himself is the bearer of the Buddha-name and that infinite light shines out of his own inner man, he knows that there is no Pure Land to seek after”.
As a summary, the first is the ‘good qualities of the Buddha rubbing off on us’, the second is the ‘mysterious power of the name’, the third is the ‘calling out to Amida’ and the fourth is the ‘penetrating into the nature of the caller’.
Suzuki also says that these kinds of recitation are “more or less mixed up and difficult to separate from each other” in practice, but I have found it interesting to ponder what the nembutsu means to me. I can identify most with the third kind, the calling out, but I also have faith in the ‘rubbing off’ and ‘mysterious power’ kinds.
What kind of nembutsu do you chant? Do you have other ways of looking at recitation to add to Suzuki’s list? I’d be interested to hear your comments.
March 13, 2019 at 4:47 pm #3337
In short : for me numbers 2 en 3 make the most sense in the way I express the Nembutsu. I very much have the feeling that Amida comes more and more in my heart and life when I focus my attention on the expression outward and inward of his name. In difficult times I call out for help. Namo Amida Bu
March 13, 2019 at 7:36 pm #3339
All! Definitely mixed up – don’t do Nembutsu with any precise intention…’I’ just do it…but feel that sometimes it happens cos Amida is calling to me…it has replaced my ‘mindfulness’ practice….have woken up from sleep chanting! ‘Background’ thought or out loud joyous singing…just do it?
March 14, 2019 at 9:22 am #3341
I think they all overlap and one can’t do one form without experiencing bits of the other . Me personally at morning times seated and at times throughout the day whilst going about daily life perform nembutsu with the attitude of surrender and at different levels of intensity generally feel absorbed , realigned , and abide in a more right minded state, not always immediately. To be honest it chooses me to do it rather than me choose it for the most part.
March 17, 2019 at 9:34 pm #3346
You know honestly, I hadn’t given deeper thought in what the nembutsu meant to me until I read Satya’s post. So thank you Satya for sharing D.T. Suzuki’s insights. Personally, I can say that mostly I do the second and third way of chanting. I definitely identify with the third calling out to Amida (as if needing help from a parent). In the past few weeks I had been struggling with doubt, and I would find myself calling out with such desperation. Now I feel that Amida’s light is shining on me. If ever I drift into a dark period, I know that I am not alone: Amida is here and so are all of you. Thank you.
March 17, 2019 at 10:14 pm #3347
A few different types depending on the circumstances, I supposed. If I have proper time I will set myself up on my stool in my meditation room/office and either chant nembutsu while prostrating in front of the Buddha, or while seated with my mala. More likely, though, is that I’ll chant while driving, or folding laundry, or in the bath. I always sing my chant. If I need to feel connected to the community I’ll chant along with the Nembutsu recording on the website, or imagine the many others around the world who are also chanting. Sometimes I’ll recite one Nembutsu then wait, breathe, pause and listen, before the next one. I find a Namo Amida Bu! automatically issues from my mouth whenever something good happens nowadays, if I see a rainbow or find the last parking space, like a giving of thanks. And recently, a despairing plea for renewed hope in the world.
March 18, 2019 at 8:30 am #3352
Rev. Satya Robyn (temple host)Moderator
Namo Amida Bu! So lovely to read these – I love how we are connected through this practice, and how different it can be for different people (and also the same!) Nembutsu as gratitude is wonderful isn’t it Siani? It took me a while to ‘get’ that…
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