B4 Basic Pureland Buddhism

Nembutsu: a Simple Home Practice ~ Satya and Kaspa

If you want to explore Amida Shu Buddhism, why not start by trying our simple practice?

The nembutsu is the core practice for Pureland Buddhists across the world. It is a way of aligning ourselves with the wholesome energy of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. We do this by saying ‘I entrust myself to Amida Buddha’ in different languages, most often using the phrase: Namo Amida Bu.

In order to start the practice, you don’t need a clear idea of exactly what Amida is or how nembutsu works. To begin with you can see Amida an unfolding wholesome energy, as the spirit that moved the Buddha to live a good life, or as unconditional love. We would encourage you to try it for a week or for 30 days [a free online course is coming soon] and to pay attention to any changes in your mood or in your daily life. If it works for you, keep going!

Nembutsu is a simple practice and it requires no special equipment or specialist knowledge. It doesn’t require the practitioner to study long texts or sign up to any dogmas. It is suitable for those with busy lives, and for those who are struggling with self-destructive habits or with feelings of despondency, anger, sadness or confusion. Nembutsu practice also connects us with the beauty in the world, with gratitude for all we receive and with a more meaningful way of life.

 

Practising daily nembutsu

To practice nembutsu, chant ‘Namo Amida Bu’ for five minutes, once or twice a day. That’s it. You can either say the words, as you can hear here, or use a tune which you can hear here. Feel free to chant along with the audio, or chant alone and vary the speed or pitch to suit your own voice.

Some people feel self-conscious when they first start chanting, or worry about whether they’re getting it ‘right’. If so, just keep going for a few days and these feelings will likely fade.

  • You might want to practice at the same time every day to help form a habit. If you’re a morning person, set your alarm ten minutes early. Some people chant during their lunch break or in the evening before they go to bed.
  • Choose a quiet space to practice. If you enjoy being outside, you could do your chanting in the garden or whilst walking.
  • Some people like to light a candle or light an incense stick before they begin.
  • You could use the audio links for spoken nembutsu or nembutsu with a tune and chant along with Satya and Kaspa, chant alone, or find a friend who’s interested in joining you and chant together.
  • If you find it difficult to find the privacy to chant sometimes, just move your lips without making a noise, or say the words inside your head.
  • Sometimes you might want to chant for longer. Some days you won’t find the time or you’ll forget – that’s okay – just say ‘Namo Amida Bu’ and carry on the next day.

We can’t say exactly how this wholesome energy will affect you as we don’t know what you need. Sometimes we don’t know what’s best for us either. We do trust that something good will begin to unfold. As the days go on you may begin to feel more peaceful, or gain more perspective on your problems. Some people notice themselves dealing with their emotions differently, and having more patience with themselves and with the people around them. Most people feel more settled and more secure.

If you’d like a boost to start your practice, you can sign up for our free online ‘30 Days of Nembutsu’ course [coming soon]. When you’re ready to develop other aspects of your practice you can find out more here. You might also find it helpful to link in with Amida Shu if you haven’t already, both by finding a local group (or starting a Home Group using our resources and support), and by hanging out at our virtual temple.

We hope that you enjoy your explorations with nembutsu, and that it brings you the inspiration, peace, courage and comfort that it has brought us.

Namo Amida Bu!

Audio of five minutes of chanting with a tune

Audio of five minutes of spoken chanting

30 Day Nembutsu online course – coming soon

Continue to Explore Amida Shu Buddhism 

:: link


How does Buddhism help?

Some of us came to Buddhism as we were interested in the teachings or in living more meaningful or more spiritual lives. Some of us were seeking calm, clarity or comfort. Some of us had become aware of our limitations. Some of us were in pain and turned to spirituality as a last resort or in desperation. We all came seeking something new.

All of us have found that we can take refuge in something bigger than ourselves – Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light. We find that it doesn’t matter how we conceptualise of Amida Buddha or whether we believe in the teachings literally or metaphorically. We all find our own personal way of making sense of the teachings. What is important is that we see Amida Buddha as a presence that is infinitely loving, patient and wise, and that Amida Buddha is not something inside ourselves.

We deepen our refuge in Amida by saying Namo Amida Bu, by studying the teachings, and by attending Amida Shu groups where we can practice, study and share together.

In our experience, as our sense of refuge slowly deepens, we feel more settled and content. We are able to live more skillfully and we become more available to help others in a way that feels healthy for us and for them. We receive the love and grace of Amida which helps us in our daily lives.

No matter what your reasons are for coming to the temple, and whatever difficulties exist in your past or your present, we hope that you will also find the consolation we have found in this sangha, and that Amida’s grace will shine on you.

Namo Amida Bu

~ Reverend Kaspalita and Reverend Satyavani, Amida Mandala


What is Amida Shu Buddhism?

Our form of practice can seem complicated at first but at its heart is very simple - we take refuge in something good, and we trust that as we lean in, we will begin to feel safe and accepted. As this feeling soaks through us, we find ourselves more able to handle the ups and downs of everyday life, and more able to be kind to others. We hope that you will discover this for yourself.  

For us, that ‘something good’ is epitomised by Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life. As Pureland Buddhists we take refuge in Amida Buddha by saying ‘Namo Amida Bu’. We also take refuge in other ways including studying and following Buddhist teachings, sitting in silent meditation, and by making offerings and prostrations.

 

~ thanks to Reverend Kaspalita and Reverend Satyavani of Amida Mandala


Amida Shu Buddhism

Amida Shu Buddhism is a form of original Buddhism affirming the trikaya nature of Buddha,

the bombu nature of the adherent and the primacy of taking refuge, especially by reciting the nembutsu.

Trikaya nature is a way of describing three different bodies or aspects of the Buddha: the ineffable Buddha, the spiritual Buddha, and the embodied Buddha. A bombu being is a foolish being of wayward passions.


Amida Shu (Shu means ‘School’) is an international Buddhist sangha in the Pureland tradition of Buddhism founded by Dharmavidya David Brazier in 1998. A sangha is a group of Buddhists who practice and learn together. We take refuge through reciting the nembutsu and other Buddhist practices which helps us to lean into the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) and the sangha and be held.

~ thanks to Reverend Kaspalita and Reverend Satyavani of Amida Mandala, Malvern


The Essence of Pureland Buddhism

The essence of Pureland Buddhism is the same as is at the heart of all great spirituality: how we can put ourselves in relationship with unconditional love, and live a life that is open, spontaneous, compassionate and full of faith.

In Pureland Buddhism, that great unconditional love is embodied by Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Life and Light. We recognise that as foolish human beings we are full of greed, hate and delusion, and that we tend to act selfishly and make mistakes. Crucially we also recognise that, despite this, we are completely acceptable and lovable in that condition. Just as we are.

In the language of Pureland Buddhism, what we are accepted by is the love of the Buddhas, and Amida Buddha in particular. We practice reciting the Buddha’s name in order to allow some of the spirit of that great love into our lives. This practice is called the ‘nembutsu’. We say the Buddha’s name in different languages but in this school we mostly use the Japanese - ‘Namo Amida Bu’.


In modern psychological terms, our practice is to allow the archetypal figure of Amida (something completely wise and loving) to infect our unconscious mind – and to bring about a deep change at this level. Practising in this way, our lives become more meaningful. As we recognise our nature as ordinary flawed and fallible human beings, we become more sympathetic to the failings of others. We feel loved and more able to love others in return.

~ thanks to Rev Kaspalita and Rev Satyavani of Amida Mandala


Why do we chant?

Dharmavidya writes:

Everything in life depends upon causes and conditions. Set up the right conditions and the right things happen. Buddhism teaches the right conditions for spiritual growth. A person is what they do. If a person acts with right intention they transform spiritual dangers into opportunities. Buddha taught that times of change (birth, illness, loss, gain, conjunction, separation, and encounter) are occasions of danger that can also be opportunity. However, a person is seldom able to take hold of such opportunity by their will-power alone. Will-power alone tends to be self-defeating because even when it achieves something it gives rise to pride over and attachment to those results. There is a more effective and subtle path to wholesome transformation via the deeper mind and the most effective way of activating such change is to chant.

Actions are conditioned by mind and mind by actions. Since actions are conditioned by mind and mind is also conditioned by its objects, holding a wholesome object in mind conduces toward a wholesome life. Since the most wholesome object is a Buddha, keeping a Buddha in mind is the key to transformation. Since mind is conditioned by actions, the action of calling the Buddha deeply impresses this most wholesome object upon the mind, like a seal pressed into wax. The Buddhas are constantly trying to help us, but generally we resist their help. By calling out to them we open the door to our inner being through which they can help us and, through us, help others.

Actually, the Buddhas are always calling to us. Amida Buddha is calling each of us. Amida’s light penetrates the deepest part of us, but unless we also call we remain closed. Once we begin a practice of chanting, however, a process of transformation begins. Something subtle starts to happen. Each person who chants becomes a vehicle for Amida’s compassionate work in the world, whether they are aware of it or not. Mostly, in fact, one is not aware of Amida’s action until one looks back over a period of time and sees that one’s life has changed. One has become more positive and more effective in many ways and obstacles that used to seem big now seem manageable or small. We do not chant in order to change. We do not chant in order to help others. We chant in order to call the most loving presence into our life and to make ourselves available to it, but the effect is that we do change and others are benefited.

Posted  on November 26, 2008


~ Dharmavidya David Brazier, Head of the Amida Order


What is Pureland Buddhism?

“Only repeat the name of Amida with all your heart…

This is the very work which unfailingly issues in liberation…”

~ Honen Shonin

The essence of Pureland Buddhism is the same as is at the heart of all great spirituality: how we can put ourselves in relationship with unconditional love, and live a life that is open, spontaneous, compassionate and full of faith.

In Pureland, that great unconditional love is embodied by Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Life and Light. We recognise that as foolish human beings we are full of greed, hate, confusion. We act selfishly and make many mistakes. Crucially we also recognise that, despite this, we are completely acceptable and lovable in that condition. Just as we are.

In the language of Pureland Buddhism what we are accepted by is the love of the Buddhas, and Amida Buddha in particular. We practice reciting the Buddha’s name in order to allow some of the spirit of that great love into our lives.

In modern psychological terms, our practice is to allow the archetypal figure of Amida (completely wise and loving) to infect our unconscious mind – and to bring about a deep change at this level.

As we practise in this way, we find our lives becoming more meaningful. And as we recognise our own nature as ordinary flawed and fallible human beings, we become more sympathetic to the failings of others. We feel held and loved and, thus, more able to love others in return.

We are part of the Amida-shu school of Buddhism, founded by our teacher, Dharmavidya David Brazier. We practice Pureland Buddhism in the Japanese tradition. Japenese Pureland follows the teachings of Honen and Shinran, Buddhist priests of medieval Japan. Pureland Buddhism traces its roots back to the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in Northern India and Nepal 2500 years ago.

You can learn more about Pureland and how it can help you by taking our Introduction to Pureland Buddhism online course.