Honen said “Out of the eleation experienced in the knowledge that birth in the Pure Land is possible through the recitation of one or ten nembutsu grows the joy of the merit of recitation of a million nembutsu.”
There are several points to note here. Firstly, the equation of merit with joy. Merit is happy mind which arises from the sense of liberation or salvation. When we are safe, we feel happy. When others are safe we feel mudita - great joy.
Secondly, when we feel such joy we want to express it. When the joy has arisen through trusting in the nembutsu, then we will want to say many nembutsu.
Thirdly, one utterance of nembutsu is enough when it is said in the right spirit. There is nothing wrong with the nembutsu. When we say it in faith, there is nothing to worry about.
This is Honen’s reconciliation of the controversy over “one saying or many sayings”. The Tathagata Amida has vowed to abandon nobody who sincerely calls to him. Calling once is enough, but if one sincerely calls once one will want to call many times, just as one may experience love at first sight, but if it is real one then wants to go on seeing that person again and again.
Nembutsu is refuge. I taker refuge in that Buddha. If I take refuge, then I go to that land, as a refugee, giving up my former life. Even though, physically, I may still be in the same circumstance, everything is changed because I have my visa to enter that land. And while I am still here, I shall do my best to make this benighted world as like that other world as I can, by combatting cruelty and establishing conditions where all beings can grow and flourish.