So, here is a way of combining Zen, which is meditation, and Pureland, which is nembutsu, in a single formal practice. We say formal, there is formal practice and informal practice. This is sometimes also called intensive practice and extensive practice.

Intensive, or formal, is what you do in the Buddha hall or sitting in front of your shrine.

Informal is the practice that goes on through ordinary daily life while you’re making the bed, doing the washing up, organizing your life practice goes on. When you stop to the traffic lights: Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu. Nembutsu is very convenient for informal practice.

For formal practice Zen adds a certain intensity and so this is very useful.

So, you determine a period of time for which you are going to do your formal practice. You sit down in front of your shrine. You may have other elements to your practice: recitations, offering incense, making prostrations, and so on, but in this podcast, I want to talk about the period of nembutsu-zen.

So, you sit in a formal zazen posture with your legs crossed, on a cushion (a zafu) your back straight. You pay attention to your breathing; and as you breathe out you say the syllables: Na-Mo-A, and as you breathe in: Mi-Da-Bu.

* Na-Mo-A * Mi-Da-Bu *

So, the nembutsu is coordinated with the breathing. In this way you maintain your concentration and your mind is filled with the nembutsu.

You may be aware of other things, perhaps there is a draft or there is a noise from next door or whatever but you pay no particular attention to these things. You don’t make any deliberate effort in their respect, either to shut them out or to let them in. They’re not important. You keep your mind on the nembutsu: * Na-Mo-A * Mi-Da-Bu *

Now, when you do this, the mind is full of many things and your particular devils will appear. Your devils will be many, or various or particular. Perhaps your devil is alcohol or perhaps your devil is money or perhaps your devil is sex or whatever. But whatever it is that is your “go to” as they say in America, whatever it is that you turn to when you want to reduce your stress level, this is likely to show up as soon as you start doing formal practice; and in the Eastern way of thinking this is a little devil.

So, you imagine this devil and you welcome it and you sit it down beside your knee and you say: “Just sit there while I carry on,” and you carry on. * Na-Mo-A * Mi-Da-Bu * and your carry on like that. If the little devil starts to play up, well, you just calm it a little, then your mind goes back to the nembutsu: * Na-Mo-A * Mi-Da-Bu * with you breathing.

If another devil shows up, you just sit it down by your other knee. In some cases, you may just end up surrounded by a little crowd of devils. That’s alright. They’ll all sit there calmly and you’re teaching them to say the nembutsu and to sit in calm in zazen.

When the time is finished, you bow and you say “Thank you” to the Buddha and you say “Thank you” to your little devils. They can go and play now and that is the end of the practice for today.

This is a nice way to practice that brings together Zen and Pureland, zazen and nembutsu.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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  • Very much like this practice. Looks also good to do as an informal practice : laying in bed with pain, breathing in "Mi-da-Bu", breathing out "Na-mo-A", little devils all around (pain, worries, .....) giving them some kind of attention and then going back to the nembutsu, letting Amida's light coming in with breathing in and calming the body with breathing out again and again keeping the devils there close to the knees with a tender soothing touch. Or maybe that is to much attention for those little devils ? They must maybe learn to play more alone ?

    Thank you, deep bow, Namo Amida Bu

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