Nembutsu practice and mindfulness in daily life

QUESTION: Dear Dharmavidya, how can I do frequent Nembutsu repetitions and be mindful in my daily life?

SHORT ANSWER: Just do it.

LONG ANSWER: Mindful in Pureland means mindful of Buddha, mindful of Amitabha, mindful of nembutsu. The word nembutsu means mindful (nem) of Buddha (butsu) so anything that brings Buddha to mind is nembutsu. Of course, what we more fundamentally mean is having Buddha in one's heart. Perhaps, as several people have suggested, heartfulness is a better term. Anyway, according to Honen, it all hinges on senchaku, which means making a decisive choice or selection in favour of nembutsu as one's chosen practice, after which many things come to be seen as nembutsu. 

In practical terms, in the Amida Shu community, for instance, the ordination precepts prescribe saying the nembutsu in every waking hour and at least 108 times per day. In a community of practitioners this is not too difficult since we use "Namo Amida Bu" in place of or in association with "Hello" "Goodbye" "Please" "Thank you" "Never mind" "That's great" and all ordinary daily expletives - something good happens, "Namo Amida Bu", something bad happens "Namo Amida Bu" and so on.

The point, however, is to be in love with Amitabha Buddha - having faith, reflecting, thinking about, having the imagage, feeling and notion of Buddha close at hand in all that one does and drawing strength and comfort therefrom.

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  • Dear Stephen, it is not at all easy to answer your question because Thich Nhat Hanh's position on mindfulness is quite complicated. He has managed to represent virtually all Buddhist practice as forms of mindfulness. Buddhist ethics, for instance, have become "mindfulness trainings". Well, Amida Shu certainly advances Buddhist ethics, but we do not call it by the same terminology. Even when he is using the term mindfulness to refer to a kinbd of consciousness or awareness, i do not think that his concept is the same as that of Jon Kabat Zinn for instance. The latter's mindfulness is very much here and now attention whereas for Thich Nhat Hanh mindfulness means "deep seeing" which indicates being aware of the origins and the future of phenomena, their fragility and transiency, and so on. In this respect, he is closer to the Amida Shu position, though, perhaps not identical. In my view, there has been a shift or slippage of terminology. Much of what is nowadays called mindfulness is actually simply awareness shorn of these deep seeing elements. In Amida shu, awareness is important but is not called mindfulness - it is, rather, really, part of the second enlightenment factor more than the first, i.e. it is part of "investigation of Dharma". So overall I think that Amida Shu and Thich Nhat Hanh are relatively closer to being aligned than are either of them really with what passes for mindfulness in the post JKZ era. So no simple answer - it has become a bit of a terminological confusion unfortunately.

  • Thank you Dharmavidya. This makes me reflect upon my own practice and that I'm not very good at always keeping the Buddha in mind, I've only just started to realise the meaning & importance of heartfulness of keeping Buddha in my heart. It feels like a very different place than my mind as I know it.  Namo Amida Bu 

  • Thank-you Dharmavidya. So, you are saying that mindfulness in a Thich Nhat Hanh sense is not practiced in Amida Shu?
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