Amitabha Buddha is the King of Sweet Dew;
His merit and virtue and vow power are immeasurable.
The holy virtue of his great name dispels disasters
And turns a burning house into a cool place.
To receive the Buddha's light on the Bodhisattva path,
One must be replete with the provisions of faith, vows, and practice.
The Pure Land Dharma-door is a supreme Dharma-door which widely covers people of different roots, takes in all the fourfold assemblies, and was spoken by the Buddha without request. The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra says, "...those living beings who hear should vow, 'I wish to be born in that country."' It also says that if a person "holds the name, whether for one day, two days, three days,...or seven days, with one mind unconfused, then when he approaches the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the assembly of holy ones." From these passages, we know that vowing to be reborn in the Pure Land and holding the name of Amitabha Buddha are the two requirements for rebirth in the Pure Land.
If a person makes the vow but does not hold the Buddha's name, then
it is impossible for him to be reborn in the Pure Land. There would be a
lotus bud, but it would not bloom. If he holds the holy name but does not
make the vow, he will only attain the blessings of rebirth in either the
human or heavenly realms. However, there will be no lotus flower in the
pool of seven treasures for this person. Again, he cannot attain rebirth in
the Pure Land. Therefore, one must fulfill both conditions in order to
attain rebirth in the Pure Land.
Although two conditions are mentioned, basically, if you lack sufficient faith in the Dharma-door which all Buddhas speak and which they all mindfully protect, then your vow will not be sincere enough, and your holding of the holy name will be mixed with false thoughts. You will only be seeking to quell disasters and dispel sicknesses, and praying for blessings and longevity. Have you really made a vow to be reborn in the Pure Land? Have you actually recited the name with one mind
unconfused? If so, then all Buddhas will praise you, protect you, and be mindful of you. You either already have been reborn, are presently being reborn, or will be reborn in the land of Amitabha Buddha. Therefore, the ancient cultivators of great virtue called faith, vows, and practice "the three provisions for the Pure Land."
Among the requirements of faith, vows, and practice, the most difficult one for people to achieve is to practice with vigor. That is why the virtuous monks of old expended much effort in explaining the Dharma door of Buddha-recitation, which includes Real Mark Buddha-recitation, Contemplating an Image Buddha-recitation, Contemplating and Thinking Buddha-recitation, and Holding the Name Buddha-recitation. Here, we will only discuss Holding the Name Buddha-recitation.
When people practice Holding the Name Buddha-recitation, it is not easy for their minds to concentrate. They mumble the Buddha's name so softly that they cannot even hear it clearly themselves. The virtuous ones of old said, "If you cannot hear the recitation yourself, how do you expect the Buddha to hear it?" Such people are either indulging in too many random thoughts, so that their minds are not focused upon what their mouths are reciting, or else they are indulging in too many scattered thoughts, so that in a hundred recitations of the Buddha's name, only two or three are done single-mindedly with a pure, concentrated mind. This kind of practice is, of course, less effective. One could hardly say that there is any strength in such recitation.
Therefore, we should resolve to correct this. How? First of all, we must have the wish to transcend the world. If our mind is still attached to this world, how can we obtain rebirth? It is because of our attachment that we cannot get rid of our worldly false thoughts. The wish to transcend the world is the fundamental cure for false thoughts. Further, when we recite the Buddha's name, we must recite it with clarity, so that our ears can hear it clearly. We recite the name with our mouth, hear it with our ears, and let it come to rest in our hearts. One recitation follows another, the sounds mingle together, and it continues without stop. The sounds of recitation is a Dharma treasure which enables us to eliminate scattered thoughts and false thoughts. It is also the key to the Pure Land Dharma-door. In this way, as our minds think of the Buddha's name, our mouths recite the Buddha's name, our hands hold the recitation beads, our eyes gaze at the Buddha image, and our noses smell the incense offered to the Buddha, we mesh with Great Strength Bodhisattva's state in which: "The six sense organs are gathered in, and pure thoughts continue in succession."
Those who practice Buddha-recitation also need to create wholesome causes to help them obtain rebirth. Therefore, in daily life, we should try our best to uphold the five precepts, practice the ten good deeds, bow in repentance, bow to the Buddha, and perform merit and virtue.