Nembutsu: a simple home practice and how to do prostrations

The nembutsu is the core practice for Pure Land 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 Japanese: 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.

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.

How can you get started?

·       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.

·       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.

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).

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

Namo Amida Bu!

Audio of five minutes of chanting with a tune
Audio of five minutes of spoken chanting

Many Buddhist traditions include some form of prostrations in daily practice. Bowing and prostrations are  a show of respect and are a method to purify the mind and help us to understand the insubstantiality of the ego. In Pure Land Buddhism prostrations are a way to strengthen our faith in Amida. This video demonstrates how to combine prostrations with practice of the nembutsu.