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, for example; Namo Amida Bu or Namu Amida Butsu (Japanese), Namo Amitoufo (Chinese), Namu Amita Bul (Korean) or Namo Amitabha (Sanskrit).
In order to start the practice, you don’t need a clear idea of exactly what Amida is or how the nembutsu works. To begin with itmight be helpful to see Amida an unfolding wholesome energy, as the spirit that moved the Buddha to live a good life, or as compssaion or unconditional love. We would encourage you to try it for two weeks to beging with and to pay attention to any changes in your mood or in your daily life. If it works for you, then 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, just start chanting ‘Namo Amida Bu’ for five minutes, once or twice a day. That’s it. You can either say the words, as you can hear , or use a tune which you can hear . Feel free to chant along with the audio, or chant alone and vary the speed or pitch to suit your own voice.
Other suggestions that might help:
Try to practice at the same time every day to help form a positive routine – morning, lunchtime or evening – whatever works best for you.
Choose a quiet space to practice, but if you enjoy being outside then you could do your chanting in the garden or whilst walking.
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.
Some people like to light a candle or light an incense stick before they begin.
Sometimes you might want to chant for longer and on other 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.
We hope that you enjoy your explorations with nembutsu, and that it brings you inspiration, peace, courage and comfort.
Namo Amida Bu!
HOW TO DO PROSTRATIONS
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 the practice of nembutsu.