What is “Namu Amida Butsu?”


Old Man: Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu

Mr. Bear: Hey, what were you mumbling just now?

Old Man: Oh, hello Mr. Bear! I was saying the nembutsu.

Mr. Bear: The nembutsu?

Old Man: Oh right, you learned different teachings, didn’t you? In Master Shinran’s teachings, chanting ‘Namu Amida Butsu’ is called the ‘nembutsu’.

Mr. Bear: Namu Amida Butsu? What on earth is that?

Old Man: Oh, this is explained in Shakyamuni’s Complete Sutras, which span more than 7,000 volumes. To put it simply, an immensely compassionate buddha named Amida Buddha toiled really, really hard to put all the virtue of the universe into these six Chinese characters so that he could save all people!

Mr. Bear: Wow, that’s an impressive amount of virtue!

Old Man: Yeah, it is, isn’t it? Master Shinran also called it a “treasure-filled ocean of virtue” and a “supreme jewel.”

Mr. Bear: In that case, maybe I should copy you and chant the nembutsu too!

Old Man: Yes, that’d be good! All right, well why don’t you put your hands together in front of Amida Buddha and chant Namu Amida Butsu?

Mr. Bear: Um, like this?

Old Man: That’s right!

Mr. Bear: Oh, I see. So will something good happen if I chant the nembutsu?

Old Man: Well, the nembutsu isn’t a charm or a spell, so it’s not something you chant in hopes of getting some kind of blessing.

Mr. Bear: Then what’s the point of chanting it?

Old Man: It’s how someone who has been saved by Amida Buddha says thank you to him. When you receive such great virtue that’s more than what you deserve, the nembutsu just pours out of your mouth. As for people who are listening to Buddhism, just knowing the preciousness of Namu Amida Butsu is enough to make anyone feel compelled to chant it.

Mr. Bear: Oh, really?

Old Man: Yes! In order to know the preciousness of Namu Amida Butsu, we have to listen really hard to Master Shinran’s teachings.

Mr. Bear: Oh! Then from now on I’m gonna listen to Buddhism and start saying the nembutsu!

Old Man: Wonderful!

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #64 | 2016, What is “Namu Amida Butsu?”

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Buddhist Village TImes #64

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