"Amida Buddha is like a mirror that shows one’s true self."
(Professor Kogi Kudara, Ryukoku University, Kyoto)
The famous statue of Amida Buddha known as 'Daibutsu' (Great Buddha) is venerated by pilgrims from all over the world, just as the phrase 'Namu Amida Butsu' (Homage to Amida Buddha) is used by Shin Buddhists to praise him. And yet, these acts, as virtuous as they may be, point to the deeper truth that Amida as a buddha represents the underlying 'buddha-nature' that we all share. 'Namu Amida Butsu' is a link, an opening into connecting not only with Amida Buddha, but with the buddha-nature within ourselves. Doing so can free us from our self-created suffering: Namu Amida Butsu!
The calm look of Amida Buddha is reflective of his insight into the way things are. It is also representative of the compassion that Amida has for all suffering beings (us!). Amida Buddha is not 'out there' however, separate to ourselves. He is, as a personification of our innate buddha-nature, within us, and if we can find him within us, we too will be calm & compassionate. Immersing in his peaceful façade can help us to open up to the buddha-nature within, as can chanting his mantra: Namu Amida Butsu!
Shin Buddhists recite 'Namu Amida Butsu' ('Homage to the Infinite Light Buddha') in gratitude for his compassion. Shin also teaches us to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have in life: family, friends, food, water, shelter, medicine, entertainment, etc. We are interdependent beings, depending on each other, on the Sun, the Earth, the weather, fauna & flora. There's so much to be grateful for in life, from our parents to our pets. We don't have to recite a Japanese mantra to express our thankfulness, though (although that's good, too), we can simply utter an inward 'thank you' at the appropriate time, and cultivate this feeling of gratitude. Life will be better for it: Namu Amida Butsu!
Reciting Na-man-da-bu, a contraction of Namu Amida Butsu, Shin Buddhists express gratitude towards Amida Buddha for his wisdom & compassion. Amida is said to welcome all, to be open to all. We can emulate this openness when chanting na-man-da-bu (or some similar phrase), by noticing the spacious silence that the words arise in. Just as Amida is open to all suffering beings, in truth so are we, as this capacious awareness that hears not only our chosen mantra, but also all sounds. Sitting alert, listening to the world is being open to it, and this is akin to Amida's own compassionate nature: Na-man-da-bu!
When I think of my wonderful wife, family, friends, pets, colleagues, students, community, earth, sun, life... there's so much to be grateful for. Gratitude is important in Buddhism, too, and it can be summed up in a phrase such as Namu Amida Butsu ('Homage to the Buddha of Infinite Light'), sometimes contracted to Na-man-da-bu. Reciting this phrase with gratitude can refresh the heart & clear the mind: Na-man-da-bu! Na-man-da-bu! Na-man-da-bu!