Question: Some people, particularly the Chinese, like to recite Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ names such as Namo Amithaba and Avalokitesvara. Others prefer to recite Buddhas’ or Bodhisattvas’ mantra like Om Mani Padme Hung. What are the differences between reciting Buddhas’/Bodhisattvas’ names and Buddhas’/Bodhisattvas’ mantras?
Answer: The recitation of Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas' names is a unique Buddhist practice. Recitation can have many different purposes and styles.
- Buddha and Yidam mantra recitation is to absorb the qualities of body, speech and mind of such enlightened state. The mantras are accomplished words from the Buddhas while they were at the developing stage. They have made aspirations to benefit or even liberate sentient beings upon recitation of such names or mantras. Once they attained enlightenment, their names or mantras achieved accomplishment and thus anyone who sincerely recites their names or mantras is able to develop the quality of the Buddha.
- Generally, name recitation can remind one to follow the footsteps of such Buddha, and thus to observe whatever that is favourable to develop that enlightened quality. So this will have great positive impact on our day-to-day changes in our habitual behaviours and tendencies.
- Mantras and names are also recited by ordinary people as a form of protection. Somehow, this is commonly practiced and it does create some impact on protection against temporal fears.
- Mantras are only recited under the practice of Tantrayana or Vajrayana and that requires oral transmission and initiation. Mahayana and Theravada practitioners can recite the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
- Whoever recites the names or mantras will receive the benefits according to the motivation and wishes established by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Thus, such recitations should be done more often and preferably on a daily basis until it becomes a good habit.