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Temple Blog Amituofo
What is Amituofo?
You have probably heard Shifu Shi Yanjun say this expression during teaching or seen it written in the inner circle among Shifu, his disciples, or the other warrior monk apprentices. But what exactly is Amitufo? And why do Shaolin monks say it?
Amituofo (阿弥陀佛) is a word found among Chinese Buddhists. It is a Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word for Amitabha, the name of the Buddha. It has become a catch-all term for Chinese Buddhists, including Shaolin Monks. Saying Amituofo has much utility. It is used as a greeting, a farewell, a response to an outcome, and a well-wishing phrase. It is used in many circumstances and serves the Shaolin Monks and the Shaolin Warrior Monks. It is possible you had ever encountered it before and did not even realize it.
In many of the classical Kung Fu films of the 1970s and 80s often, the actors playing Shaolin monks or the Shaolin masters would greet characters or say farewell or respond to the concerns of the protagonists with “Buddha’s name be praised” or “Buddha is praised.” This is, in fact, a poor translation of Amituofo by western filmmakers, but the usage is the same. But saying Amituofo is not just an empty gesture; something said lightly or with absent intent. It is both a spiritual and martial practice.
Firstly, it is said as it means a way to remember the Buddha’s name and remind us of our potential for Buddha nature. It continuously reminds us to continue our work to strive towards Buddha nature.
Secondly, it is spoken before we start an exercise or form and after we finish, not only as a means of respect to the Buddha, the Temple, our Shifu, and fellow warrior monks. But also, as a reminder, a notice that Shaolin training, the lessons being learned, and the exercises being done, should not be entered into lightly, done without intent, or be engaged in half-heartedly and with reservation. It is a call to action, a reminder that all our intent should be put into training to achieve something beyond ourselves. As the monks in the Yunnan Temple would say, “Do not live your life in vain.”
Third, it is a part of a practice known as Nianfo (Buddha recitation). A practitioner can avoid or limit intrusive thoughts by focusing on breathing and the reciting of Amituofo. It helps in providing a clear and quiet mind.
Lastly, it may be a means of celebrating. Shaolin training is hard and requires dedication and commitment, and full intent. Much like meditation. So, finding success in your training and moving beyond how you started is a cause for celebration. And saying Amituofo seems an appropriate exclamation.
Shaolin Temple Yunnan Apprenticeship Program
Students of the Shaolin Yunnan Apprenticeship program are members of a true Shaolin Temple. And are part of the long Shaolin tradition. As apprentices, the teachings of Shifu Shi Yanjun follow 35 generations of Shaolin Warrior Monk tradition and history. We are part of the true Shaolin Temple by embarking on this training.
Written by Michael Baker, 35th Generation Apprentice Shaolin Warrior Monk & 18th Generation Apprentice Traditional Heritage of Meihua Quan of Shifu Shi Yanjun
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