ORDER OF PRACTICE SESSION
The following practice session is based on the Amitabha Sutra recitation session that is practiced in many Amitabha Buddhist Societies.
To begin the session, either hold this up or place it on a table and hold your hands in the hezang position. Hands are thus held for the remainder of the session except where indicated during the Amitabha Sutra by ( /\ ) for hezang and ( _ ) for hands at waist level. Now, bow once, do three prostrations, and bow one more time. If you are unable to do prostrations, you can do all bows.
You may now light some incense if you wish. Upon lighting the incense, fan it gently with your hand (do not blow on it) to put out the flame and allow the incense to burn down slowly. Raise the incense and hold it close to your forehead with the incense pointed towards the Buddha. Then, place the incense in the holder.
Next, change the water in the water container. Pour the water into another container for other uses, like drinking or watering plants. Do not drink out of the water container itself. Pour fresh water into the container and return to the gongzhuo. Say the Purity Verse while holding the container in both hands with your thumbs and first and second fingers. After completing the verse, raise the container to your forehead, say "Amituofo" ten times and then place the container back on the gongzhuo in front of the incense holder.
Next, read the Praise of the Lotus Pool Assembly. After completing the praise, begin to recite the Amitabha Sutra. Do not analyze the words. Our goal here is to focus single-mindedly on reciting the text. As Great Master Yinguang said, "Without trying to find the meaning of the sutra, just recite it in one stretch from beginning to end." The purpose of the recitation is to clear the mind of all wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments so that we may attain purity of mind. When our minds become more pure, our understanding will naturally become more profound.
After the sutra, we read the Praise to Amitabha Buddha to pay our respects to Amitabha Buddha for his compassionate vows to help all beings. After the praise, we chant "Amituofo" for a predetermined length of time. We then vow to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land by reading the Wish for Rebirth into the Pure Land.
Next, we say the Repentance Verse to express our deep regret for having harmed innumerable beings throughout all our lifetimes. We then read the Four Great Vows to transform our repentance into vows to help all beings end their suffering.
After that, we read the Dedication of Merit to pass on the goodness that has resulted from our chanting to help all beings end suffering and attain lasting happiness. To conclude the session, we read the Three Refuges.
The session may be done individually or in a group. If in a group, the bell master begins the praise, sutra, and so on, by saying the first two words. Others then join in. Read through from beginning to end, but do not read the page headings.
May the tranquility, purity, and impartiality
symbolized by this water be attained by all beings.
May they learn of the Western Pure Land,
vow to be reborn there, and achieve that rebirth
to forever leave suffering behind and
attain lasting happiness.
Praise of the Lotus Pool Assembly
Admist the sea-vast lotus pool assembly,
may Amitabha Buddha together with
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta,
sitting on the lotus platforms, lead beings to
ascend the golden stairway.
These sages have the great vows to help
all beings leave the mundane world.
Homage to the sea-vast lotus pool assembly of
Bodhisattvas and Great Bodhisattvas.
hezang: a bow from the waist with hands in hezang
bow: hands together and held in front of chest at level of one's heart
prostration: a full bow to the floor
gongzhuo: a table upon which we place Buddha image, container of water, incense, flowers, etc.