My pinch of salt on the matter...
Sure, but how is chanting Amitabha Buddha more meritous than chanting coca-cola?
Firstly, what is 'Amitabha'?
“Śāriputra, what do you think? For what reason is this buddha called Amitābha?
Śāriputra, the radiance of this buddha is immeasurable, illuminating the lands of the ten directions without obstruction, and for this reason he is called Amitābha.
Moreover, Śāriputra, the lifespan of this buddha extends for immeasurable, limitless eons, and for this reason he is also called Amitāyus.
Śāriputra, since Amitābha Buddha attained buddhahood, ten eons have passed.
Moreover, Śāriputra, this buddha has innumerable, limitless śrāvaka disciples, all arhats with unfathomable true abilities and knowledge.
The many bodhisattvas are also such as this.
Śāriputra, this buddha-land is accomplished thusly, adorned with these merits.
Immeasurable, limitless light/radiance, immeasurable, limitless life in Buddha Dharma...what do all these mean? Some ideas below...
http://www.abuddhistperspective.org/abu ... uddha.html
The cultivation method that we practice is mindfully reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha.
What is the meaning of Amitabha Buddha? Amitabha means infinite, and Buddha means wisdom and awakening.
Therefore, Amitabha Buddha means infinite wisdom and infinite awakening. This is a good thought.
Infinite wisdom and awakening is Buddha-nature. In the case of phenomena, it is Dharma-nature.
When we chant Amitabha Buddha, we are chanting Dharma-nature. Wisdom and awakening reside in everything in the universe.
Wisdom and awakening are innate in everything in the universe. Wisdom and awakening pervades the whole universe.
This Dharma door of mindfully reciting the Buddha-name is absolutely perfect. This is the state described in the Avatamsaka Sutra.
“Mindfully chanting ‘Amituofo’ encompasses the Threefold Learning, the three kinds of wisdom, and all other methods.” This method is absolutely perfect.
Amitabha "represents our pure nature and symbolizes the transmutation of desire, the predominant emotion of the human realm.
More intrinsically, Amitabha is the limitless, luminous nature of our mind."
You want more? That friend, is your homework...
Secondly, what is merit (and virtue) in Buddha Dharma?
a. Let's take a look at one definition... as what the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng says on these...
“Seeing your own nature is merit, and equanimity is virtue.
To be unobstructed in every thought, constantly seeing the true, real, wonderful function of your original nature is called merit and virtue.”
“Inner humility is merit and the outer practice of reverence is virtue.
Your self-nature establishing the ten thousand dharmas is merit and the mind-substance separate from thought is virtue.
Not being separate from the self-nature is merit, and the correct use of the undefiled (self-nature) is virtue.
If you seek the merit and virtue of the Dharma body, simply act according to these principles, for this is true merit and virtue.”
Does not a Buddha like Amitabha or any other Buddhas for that matter embody all of the qualities above? And as stated earlier in my initial reply to the OP, what is the ultimate purpose of the Pure Land practice of buddhānusmṛti and in this case, the focus on Amitabha Buddha? A path and fruit that focuses on the Bodhisattva Way leading to Nirvana & Buddhahood.
b. In Mahayana teaching, have you heard or read about the pañcamārga
or Five Paths analysis?
The first of these being the sambhāramārga or the path of accumulation or in some translations, 'the path of accumulation of merits and virtues'? Wanna know more? Again, another homework for you. And the importance of this 'accumulation' in Pure Land teaching, specifically with regards to Amitabha Buddha & the Sukhavati?
Shariputra, those living beings who hear of this should vow: I wish to be born in that country. And why?
Because those who are born there assemble in one place with people whose goodness is unsurpassed.
Shariputra, if one has few good roots, blessings, and virtues, one cannot be born in that Land.
http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/purelan ... s/id5.html
Then the World-Honored One said to Vaidehi,
"Do you know that Amitayus is not far away? Fix your thoughts upon and contemplate that Buddha-land, then you will accomplish the pure acts. I shall describe it to you in detail with various illustrations, so that all ordinary people in the future who wish to practice the pure karma may also be born in that Western Land of Utmost Bliss.
Whoever wishes to be born there should practice three acts of merit:
first, caring for one's parents, attending to one's teachers and elders, compassionately refraining from killing, and doing the ten good deeds;
second, taking the three refuges, keeping the various precepts and refraining from breaking the rules of conduct; and
third, awakening aspiration for Enlightenment, believing deeply in the law of causality, chanting the Mahayana sutras and encouraging people to follow their teachings.
These three are called the pure karma."
The Buddha further said to Vaidehi,
"Do you know that these three acts are the pure karma practiced by all the Buddhas of the past, present and future as the right cause of Enlightenment?"
c. Now, maybe you might want to check with Coca Cola on what their brand name is all about compared to the above?
If the goal is simply to reach a concentrated state by repeating a word over and over again, why would one word have any more merit than another?
Is buddhānusmṛti and the entire essence of Pure Land teaching, practice and realization just about 'simply to reach a concentrated state by repeating a word over and over again'? Please refer to this
for more info.
And another thing about 'chanting'... this
may help one to understand why this practice of chanting/recitation, amongst the many facets of practice is done in Pure Land
And to address this:
I have been taught that even repeating words in this fashion will not develope right concentration as the focus of attention is not in the body on a real object.
a. I agree with your statement in a general way but that's not how the actual practice in Pure Land is. How is it? Take a look at these... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
b. In the scriptural (and consolidated in a systematic way in commentarial tradition) Buddha Dharma, there is this classification known as 'karmasthana'
or also in Pali kammaṭṭhāna
which has a meaning of 'working place' or a 'place of work'. For what? For our minds. In the list, of the Threes, Fives, Sixes and Tens, buddhānusmṛti is listed on top. The most visible benefit, which deals with basic human fears, for anyone who practices it as the Buddha states here
...'For when you have recollected Me, whatever fear, terror, or horripilation there is will be abandoned'
and the highest one as in my initial post: If this single thing is recollected and made much, it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction....Your mind produces the Buddha's image, and is itself the Buddha. The ocean of perfectly and universally enlightened Buddhas thus arises in the meditating mind. For this reason, you should single-mindedly concentrate and deeply contemplate the Buddha, Tathagata, Arhat and Perfectly Enlightened One. To obtain human life is difficult in the extreme;
To meet a Buddha in this world is also difficult;
It is difficult, too, for a man to attain faith and wisdom.
Once you have heard the Dharma, strive to reach its heart.
If you have heard the Dharma and do not forget it,
But adore and revere it with great joy,
You are my good friend. For this reason,
You should awaken aspiration for Enlightenment.
Even if the whole world is on fire,
Be sure to pass through it to hear the Dharma;
Then you will surely attain the Buddha's Enlightenment.
And everywhere deliver beings from the river of birth-and-death.