http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf32.htm#points Question IV:
The purpose of Buddha Recitation is to sever the mind of delusion, put an end to afflictions and reach the state of No-Thought (No Recitation). This being the case, we need only keep the mind pure, and we will progress gradually toward the realm of No-Thought. Where is the need to expend time and effort in Buddha Recitation?Answer:
The aim of the Pure Land method is the Buddha Recitation Samadhi, achieving, in totality, our Self-Nature Amitabha -- the realm of the "Ever-Silent Illuminating Pure Land." However, the most urgent and immediate aim is rebirth in the Pure Land. This ensures an end to transmigration, and then, through the excellent environment of the Land of Bliss, progress in cultivation and swift attainment of Buddhahood. For this reason, Pure Land cultivators should recite the name of Amitabha Buddha. This is the principal approach of Pure Land; it does not consist of rapidly reaching the realm of No-Thought and becoming enlightened to our Original Nature, as in Zen.
However, while working toward that goal, the practitioner should recite until he reaches the state of one-pointedness of mind. Thus, although he does not seek the realm of "No-Thought," that realm will nevertheless appear naturally. Moreover, it will appear that much sooner, thanks to the virtues accumulated through Buddha Recitation, which help to erase bad karma swiftly. Here we can see a new ray of light, a new vista: to achieve "No-Thought" swiftly, to become enlightened to the Original Nature speedily, we should recite the Buddha's name all the more.
Probing deeper, if we have the roots and the temperament of Mahayana followers, we should understand that the ultimate goal of Buddha Recitation is to achieve Buddhahood. If we understand that goal to be merely the elimination of deluded thoughts, we have already strayed into the "Five Meditations to calm the mind" approach of the Theravada tradition.
Why is it that the goal of Buddha Recitation is to become a Buddha? It is because as soon as we begin reciting, the past, present and future have lost their distinctions, marks exist but they have been left behind, form is emptiness, thought is the same as No-Thought, the realm of the Original Nature "apart from thought" of the Tathagata has been penetrated. This state is Buddhahood. What else could it be?
If we were to think that to recite is to remain attached to the "conditioned" (mundane dharmas subject to Birth and Death), then, when Buddha Sakyamuni displayed such concrete marks as eating a meal, donning a robe, conversing, preaching the Dharma, walking, standing, lying down, or sitting up, was He not attached to the conditioned and therefore not a Tathagata?
Moreover, if we were to think that reciting the Buddha's name is not yet No-Thought, then, when high-ranking Zen masters are meditating on a koan, preaching the Dharma, or, at times, reciting sutras, genuflecting, seeking repentance, or circumambulating, (all actions having marks), are they therefore not practicing Zen?
We should know that the essence of the "unconditioned" is to "practice all conditioned dharmas without seeing the mark of practice." The same is true of No-Thought. It does not mean that entirely eliminating all actions and words is the unconditioned, the No-Thought! Because they fail to understand this truth, some persons who are attached to the teaching of Emptiness think: Buddha Recitation is like a moving vehicle carrying an added heavy load, impure gold with traces of lead, rice mixed with sand, not light, pure and unmixed. How wrong can they be!
However, reciting to the point of "not reciting," is the sphere of those of the highest capacities. I merely raise the issue to reply to a point of doubt. As far as most of us are concerned, making the effort to recite the Buddha's name in an accomplished manner is already a very worthwhile thing!