This is how I understand it and I'd like some clarity on where I'm right/wrong.

Rebirth/the next birth happens when the mindstream, attracted to particular situations because of its mental imprints , 'finds' a suitable host body after death and incarnates into the flesh.

Then the being, be it human or animal or deva, undergoes a series of situations due to karmic conditioning, creates more karmic conditioning, dies and is born again ad infinitum, unless it has the fortune (or karma, really) to encounter Buddhist teachings.

Then the seed of enlightenment is planted; the being goes through several lives become increasingly interested in transcending the cycle of suffering. They follow Buddhist teachings consciously and diligently until they attain enlightenment. It doesn't have to explicitly be 'Buddhist teachings', but the being's motivation has to stem from compassion and bodhicitta.

Certain enlightened beings who have already figured out the whole cycle & broken out of it (e.g. Amitabha, Padmasambhava etc.) leave being technology that unenlightened beings can use to break out of the cycle. i.e. Mantras.

I would guess that its because chanting the mantras gradually shapes the mindstream to be more similar to that of the enlightened beings'. That's why its recommend to practice one mantra diligently, rather than spread out your efforts across several, and that 'all practice is the same because buddha-nature is the same'.

Is my understanding wrong in any way?

  • Does this understanding come from within a particular sect? That might help orient answers. Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 21:42
  • My background is mostly Mahayana but I would assume(?) what I described applies to Buddhism in general
    – cgtk
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 1:03
  • 1
    Buddhism is a big and diverse thing. I lean towards Western secular Buddhism myself, so I view concepts like reincarnation and karma quite differently than (say) a traditional Theravada or Soto Zen practitioner. Only a few Buddhist sects use mantras, and you'd ideally want someone from one of those sects to answer your question. Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 3:18
  • You might like this topic: What is meant by Namu Amida Butsu and also Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


The following text expresses the effect of the nembutsu (the chanting of the name of Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism), causing rebirth into the Pure Land in this life itself through oneness of being and taking of refuge.

From Japanese Pure Land Philosophy on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Thinkers like Shinran and Shōkū, however, both understood the utterance of nembutsu to be fulfilled practice because it arises from the oneness of being and Buddha expressed as shinjin or taking refuge. Further, because of this oneness, a person’s attainment of birth in the Pure Land is completely settled in the immediate present.

The effects of the oneness are manifested not only in the occurrence of birth in the Pure Land at death, but also in various ways in present life. Shōkū speaks of a variety of benefits received in the present by the person of the nembutsu, including the elimination of the effects of past evil acts, extension of life, avoidance of various calamities, protection of buddhas, seeing of Amida, and so on. One should not pursue such benefits for their own sake, but they naturally come about for the person of the nembutsu whose birth in the Pure Land is settled. Thus, to express the condition of the nembutsu practitioner, Shōkū even distinguishes two types of Pure Land “birth,” “immediate birth” (sokuben ōjō) while remaining burdened with afflicting passions in present life and birth into the Pure Land at the time of death (tōtoku ōjō).

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