The Game-Changer in Buddhist Practice: Transforming Daily Life with ‘Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho’

Written by Paul Cain
4 mins read
Published on Mar 15, 2024

TLDR: How can the suttas and teachings aid us in our meditation journey? Paul shares his initial struggles and how the Buddha’s discourse to Mahanama immensely helped him with his mindfulness and mental state.

My Past — An On-and-off Meditator With Wavering Interest in Buddhism:

Even since learning about Buddhism and trying to study and practice it, I used to think the only practices to cultivate the mind were sitting meditation with eyes closed and walking back and forth slowly.

Since my first attempts to practice meditation back in 2009, I found it a very peaceful experience but also often beset by drowsiness. Furthermore, not long after completing the sitting meditation, after getting on with the activities of the rest of the day, the peaceful state was quickly lost and I didn’t feel noticeably different than if I had not meditated. 

Even after years of doing regular sitting meditation on and off and going on several multi-day meditation retreats, this problem persisted. It wasn’t hard to do sitting meditation, even for days at a time at a meditation retreat. I didn’t feel like it was having an effect for long after getting up off the meditation cushion. 

Even though I found the Buddha’s teachings to be very wise and studied them in much depth, not seeing much benefit from the practices made me ambivalent and wavering about Buddhism as a whole. 

Turning point: The Buddha’s Discourse to Mahanama the Sakyan

This problem persisted through many years until around the time I came to learn about one of the Buddha’s discourses with Mahanama the Sakyan, one of the Buddha’s foremost lay followers. 

In AN 11.12, Mahanama asks the Buddha: “…we spend our life in various ways. Which of these should we practice?”

In addition to specifying the cultivation of the 5 spiritual powers that should be cultivated to support awakening, the Buddha gives Mahanama six topics that should be recollected: The Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, ethics, generosity, and devas.

The Buddha then tells Mahanama he should develop these recollections “…while walking, standing, sitting, lying down, while working, and while at home with your children.”

This stood out to me. These things can be done not just while doing sitting meditation or walking slowly back-and-forth for walking meditation but at any time and anywhere. 

What are the effects the Buddha lists of practising like this?

“When a noble disciple recollects the Realized One their mind is not full of greed, hate, and delusion. At that time their mind is unswerving, based on the Realized One. A noble disciple whose mind is unswerving finds inspiration in the meaning and the teaching and finds joy connected with the teaching. When they’re joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, they feel bliss. And when they’re blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi.” – AN 11.12

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Exploring The Practice More By Finding Modern Teachers Who Practise in This Way

As I was learning more about his practice, I began to discover Thai Forest Teachers who practice using ‘Buddho’, ‘Dhammo’, ‘Sangho’, or similar phrases anytime and anywhere they could. For example, Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa practised using ‘Buddho’ even while doing chores. Venerable Ajahn Anan Akiñcano teaches us to “always keep ‘Buddho’ in the heart, whether standing, sitting, walking, lying down, or whatever else we might be doing.” Ch’an Master Sheng Yen teaches the practice of reciting the Buddha’s name at any time and in any place to purify the mind.

The most common method in the Thai Forest Tradition seems to be “Buddho”. However, I usually prefer “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho” because the longer phrase is easier for me to focus on. 

How It Helped

Following the practice:

Walking anywhere: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Sitting on the bus or MRT: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Eating alone: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Working at a task that doesn’t require full concentration: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

While talking break at work: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

While cleaning my flat: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Doing sitting meditation: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Doing walking meditation back and forth: “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho”. 

Pretty much any activity becomes an opportunity to practice and purify the mind. 

Practising as such now for over a year, my mind has become so much more tranquil and clear than all the years in the past when just doing sitting or walking meditation based on breathing, mindfulness of the body, or metta. It is even better than when I went on several multi-day meditation retreats because it is so much more stable. 

At night, I can fall asleep so much faster. During the day, I am more clear-headed, more aware of unhealthy thought patterns, and much more easily able to let go and be free of cravings for unhealthy food, unhealthy thought patterns, and other unwholesome activities. It’s been especially helpful in the moments and at the times of day when my mind is the most stressed and prone to greed, hatred, and delusion arising. 

It also greatly strengthened my faith in Buddhism. Any time becomes a time when one can feel a connection to the Buddha, contemplate his positive qualities, and help cultivate a calm, clear mind, and compassionate mind.  

Even if I don’t feel tranquil at some particular point while engaging in this practice, it is still helpful because it gives my mind something positive to focus on. This practice provides a refuge when feeling overwhelmed by negative emotional states. 

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Unexpectedly, I’m able to maintain a regular sitting meditation practice much better now than in all the years in the past because I’ve developed the habit of mindfulness much more strongly by practising throughout the day. 

Wise Steps:

  • It may help to combine this practice with mindfulness of breathing, mala/prayer beads, or mindfulness of the body (for example, when feeling stress, tension, or strong emotions or doing an activity such as walking or eating).
  • Finding a rhythm such as one syllable per step or one syllable for the in-breath and one for the out-breath can make the practice simple and enjoyable. 
  • See the Related Resources section below for more detailed teachings on practising in this way.

Related Resources on Mindfulness of the Buddha in Any Circumstance

Venerable Ajahn Maha Boowa

  1. From Ignorance to Emptiness 

Venerable Ajahn Anan Akiñcano


Venerable Master Sheng Yen (Founder of Dharma Drum)

  1. Dharma Drum: ​Start Your Buddhist Cultivation with Regular Practice (See Section on Reciting the Buddha’s Name) 
  2. Dharma Drum: Let’s Recite the Buddha’s Name

Author: Paul Cain

Having benefited greatly from the Dhamma, Paul feels fortunate to be in a time, place, and circumstances conducive to learning and practicing Buddhism. Beside Buddhist books, he likes reading and discussing other types of books ( history, psychology, science fiction, and fantasy)

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