Practice and study are complementary. We practice to calm the mind so our innate wisdom will arise. We study to understand the principles, and to better understand why we practice.
While we may think of practice as simply chanting a Buddha's name or a sutra, it actually has a much broader meaning: We are trying to reflect the Buddha's teaching in everything we do, both in our Buddhist cultivation and in our daily lives. Not allowing wandering or discriminatory thoughts to arise in our chanting and daily activities is concentration, and concentration is crucial if we wish to help ourselves and others eliminate suffering and attain happiness.
In our everyday activities, we endeavor to live a moral life in which we do not kill, steal, or engage in sexual misconduct. We strive to not lie or use speech that is harsh, divisive, or enticing. And we work to eliminate our greed, anger, and ignorance.
In other words, we endeavor to practice the Ten Virtuous Karmas. Practice of these calms the mind because the more closely our conduct follows the Ten Virtuous Karmas, the fewer our worries, and the fewer afflictions we will have as a result.
As Pure Land Buddhists, we chant the Amitabha Sutra, in both English and Chinese, and chant "Amituofo." These two are the heart of our formal practice.
How do we chant?
We concentrate solely on the sound of the sutra or of "Amituofo." As we concentrate on “Amituofo,” all incorrect thoughts are replaced by thoughts of a Buddha—a being who has awakened his perfect compassion and perfect wisdom. Even if we are completely focused for only a moment, in that brief moment we are one with perfection and goodness, one with the Buddha's teaching.
We obtain the same benefit from chanting the sutra. Our wandering thoughts are replaced by pure thoughts and seeds for awakening are planted, not those for further suffering in the cycle of rebirth.