The Buddha utilized various similes to illustrate his teachings. While these images were appropriate and instructive in his time and place, modern urban Westerners are often at a loss to understand them.
For example, the Buddha Shakyamuni says that the Holy Name of Amideva (Skt. Amitabha, Jp. Amida, Ch. Amituofo) is like ‘a wish-fulfilling jewel’ or ‘a touchstone’. Because we do not share the cultural context for these traditional images, we fail to understand their meaning.
At the risk of venturing much too far into a modern simile (with the unintended effect of trivializing this sacred teaching), we can consider the image of the automated teller machine. A person unfamiliar with this technology might think it mysterious —even magical— that we can simply swipe a card at any time, enter a pin code, and money is dispensed to us.
However, if we understand the rudiments of the technology, or at least are familiar with its use, we know that the money received has been previously deposited in an account, and that the use of the card and the code are the established procedure for accessing the funds and making withdrawals.
Similarly, the Buddha Amideva accumulated infinite merit (funded an account), made vows (shared with us his bank card), and has given us the access code (his Holy Name) to withdraw great blessings from his unlimited store of merit.
om amideva hrih