I am frequently asked: “The nembutsu seems to help center and calm me … is this sort of recitation a mild form of self-hypnosis?
If one were to use the recitative nembutsu with the specific purpose of producing calm then, yes, it probably would act as a mild form of self-hypnosis. This type of recitation would be called a calculative act (i.e. nembutsu uttered to produce an effect – like a mantra), and as such the utterance is not free of self-will and self-satisfaction.
Be that as it may, the Nembutsu is not necessarily productive of any sort of hypnotic effect.
The nembutsu of the ‘truly settled’ is not uttered to achieve any effect (no matter how desirable); nor is it uttered because it is a meritorious act (it is not); it is only uttered out of gratitude for the universal availability of absolute compassion which grasps all, forsaking none. When so uttered, the Nembutsu may temporarily dissolve the bonds that bind us to the sense of being a unique and independent self and this can (as an after-effect) produce a sense of calm (anxiety being a product of the hopes and fears of the self).
So, to answer the question: one should ask oneself whether there was any calculative effort in the utterance—the answer to this question should be indicative of whether there was any sort of hypnotic element involved.
Namu Amida Butsu