We should understand “Hua Tou”—in terms of the Ch’an tradition teaching of the modern Chinese Buddhist teacher, Master Xu Yun, which combines Chan and Pure Land practices into one. When we refer to the “head of the speech”, we are talking about the moment before praising the Buddha’s name with “Namo Amitabha”—the moment when we are intending and preparing to utter the words, but before the words are actually uttered. The “tail of the speech” refers to the moment after we have finished speaking these words. “Ch’an Hua Tou”, then, refers to examining the state of mind before the intention arises to recite the Buddha’s name. The beneficial function of examining one’s state of mind before the intention arises to utter the Buddha’s name is that in this moment it is possible for us to discover, or to have realization of, the basic nature of mind.
[Depicted from "Life as Practical – Practical Instruction to the Lay Practitioner - Part 35" May 2015, Canada.]