I am very respectful toward the Buddhas. I do not know why when I am reciting the Buddha’s name, my head is full of bad thoughts. I would be thinking badly of certain individuals, or dark and menacing images would appear in my mind… not to mention other things that I do not feel appropriate to bring up… Fortunately, I know how to deal with them. I let go of these thoughts and do not fight them. I simply concentrate on the Bodhisattva’s name, allowing those thoughts to pass through my mind and eventually they leave on their own. Is my approach correct?
Let me try to answer your questions in the order received.
Yes, you are doing just fine. Please continue with your efforts in the four comportments.
Being respectful is indeed the necessary first step before we can cultivate transcendental Dharmas. What you are experiencing is called “false thinking:” unwanted thoughts that emerge when we cultivate. Your approach is right on. Just do not engage: be aware of them and do not follow them. That way, they will ultimately lessen in frequency and eventually die down.
After you practice, put your palms together and repent for those defiled thoughts that arose. Say that you would like to repent for the false thinking and spell out the thoughts of which you are ashamed. In time, these errant thoughts will die down. This is called “practicing patience.” Patiently endure the harassment and discomfort without giving up.
Yes, you can ask for help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for yourself or for others when you are in trouble. For example, I have personally asked for help from Guan Yin twice so far. Great Master Xuan Hua never tells lies. You can believe everything he said, assuming that his teachings are properly translated. Furthermore, unlike us, the Bodhisattvas are not jealous of each other. If you practice a Guan Yin Dharma Door, Earth Store Bodhisattva really likes it and would never hesitate to help you when he has the chance. Similarly, Guan Yin would never get upset if Earth Store Bodhisattva helped you.
Judging from your approach and accomplishments thus far, you do have good roots!
Therefore, let me offer a few more unsolicited pointers: