Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Why do we chant Nam myoho renge kyo in Japanese and not English or our native tounge?

A member of Youtube asked me a very interesting question and I asked around a few people their thoughts.

His question was; If the Buddha, didn't speak in Japanese, they why do we chant Nam myoho renge kyo in Japanese. Wouldn't this be a deviation from the Buddha's teaching?

As much as I appreciate chanting can manifest wisdom, I didn't really feel "chant about it" was adequate, so I decided to answer the question myself.

Please let me know what you think of my response. Your feedback both positive and critical is always respected and appreciated.

Hi L, 

Thanks for getting these back to me. 

Unfortunately I do not feel they answer the question to the degree I think Jack would like, I think simply telling someone who has an enquiring mind to chant about it, is not enough in my opinion.

This is only from my experience as a young SGI member.

We live in an age where people ask questions, they want to know how? why? when? 

Centuries ago, life was simpler and people accepted things at face value.

There was no internet, no satellites, no mobile phones, no deep space exploration, no genetic engineering.

So the question asked by Jack; 

Why do we chant in Japanese, when the Buddha never spoke Japanese.

And would it work if we chanted in another language.

I already know the answer, but I wanted to see if someone who has been studying for longer may have a better way of answering the question.

This is what I feel is the answer; 

Since Shakyamuni expounded the teaching of the lotus sutra, he spoke of a Daishonin, who would appear in the latter day of the law, to teach and share The Lotus Sutra. He would appear in a time of great calamity and he would be persecuted with in an inch of his life.

He would teach from the Lotus Sutra, that all human beings have the potential for greatness, especially in the areas of love, compassion, wisdom and strength. And that these qualities come from a well-spring of infinite potential.

He taught that through the mindful chanting of the phrase nam myoho renge kyo, we would be able to summon up these wonderful aspects of our nature.

Human beings are all capable of these wonderful qualities, but most of us live lives that have been hard and difficult. These struggles or obstacles as we like to call them, often have an effect on us as people, we feel small, we feel stupid and we feel inadequate. Through these daily struggles, our sense of self and our sense of self worth, are often reduced to nothing.

This is where the daily practice of sitting and chanting comes in. Spending that time with your thoughts and working through your problems. Facing your problems. Is the key to your happiness.

As you know, most of human suffering is in the mind, or as the Buddha would call it, illusion. Our minds are clouded daily with anger, rage, jealousy, hatred, revenge, disgust and judgment to name a few.

These are all illusions. Illusions that we create. Through the sitting, and chanting, we learn to master our minds and take control of our fundamental darkness, our limiting self doubt, our destructive behaviour and our self sabotaging tendencies.

When we do this, we polish the mirror of our lives, that is often so clouded by these illusions that as time passes we begin to truly see... ? what do we see? As we polish harder and harder, day by day... what do we see? We, of course, see our selves. Our true nature as human beings. Loving, compassionate and filled with the deepest of respect for our lives and the lives of others.

Back to the time of Nichiren;

From a young age, Nichiren felt that Buddhism had lost its direction, that the temples and the priests had missed the point. Rituals, money, dogma, was the name of the game.

The purpose of religion is quite simple, whether you are Christian, Buddhism, Muslim, Scientologist or Jewish. It matters not what path you take. All religions have the same purpose.

To bring strength to the weak, and hope to the hopeless. Each religion may tell the story differently, but they were created to lift people from suffering and give men and women the tools they need to find happiness, a strong community spirit and of course limitless love.

Many of the teachings of Jesus, are very compatible with what Shakyamuni said, as well as many of the teachings of other saints and religious men.

So, as time passed Nichiren manifested this practice, or the idea of the practice. He took the wisdom the ideas of the Buddha and he taught that each one of us is capable of finding this strength from within.

He studied and he studied and he learnt from life, that the idea that all of us are equal, was indeed the jewel of the Buddhas teachings. 

He realised that this, was the fundamental truth and the law of life as a human being in this universe.

There is a reason we chant together, as singing together, brings people together.

When we are all singing one song, in unity, we are connected.

Many in body, one in mind. That doesn't mean mindless drones, that means a common goal, a common good. Together we are stronger. 

Humans in this world, have become so disconnected from each. This is our primary illness.

We sing the song of Nam myoho renge kyo daily, because we are a family, not by blood, colour or sexuality, but a family with a common goal.

We sing this song, together, daily, because we want the world to change. We want the suffering and the anger to end. We want to spread the truth that has been hidden from most of us for such a long time.

We are a family that wants the world to be a better place. We want our children to be safe and we want our sons and daughters not to have to go to war and kill each other.

Every single one of us on this green earth wants the same thing, love, security, food on our table, the safety of our children and a future.

Yet we all spend so much time trying to convince our friends, our families and our neighbours that our way is the better way.

In doing this we miss the point of why we practice a religion.

We practice to bring happiness and abundance to our lives and the lives of those around us, no matter if they are Christian, Mulsim, Jewish or Quaker.

So the simple answer as to why we chant in Sanskirt (Nam) and Japanese (myo ho renge kyo) is that, that is how Nichiren the teacher, taught it, and that is how we all connect together, through this mantra today. 

Let me paint a picture through, just to be a little more clearer or simpler depending on how you look at it.

Imagine a gospel choir, how wonderful they sound! They sing, filled with joy and happiness. The roof of the churches of gospel choices seem to lift up with the jubilation and the excitement. What a wonderful thing it is to be part of that family of people, together connected. Loving and supporting each other.

Now, for a minute, imagine that each one of the choir, was singing the same joyful song, but in a different language.

How would it sound?

I think quite simply we all sing in the same chosen language, because it allows us all, from many countries, and states, to come together and share a common goal.

The words may seem different, but they mean the same thing.

There are many of us who ask why, but until you, sit and chant and have faith, how can you tell if it works or it doesn't.

There comes a point, when you can ask questions and keep trying to rationalise it, but until you pick up your voice and chant for your life, you wont know if it works or if it doesn't.

I think that it is key, that we trust. And what is so wonderful about Nichiren Buddhism, is that this deep trust, is not in a priest, or in an idol, or a deity or an angel.

This trust, is in your self. Nichiren asked that you polish your life like a mirror, and how should you polish it? By chanting nam myoho renge kyo.

Namaste dear friend.



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