Monday, 11 January 2016

Why did Nichiren start chanting Nam myoho renge kyo?

In all the years I have practiced, I have yet to find an honest and direct reason for why Nichiren Daishonin chose 'nam myoho renge kyo' as the mantra for his spiritual practice.

Nichiren believed that by chanting nam(u) myoho renge kyo - to Devote my life to the wonderful lotus flower sutra, that we would invoke all the wisdom from within it, it's intent.

In the letter On the Four Stages of Faith, he states "The profound meaning indicates the heart of the text, and the heart of the text encompasses the whole of the theoretical and essential teachings.” And Miao-lo writes, “On the basis of the heart of the text of the Lotus Sutra, one can evaluate all the other various teachings of the Buddha."

He goes on to say: 

"Though muddy water has no mind, it can catch the moon’s reflection and so naturally becomes clear. When plants and trees receive the rainfall, they can hardly be aware of what they are doing, and yet do they not proceed to put forth blossoms? The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo do not represent the sutra text, nor are they its meaning. They are nothing other than the intent of the entire sutra. So, even though the beginners in Buddhist practice may not understand their significance, by practicing these five characters, they will naturally conform to the sutra’s intent."

So specifically it is ALL about intent, as he very clearly states above the words do not represent the sutra text, nor its meaning. What we are doing when we chant is making a declaration of intent based on the entire sutra and what it stands for.

Specifically it was his belief that through chanting and having faith in nam(u) myoho renge kyo, we can activate the wisdom of the entire Lotus Sutra simply by chanting its title.

It has always confused me, because if I chanted Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia am I really invoking all the wisdom within Wikipedia. But I do not think this is what he means.

So as you can see in the final paragraph he specifically states "The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo do not represent the sutra text, nor are they its meaning." and then "They are nothing other than the intent of the entire sutra. "

All this aside I do believe Nichiren was potentially listening to a deep intuition, from his many years of meditation. Others have chanted nam(u) myoho renge kyo before Nichiren did, but he was the first to base an entire spiritual practice around this specific mantra.

In the letter; "The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra" there is a clue as to what he felt when he first began to chant. The words chosen are quite interesting as many who have begun practicing this form of Buddhism likely feel the same, they chant as if in a dream not knowing what they were doing, if it was right or wrong or if it mattered.

Read of the passage below and then follow the link to study the letter in depth.

"I, Nichiren, am not the founder of any school, nor am I a latter-day follower of any older school. I am a priest without precepts, neither keeping the precepts nor breaking them. I am an ordinary creature like an ox or a sheep, who is neither particularly wise nor ignorant.

Why did I first begin to chant as I do? Bodhisattva Superior Practices is the one destined to make his advent in this world to propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. But before he had even appeared, I began, as though speaking in a dream, hardly aware of what I was doing, to utter the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and so I chant them now.

In the end, is this a good thing I do, or a bad thing? I do not know, nor can anyone else tell for certain."
You can read the rest of the letter here.

How did you feel when you first started chanting this mantra? Tell me in the comments below.


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