Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 3: The Practice for Transforming Our State of Life [3.9]
3.9 A Practice Accessible to All
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo comprises the entirety of the practice of Nichiren Buddhism; beyond that, ceremonies and formalities are of no importance.
Nichiren Daishonin sent many letters to his lay follower Toki Jonin. In one of them, titled “On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice,” he outlines the correct Buddhist practice for people in the Latter Day of the Law, clarifying that such practice lies in “making [the] single word ‘faith’ the foundation” (WND-1, 785).
The essence of Nichiren Buddhism is not ceremony or formality. It is our heart. It is our faith. The Daishonin further states that the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon contains within it all other forms of practice. He explains with the following simple allegory: “The two characters that comprise the name Japan contain within them all the people and animals and wealth in the sixty-six provinces of the country, without a single omission” (WND-1, 788). Similarly, he says, the phrase “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” contains within it the entirety of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is itself the direct path to attaining Buddhahood. All other practices, especially those entrenched in formality, are secondary practices that, if given primary importance, can become an impediment to faith.
The Daishonin further teaches that even though we may not understand the profound meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can still gain the benefit of chanting daimoku. Here, employing another allegory, he states: “When a baby drinks milk, it has no understanding of its taste, and yet its body is naturally nourished” (WND-1, 788).
Though we may not understand Buddhist doctrine, if we simply chant daimoku free of doubt, then, just as a newborn baby gains nourishment from milk, we will naturally be able to imbue our lives with the great power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of the people; it exists for and is accessible to all.
In the same writing, Nichiren Daishonin states: “The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo1 do not represent the sutra [Lotus Sutra] text, nor are they its meaning. They are nothing other than the intent of the entire sutra” (WND-1, 788). Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which we chant, is the heart and essence of the Lotus Sutra. Fundamentally, it is the very spirit of Nichiren Daishonin. Accordingly, though we may not grasp its profound meaning entirely, when we chant daimoku with faith in the Gohonzon, we can come into contact with the Daishonin’s spirit. We can bring forth within us the life state of the Daishonin that is one with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. How truly fortunate we are!
From a speech at an SGI-Italy representatives conference, Italy, July 2, 1992.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1 Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being composed of two characters). The Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings.