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Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Explained, Two Ways

Two ways to explain the most essential aspect of our practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

Photo by Laura Mintz



A vital element of many SGI meetings is an explanation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—the most essential aspect of our practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Here are two explanations of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that can be excerpted for use at meetings.

1. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Is the Heart
and Essence of the Lotus Sutra

• Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the core and essence of Buddhism, the crystallization of the wisdom and power of 3,000 years of Buddhist philosophy and practice. It is the name of the principle that underlies and animates all things in the universe, and the expression of that principle or Law.

Myo means unfathomable, mystic or wondrous, and ho the Dharma, or Law. This is why Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is often referred to as the Mystic, or Wonderful, Law.

• Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is also a practical way to awaken the power of that Law in ourselves. By chanting this phrase, we activate in our lives a dormant power and wisdom that has always been there. We call this potential our Buddha nature, or our true, enlightened selves, and bringing this potential fully to blossom is what we call attaining Buddhahood, or enlightenment. In modern terms, Buddhahood or enlightenment can be described as absolute, enduring happiness that comes from within.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a great declaration that the boundless life state of Buddhahood exists within our lives. It is also a call to awaken others to this truth.

• Some 3,000 years ago in India, Shakyamuni Buddha awakened to the truth that the eternal, all-pervading, fundamental Law of the universe and life existed within his own being as well as in the lives of all people.

Hundreds of years later, in the 13th century, the Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren was moved and deeply concerned by the suffering and conflict he saw all around him. Resolved to alleviate the people’s misery, he searched the Buddhist scriptures for a solution. He concluded that the true essence of the Buddha’s teaching and enlightenment is contained in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren realized that this sutra expressed the fundamental Law that not only pervaded the entire universe, but was also at the core of his own life and the lives of all people.

While the Lotus Sutra does not specifically name this Law, Nichiren revealed it to be Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Just as a person’s name contains all aspects of that person, the title of the 28-chapter Lotus Sutra—Myoho-renge-kyo—contains the entirety of its profound teaching. Nichiren writes, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not only the core of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings, but also the heart, essence, and ultimate principle of the Lotus Sutra (This Is What I Heard,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 860).

• Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can bring forth the most wonderful qualities from within our lives and establish a path for enjoying the greatest happiness and fulfillment.

2. Chanting Is a Great Declaration of
Our Innate Buddhahood

• Myoho-renge-kyo is both the title and essence of the Lotus Sutra, and Nam, added to the beginning of this title, indicates devotion to or achieving oneness with the fundamental Law it represents. Myoho, the Mystic Law, underlies all life and phenomena. Renge, meaning lotus flower—which is said to blossom and seed at the same time— expresses the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect. This means that the moment we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we make the cause to awaken our innate Buddha nature, that nature emerges instantaneously and begins to function in every aspect of our lives. Kyo means “sutra” or “teaching.” It signifies the voice of a Buddha, who is dedicated to guiding people to enlightenment, and the power of our own voice to bring forth our innate enlightened nature and call it forth in others.

• Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a great declaration that the boundless life state of Buddhahood exists within our lives. It is also a call to awaken others to this truth.

• Convinced of the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren Daishonin—a 13th-century Buddhist teacher—chanted it himself and taught others to do the same. Because of his unwavering efforts, he faced, endured and overcame a lifetime of opposition and persecution from the secular and religious powers of his time. As a result, he fully embodied the profound enlightenment of the Mystic Law in his own life. He expressed that enlightenment in graphic form as a mandala, designating it the object of devotion (the Gohonzon), so all people could awaken to and manifest Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in their lives and attain Buddhahood, just as he did.

• By revealing the Law to be Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and inscribing the Gohonzon, the Daishonin made it possible for all people to build unshakable happiness, to free themselves at the deepest level from suffering and delusion—which arise from ignorance of the true nature and power of our lives. Through chanting, we manifest our Buddhahood, allowing us to resolve suffering on a fundamental level, develop a state of enduring and indestructible happiness, and lead lives of unsurpassed joy.

• Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not simply the title of a sutra, it expresses the mystic principles and functions at work within our lives—it is an expression of the Mystic Law, which corresponds to the Buddha’s intent and teaching to guide all people to enlightenment.

• In response to the question of whether chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is effective even without understanding its meaning, Nichiren says: “When a baby drinks milk, it has no understanding of its taste, and yet its body is naturally nourished . . . The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo . . . 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” (On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice,” WND-1, 788).

• Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon naturally functions to awaken the power, wisdom, compassion and life force within us. By chanting this powerful phrase, we can overcome all hardships and create the happiest, most wonderful lives.