Which Is More Important When Chanting—Quantity or Quality?

Deep Roots

Photo: © iStockphoto / TRIFONOV_EVGENIY

We all want to change our lives for the better. Regarding the effectiveness of our prayer, SGI President Ikeda explains that we should face the Gohonzon openly and honestly, saying:

Basically, just be yourself when you chant. That’s the most important thing. Revere the Gohonzon as the fundamental basis of your life, reach out to it in your heart and take your problems to it—do this naturally, as a child reaches for its mother. When you’re suffering or when you’re sad, there’s no need to put on a good face or pretend that everything’s all right. Just chant exactly as you are, directly giving expression to the feelings in your heart. (Discussions on Youth, new edition, p. 302)

A well-known passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings is “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1000). In essence, most important in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is to pray to our heart’s content, until we are deeply satisfied or feel rejuvenated and refreshed.

But what of quantity? Nichiren Daishonin does not specify in his writings the amount of time we need to chant each day. He does, however, explain that the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is immeasurable and that chanting the phrase even once can have in nite power, stating, for example, “If you recite these words of the daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] once, then the Buddha nature of all living beings will be summoned and gather around you” (“Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 131).

He also teaches that the benefit of chanting this phrase once is equivalent to the bene t gained from reading the entire Lotus Sutra one time, while chanting one thousand times equals reading the sutra one thousand times (see “The One Essential Phrase,” WND-1, 923). In other words, because chanting one time can have immense impact, chanting many times can be that much more powerful.

SGI President Ikeda uses the following analogy: “The value—or, if you like, the quality—of a hundred dollar bill is more than a ten dollar bill. Naturally, most people would prefer a one hundred dollar bill, right? Similarly, in faith, sincere, strong prayers are important. Of course, having lots of one hundred dollar bills is even better! Likewise, in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, both quantity and quality count” (Discussions on Youth, new edition, p. 303).

The quality of our prayer is especially important, as Nichiren emphasizes in “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”: “Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your life. If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, then your performing even ten thousand practices and ten thousand good deeds will be in vain” (WND-1, 3).

In his lecture on this writing, President Ikeda discusses five signs that we are “seeking enlightenment outside ourselves” and how to combat these tendencies. They are:

1. Evading responsibility for one’s life or blaming others.
Remedy: Be determined to stand alone.

2. Escaping from or avoiding challenges.
Remedy: Have a spirit to challenge oneself.

3. Giving in to doubt and disbelief and being prone to grumbling and complaining.
Remedy: Have conviction and encourage others.

4. Slandering and harboring jealousy or resentment toward others.
Remedy: Create harmonious unity.

5. Being ruled by fear or cowardice.
Remedy: Summon courage.
(See On Attaining Buddhahood: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 31–34)

We can win over such negative tendencies by chanting to the Gohonzon every day. And by reinforcing our prayer with the determination to bring forth from within the hope, compassion, courage and wisdom to realize our wishes and goals, we can move our lives in the most positive direction. Everything starts with abundant prayer that is fulfilling and rejuvenating—rich in both quantity and quality.