“Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Even Once Contains Limitless Benefit”
Q&A with SGI President Ikeda.
The following is from SGI President Ikeda’s dialogue with youth leaders titled Discussions on Youth, pp. 221–23.
Some people feel guilty when they skip reciting the sutra.
As long as we have faith in the Gohonzon, we are not going to suffer punishment or negative consequences on such account. So please put your mind at ease. Nichiren Daishonin says that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once contains limitless benefit.
Then chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 10 times must contain incredible benefit!
Yes, so you can imagine the immense benefit you will obtain when you continue earnestly to recite the sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening. Basically, you do both for yourselves. Your practice of reciting the sutra morning and evening, and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not an obligation—it is a right.
The Gohonzon will never demand that you chant to it. An attitude of appreciation in being able to chant to the Gohonzon is the heart of
faith. The more you exert yourselves in faith—in reciting the sutra morning and evening—the more you stand to gain.
Also, Nichiren writes nothing about the specific amount we should chant. It is entirely up to each individual’s awareness. Faith is a lifelong pursuit, so there’s no need to be unnecessarily nervous or anxious about how much you chant, or to put unnecessary pressure on yourselves. Buddhism exists to free people, not to restrain them. Doing even a little bit every day is important. The food we eat each day turns to energy for our bodies. Our studies, too, become a valuable asset when we make steady efforts on a daily basis. Our lives are created from what we do, how we live, every day. For that reason, we should strive to live each day so as to continually improve ourselves. The driving force for this is our morning and evening practice.
Simply offering prayers on a handful of occasions throughout the year—like the droves of Japanese who flock to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples at New Year’s to pray to various gods and Buddhas for protection in the coming year— is just empty ritual and ultimately meaningless.
Exerting ourselves in the practice of reciting the Lotus Sutra each day amounts to what we might call a spiritual workout. It purifies and cleanses our lives, gets our motors running and puts us on the right course for the day. It gets our bodies and our minds working smoothly and puts us in rhythm, in sync, with the universe.
Yes, it’s important to keep making efforts, however small, each day. A young women’s high school division leader . . . said that many of the members in her area find themselves unable to recite the sutra regularly. But all seem to know that when they have problems, they should take them to the Gohonzon and chant about them.
The spirit to seat oneself before the Gohonzon is in itself very important. Those who have the spirit to continue to challenge themselves in this way are most worthy of respect. You might decide, for example, “I’m going to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, even for just a few minutes” or “I’m going to chant to the Gohonzon every day.” Buddhism teaches the principle that “earthly desires are enlightenment.” To explain this very simply, “earthly desires” refers to suffering and to the desires and cravings that cause suffering, while “enlightenment” refers to attaining a vast and expansive state of absolute happiness.
Normally, one would assume that earthly desires and enlightenment are separate and distinct—especially since suffering would seem to be the exact opposite of happiness. But this is not the case in Nichiren Buddhism, which teaches that only by igniting the firewood of earthly desires can the flame of happiness be attained.
As a result, our lives are infused with the light and energy of happiness. Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we burn the firewood
of our earthly desires.
I guess you could say that earthly desires are transformed into enlightenment by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our problems and sufferings all turn into energy for our happiness, into fuel for our advancement.
So the greater our problems, the happier we stand to become.
That’s right. The wonderful thing about faith in Nichiren Buddhism is its capacity to transform people’s lives from the direst suffering into the greatest possible happiness, and turn the most daunting problems into a source of growth and a foundation for human greatness.
Problems come in all shapes and sizes. You may have some personal problem; you may be wondering how to help your parents live long and fulfilling lives; or you may be worried about a friend who is sick or depressed, wishing for that person’s recovery. On a different level, you may be deeply concerned about the issue of world peace and its realization or humankind’s direction into the coming century. These are very noble concerns.
Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you can turn all these worries and concerns into fuel to propel yourselves forward—you can transform them into life force, into greater depth of character and into good fortune.
I hope you will seriously concern yourselves with many things, chant abundantly and strive in your personal growth as you do so. Faith means setting goals and working to realize each one. If we view each goal or challenge as a mountain, faith is a process whereby we grow with each mountain climbed.