Determined Prayer Changes Everything

Study Made Easy

Determined Prayer, Atlanta. Photo by: Anthony Wallen.

No matter how earnestly Nichiren prays for you, if you lack faith, it will be like trying to set fire to wet tinder. Spur
yourself to muster the power of faith. (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 1000–01)

For Nichiren Buddhists, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon is almost like breathing—it is the basis of our Buddhist practice. Without chanting, all other aspects of our practice will become ineffective. And what is most vital when chanting? Our attitude in front of the Gohonzon.

Here are some questions to consider: Is my mind focused on specificgoals? Am I chanting out of habit or feeling obligated to chant? Am I wishing for a miraculous solution to my problems? Am I doubting my ability to achieve my goals? Am I filled with hope and a fighting spirit? Am I determined to challenge things head-on?

In the above passage, Nichiren Daishonin is teaching us that no matter how hard he or others might pray for us, ultimately, we each must take responsibility for establishing our own happiness by developing conviction in our Buddhist practice. The key to leading a victorious life depends on by concrete plans and actions.

In the same paragraph, Nichiren encourages his disciple Shijo Kingo to “employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” and to be courageous in faith, saying: “Have profound faith. A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered” (WND-1, 1001).

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda used to say: “Obviously, when you strike a bell, you’re going to get a vastly different sound depending on whether you use a toothpick, a chopstick or a bell striker. The bell’s the same, but if you hit it powerfully, it rings loudly. If you hit it weakly, it rings softly. “The same is true of the Gohonzon. The benefit that we receive depends entirely on the power of our faith and practice” (Discussion on Youth, p. 298).

Faith in Nichiren Buddhism, then, means having confidence in our unlimited potential, which can be developed through our practice and study. Through studying Buddhism, we understand the correct way to view life and to practice Buddhism. And when we practice Buddhism correctly, we’re certain to experience many benefits that prove the absolute power of the Gohonzon and the power we inherently possess.

Just as we need to keep breathing to stay alive, what’s most vital is for us to keep chanting—no matter what.