Determination Is the Key to Any Prayer

Our determined prayer activates our inherent compassion, wisdom and courage, and we become the driving force for change.

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Dear World Tribune:
Is there a specific way I should pray about my problems that will enable me to break through more quickly?
—Impatient Bodhisattva

Dear Impatient Bodhisattva,

One of the most oft-asked questions is: How do I chant for ________? While a seeking mind is important in Buddhism, the underlying thinking here is that there must be a different way to pray for each situation.

Thinking that, it’s easy to get caught up in too much thinking, worrying and self-doubt about how to pray. This is not how chanting works. It is much simpler than that.

So, let’s start with why chanting works in the first place.

Why chanting works.

In simple terms, let’s look at what happens when we chant the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The title of the Lotus Sutra, this phrase represents the heart of the Buddha’s teachings. Nichiren Daishonin describes it as the essential Law of the universe, which has the power to liberate people from suffering on the most profound level.

SGI President Ikeda elaborates: “When we chant to the Gohonzon, our lives fall in rhythm with the fundamental Law of the universe, enabling us to manifest tremendous life force and putting us on a sure course to happiness.”

Buddhism teaches us that our lives are treasure towers in which the greatest treasures of the universe are stored. Those treasures are the Buddha’s virtues of compassion, wisdom and courage.

Chanting has the power to open the treasure tower of our own lives, enabling us to bring forth boundless reserves of courage, wisdom and compassion from within. These virtues, then, inform our thoughts, words and actions. Thus, we are able to use the problems we encounter in daily life as the raw material for dramatically changing our circumstances through our own efforts, our own transformed behavior.

Chanting works not by making things happen, but by activating the power from within us so that we can make things happen. We put ourselves in the driver’s seat and become the force for change.

Chanting with the resolve to embody the life state of Nichiren Daishonin.

What are the cornerstones of chanting in SGI Nichiren Buddhism? They are our conviction in faith and persistence in practice—our invincible prayer, overflowing with the power of faith and practice. Whatever we choose to chant about is fine. But President Ikeda writes that our chanting should be “light, refreshing and vibrant, like a noble steed galloping freely across the vast open plains” (September–October 2011 Living Buddhism, p. 74).

President Ikeda continues:

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often said that there’s no need for us to stand on ceremony when chanting about our problems; we just need to chant honestly to the Gohonzon, to truly look at what is in our hearts. The practice of chanting, he said, is the practice of manifesting the same life state as the Daishonin within us, so we should chant with the resolve to embody his state of life. (ibid.)

What is the Daishonin’s fundamental state of life? Compassion. Therefore, we can maximize the power of the Gohonzon when we chant with a strong, serious determination that we will achieve a goal or overcome a problem through our own efforts so that we can use our victory for the compassionate purpose to encourage and be a role model for others—in other words, chanting based on a vow for kosen-rufu. Such chanting is infused with the life condition of the Daishonin and is the foundation for winning without fail.

President Ikeda writes:

Faith that ignores the importance of self-transformation; faith that lacks clear focus and determination, merely waiting for salvation from some external source; faith that abandons all striving and challenge out of fear and a desire to escape reality; faith that expects benefits to magically appear without making any personal effort—such faith is completely contrary to that which is taught in Nichiren Buddhism.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is our fundamental Buddhist practice for carrying out our human revolution, or inner transformation.

To chant with a strong vow or commitment— thereby deepening our own determination and conviction, activating the protective functions of the universe and achieving absolute victory—is the essence of chanting in Nichiren Buddhism. (ibid.)

Our determined prayer, aligned with the compassionate heart of the Buddha, activates the virtues and powers of the Buddha that lay dormant within, allowing them to flow forth into our lives. The more we align our prayer with this compassionate determination, the greater the power of chanting that we experience.

Nichiren writes, “Bodhisattva Superior Practices [leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth] received the water of the wisdom of the Mystic Law from the Thus Come One Shakyamuni and causes it to flow into the wasteland of the people’s lives in the evil world of the latter age” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 746–47).

The virtues and powers of the Buddha don’t just flow into our lives; they flow through our lives. Hydroelectric power harnesses the energy of flowing water to generate electricity to produce light. In the same way, when the water of the wisdom of the Mystic Law flows through our lives into the lives of others, it generates the power to enlighten our lives from within. The stronger the flow of the Mystic Law through us to others, the brighter our inner light shines.

How to best chant for this or that? Transform your prayer into the determined prayer of the Buddha, based on the great vow for kosen-rufu. After all, your personal happiness may not necessarily include kosen-rufu or the happiness of others, but kosen-rufu cannot exist without your absolute happiness being established along the way. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.