Our Prayers Will Be Answered!
“We know that the prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror collects dewdrops, as a magnet attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a clear mirror reflects the color of an object.” (“On Prayer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 340)
In the above passage from his writing “On Prayer,” Nichiren Daishonin assures us that the prayers of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will always be fulfilled, as certainly and naturally as the examples he cites.
Prayer transforms our lives both spiritually and physically. It produces a change in our hearts and in the depths of our lives. And this change enables us to positively influence our environment. In fact, our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to confront and transform the fundamental source of suffering and delusion at the core of our lives, and reveal and develop an inner state of absolute happiness.
Commenting on this passage, SGI President Ikeda says:
Let’s never forget that everything starts from prayer. If we lose sight of prayer and fail to transform our lives in actuality, then even the most eloquent speeches and high-minded arguments will all be just empty theory, pipe dreams and illusions . . .
Prayer without action is just wishful thinking, and action without prayer will be unproductive. I therefore would like to point out that lofty prayer arises from a lofty sense of responsibility (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, pp. 61–62).
The Importance of Basing Our Prayer on the Correct Teaching
Nichiren wrote this letter in 1272, while exiled on Sado Island. It is thought to be his response to a question from Sairen-bo who had been a priest of the Tendai school, also in exile on Sado, where he met the Daishonin and became his disciple.
While many think of Buddhism as an introspective religion that focuses on meditation and quiet contemplation, prayer has for millennia been an element of Buddhist practice.
Our chanting of Nam-myohorenge-kyo enables us to confront and transform the fundamental source of suffering and delusion at the core of our lives.
In this letter, however, Nichiren cites historical examples to suggest that prayers offered by those who misinterpret the Buddhist teachings and teach reliance on an outside being or power will be ineffective, and even self-defeating.
Nichiren states in another letter, “If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, then your performing even ten thousand practices and ten thousand good deeds will be in vain” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 3).
The Powerful Prayers of a Practitioner of the Lotus Sutra
In “On Prayer,” Nichiren stresses the effectiveness of the prayers of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. That is a person who believes and practices the sutra’s teaching that every person without exception inherently possesses the Buddha nature. Everyone has within them, at this moment, the Law and power of the universe itself, and that power can be brought forth through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
First Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi once spoke about the difference between a practitioner and a believer. He said that “mere believers” are those who care only about themselves and steer away from challenging obstacles. In contrast, he explained that “true practitioners” exert themselves in helping others become happy—who carry out bodhisattva practice—and readily take on challenges for the sake of establishing the humanistic philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. He affirmed that the noble members of the Soka Gakkai are true practitioners (see June 20, 2008, World Tribune, p. 5).
When the Daishonin speaks of prayer, then, he is not referring to relying on someone else, a savior, to come to our rescue. Rather, he is teaching us that our prayers must be based on our determination to relieve the suffering in our own lives while helping others do the same, and the resolve to unlock our own and others potential toward the noble goals of genuine happiness and a peaceful world.
Since its founding, the Soka Gakkai has been a gathering of true “practitioners of the Lotus Sutra,” of those devoted through their words and actions to kosen-rufu—the worldwide spread of the Mystic Law. As such, it has enabled millions of people to transform suffering into happiness and lead fulfilling lives through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
President Ikeda explains the basic spirit of prayer in the SGI, stating:
Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda taught me: “First, decide: ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ ‘I’m going to win without fail!’ Whether you are so resolved will determine victory or defeat. This is the philosophy of winning.”
Set a clear goal, vow to win no matter what, and then pray powerfully.
Nichiren says, “It could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered” (“On Prayer,” WND-1, 345). Whatever the situation, determined prayer will always set the protective forces into motion. Continue to pray, and continue to fight, and in the end you will definitely win! (April 1, 2015, Soka Shimpo, tentative translation) WT