What Is the Power of Prayer?
The following is from Discussions on Youth, new edition, pp. 301–03, in which SGI President Ikeda discusses the significance of the power of prayer when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.
There are so many religions and so many different objects of devotion.
In Japanese, an object of religious worship or devotion is called honzon, literally meaning an object of fundamental respect. There are all kinds of objects of devotion. In some religions, even animals such as horses or snakes serve that function. However, Nichiren Daishonin says, “All of these schools are misled concerning the true object of devotion” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 258).
Could you explain the significance of the object of fundamental respect in Nichiren Buddhism?
The hon of honzon connotes the basis of life and the universe. And zon connotes veneration and reverence for that basis.
If you embrace something that is not the genuine basis of the universe as an object of fundamental respect, your life will become imbalanced; it will go off track. For instance, there are people who regard money, the media, technology or high academic status as their objects of supreme respect.
In Nichiren Buddhism, the fundamental Law of the universe is venerated as the object of fundamental respect. This Law is also the essence of our lives.
This might be a little difficult to understand, but when we pray to the object of fundamental respect, the Gohonzon, the Buddhist principle of the fusion of reality and wisdom is at work. The objective reality of the Gohonzon and the wisdom of our minds are fused at the deepest level. Prayer, in other words, constitutes a fusion of the ultimate Law of the universe and our minds.
You can think of this as the gears of a machine meshing. When a small gear locks its cogs with those of a large gear, it can display a tremendous force. In the same way, when we synchronize the microcosm of our lives with the macrocosm of universal life, we can tap unlimited power and overcome any problem. All Buddhist gods, Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions—that is, all the protective forces of the universe—will be activated so that we can realize our prayers.
So prayer is what allows those gears to mesh?
That’s right. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the sound of the great rhythm of the universe, the power source of all cosmic activity. It is also the heart and essence of the universe itself.
“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo . . . is also the heart and essence of the universe itself.”
The Mystic Law is the source of all change. That’s why, when we chant the Mystic Law, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we activate the universal forces to support us. The rhythm of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has been called the rhythm by which the universe moves. The power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to activate the universe’s protective functions appeared in a movie a while ago, I believe.
Yes, it was Innerspace, a story about traveling inside the microcosm of the human body. At one point, the protagonist chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to break through a crisis.
One student writes that she doesn’t know how to pray and asks about the proper way of chanting.
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.
Nichiren writes, “What is called faith is nothing unusual” (“The Meaning of Faith,” WND-1, 1036). And he urges, “Faith means putting one’s trust in the Lotus Sutra . . . as parents refuse to abandon their children, or as a child refuses to leave its mother” (WND-1, 1036). In other words, all we need to do is trust the Gohonzon wholeheartedly, praying sincerely that our desires will be realized. Such prayer definitely will empower us.
There is nothing extraordinary about prayer—it is simply wishing for something with all our heart.
And our heart is what matters most. It is important to chant with deep faith, reverence and love for the Gohonzon in our heart. WT