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Q: What is the Nichiren Buddhist view of mindfulness?


A: Mindfulness practices are being used more frequently—in schools, at work, as part of therapy and even in prison—to help people better recognize their thoughts and feelings as they grapple with the complex challenges of daily life.

Mindfulness is also incorporated in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, which focuses on unlocking the power to master our minds and transform our negative tendencies.

“Mindfulness” can be traced back to the Sanskrit word smrti, generally understood to mean a presence of mind, awareness or the ability to recollect. Smrti was often translated into Chinese Buddhist texts as nian (念), or nen in Japanese—a character made up of two radicals meaning now and mind.

Since the “mind” in Nichiren Buddhism encompasses the entirety of our thoughts, emotions and intent, nen or mindfulness points to the state of our life at this present moment.

Nichiren’s belief was that one’s ichinen (一念), often translated as “a single moment of life” or “single-minded determination,” possessed the key to revealing the boundless Buddha nature within life. It was his single-minded determination to lead all people to enlightenment that enabled him to exhibit the state of Buddhahood as an ordinary human being.

The Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren is the embodiment of the Lotus Sutra’s essential teaching that, by embracing the Mystic Law, we can at once and in this moment, bring forth the highest life state of Buddhahood. By establishing the accessible practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, Nichiren created a most effective means for anyone to bring forth the resolve, courage, wisdom and compassion needed to tackle the challenges in front of us. Beyond a state of calm or focus, the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon enables us to transform even immutable karma.

SGI President Ikeda elaborates on the concept of ichinen, or single-minded determination:

When your determination changes, everything else will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think, “This is never going to work out,” then, at that instant, every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight, and everything then really will move in the direction of failure . . .

How you orient your mind, the kind of attitude you take, greatly influences both yourself and your environment . . . Through the power of strong inner resolve, we can transform ourselves, those around us and the land in which we live. Each of you is in possession of this “tool,” this “secret weapon.” There is no greater treasure. (July 11, 1997, World Tribune, p. 14)

By chanting to the Gohonzon each morning and evening, we are carrying out the most effective practice of mindfulness. By strengthening our resolve and deepening our capacity to respect ourselves and others, we find the wisdom to make the most of each moment and create the happiest of lives.

Excerpts From Nichiren’s Writings in Volume 10