Skip to main content


My First Time Chanting

Commemorating 770 years since Nichiren declared his teaching for the happiness of all humanity.

Photo by Dave Goodman

On April 28, 1253, at Seicho-ji temple in Japan’s Awa Province (in present-day Chiba Prefecture), Nichiren Daishonin publicly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time and declared it as the means for all people to attain enlightenment. 

Around noon that day, he gave a lecture on the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra, strongly refuting the Nembutsu, or Pure Land, school of Buddhism. From the moment he initiated the propagation of his revolutionary teaching of equality and respect for all based on the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin bravely fought against countless persecutions and attacks.

During the Tatsunokuchi Persecution in 1271, he cast off his transient status as an ordinary person and revealed his true identity as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. He demonstrated how an ordinary person can manifest the towering life state of Buddhahood by basing their lives on the vow to lead all people to Buddhahood. 

Ikeda Sensei states: 

The spirit behind Nichiren’s proclamation of his teaching was his determined vow to guide all humanity to happiness. This vow of the Buddha of the Latter Day pulses vibrantly in the hearts of Soka Gakkai members—united by the bonds of mentor and disciple—who are actualizing the widespread propagation of his teaching throughout the world today. (January 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 53)

Because Nichiren established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 770 years ago, a growing number of people throughout the world are experiencing the joy, empowerment and fortune of practicing Nichiren Buddhism. 

Thinking of your own Buddhist practice, can you recall what it felt like to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time? The World Tribune asked six SGI-USA members what it was like for them.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Means Everything to Me

by Wendy Hill
Alexandria, Va.

A fellow teacher heard me complaining and told me I should try chanting. Back then, I was so negative. Every week she called to invite me to a Buddhist meeting. I finally went with her so she would leave me alone.

When we got there, the room was full of people chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—fast. I thought: I gotta get out of here. This is so weird. I wish I could have taken a picture of my facial expressions, but there were no cell phones in 1989. 

The first time I chanted, I stumbled a bit. My negativity prevented me from connecting with the organization, so I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. But I read the words that were written on a piece of paper: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I felt lighter, joyful, more positive. I immediately received benefits—fellowships to study abroad in Switzerland, France and Spain— and was convinced that it worked.

Before chanting, I had no hope, and I always felt defeated. My greatest benefit now is that I have become someone who believes in myself, who can persevere amid anything because my mentor, Ikeda Sensei, shows me that I can. 

Who would have thought that I would ever say that a funny phrase means everything to me, but it does. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is everything to me. 

Acknowledging My Heart 

by Julian Weisman

I’m a musician. Chanting felt like I was playing an instrument for the first time. The words felt new to me, but I was confident that I would get better at it, and it would become more enjoyable. And it did.

When I got in rhythm during that first chanting session at home, I felt I could move forward with my life rather than dwell on the past. I felt my heart was acknowledged for the first time in a while.

I had been introduced to chanting at the park several months earlier, but it didn’t resonate with me. Maybe it felt too theoretical or maybe my arrogance was stopping me. It was right after the pandemic shutdown, and for me, it was a dark time. Every morning I woke up with this empty feeling of dread. So I decided to try chanting.

From there, things happened very quickly. More than anything, I feel like I’m part of life now. Every day I’m realizing my capacity is much bigger than I thought. Now, I want to expand this Buddhist network for humanity. 

Finding My Rhythm

by Eric Roth
Broomfield, Colo.

My longtime partner wanted to end our relationship and start the next chapter of her life alone. This thrusted me into a vortex of uncertainty and fear. I didn’t know what to do.

Two great friends in Rome heard about my situation.

“We want you to do one thing: chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” they told me over WhatsApp. “Just try it.”

I normally would’ve thanked them and insisted “I’m fine,” but I wasn’t. I was desperate. So that night, I grabbed a comfortable chair, found a blank spot on the wall and opened an audio file of daimoku.

Suffering so deeply, my mind on fire, I began chanting along with the people in my ears, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo…”

Finding my rhythm was hard, like a cold engine sputtering. Then my words synced up. My cheeks hurt—I was smiling.

Within minutes, I realized, Wow, I’m no longer obsessing over the worst-case scenario.

By day five, the words just rolled off the tongue. As weeks progressed, my fear diminished and then vanished. Sure, I was still uncertain what would come next, but I was no longer afraid.

This was when a new journey began. My life was no longer just about me but the happiness of others, too.

Trusting My Heart

by Samantha Collins
St. Paul, Minn.

Hearing “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” reverberating through the Buddhist center at my first meeting, I thought it was a recording. It was so powerful. My brain was a little overwhelmed; I couldn’t really wrap my head around what was happening. But coming from somewhere deep in my life was this feeling: This is significant.

I’d been seeking something for a few years by that point, so when learned there is this one powerful phrase I could chant, I felt a certainty and steadiness wash over me: I can do that! 

I didn’t have a specific goal then, but after my first couple weeks chanting, I had this realization that the debilitating depression and anxiety I was used to waking up with were gone, like a fog lifting, so gradually and subtly that I couldn’t really believe it at first. Even on days when I would wake up struggling, I now had this simple yet powerful practice to lean on that would help me move through and transform the fog. 

Thinking back to that time, the big theme was my head versus my heart. I’d always been so stuck in my head my entire life, but this time I didn’t let it get in the way and just let myself be moved by the daimoku. That was what set the foundation for me to trust my daimoku, to trust my heart. 

Freed by Determination

by Miguel Hernandez

The year 2020 brought my worst nightmare: three felony charges with a minimum sentence of 35 years for a crime I didn’t commit. Seeing me low, a neighbor invited me over to show me what Buddhism was all about. To be honest, I wasn’t gonna go. But that evening I ran into her walking home.

“Where are you going?! You said you were coming over!” She got me. 

At her place, I stumbled through the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Chanting for the first time, everything seemed to freeze.

“Oh man, this is weird!” I said. But I felt safe.

My neighbor reassured me I’d win if I chanted more. I trusted her. I came over to chant daily, and benefits came from the get-go: money, job opportunities—despite my record. Every day, daimoku, study.

But one day the lawyers brought me, again, the worst news: “You have no chance.” I cried all day. That night, alone at the beach, I chanted. 

The fear vanished; determination rose. I am innocent! I have a higher purpose! I will win!

I refused all plea deals. After two years of daimoku, of fighting, all charges were dropped.

Freed by determination, I’m chanting now for financial freedom and the happiness of everyone around me.

Find Your Own Voice

by Leslie Pogue
Los Angeles

Walking into the auditorium for my first Buddhist meeting, my friend had me sit right up front. I had heard of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo from the Tina Turner movie, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, so I had known to expect that. But I had never heard gongyo before. At one point during the prayer, they said “Chi-ken hara-mitsu.” And then again three lines later, “Nyorai chi-ken.” Of course, I wanted to be respectful, but I couldn’t help thinking, Did they just say chicken? I was at the very front; everyone would see if I started laughing! I was trying so hard to hold it in.

Even though it made me laugh at first, that part went away when I started saying it for myself. When you start out, everyone is chanting so fast sometimes you think, How am I ever going to be able to do that? Everything might be overwhelming, so it’s important to ask yourself, “How do I want this practice to work for me?” It might be clunky at first, but soon enough you’ll find your own way in it, your own voice. I did.

April 21, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7

Best Self

Training Like No Other