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AN EXPLANATION OF BUDDHIST PRACTICE (with abundant metaphors)

by Linda Segall Anable

Practicing Nichiren Buddhism since 1981


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The practice of Nichiren Buddhism consists of chanting the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and reciting a portion of the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived 3000 years ago in India. In the 13th century, a Japanese monk named Nichiren discovered that the whole of Buddhist teaching is contained in the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the Law of cause and effect and it is life itself. Invoking this mantra of life is cause for enlightenment.


Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be translated as: NAM, devotion – to MYOHO – the Mystic Law – mystic because it goes beyond the mind; RENGE, symbolized by the lotus flower that


blooms and seeds at the same time, representing the simultaneity of cause and effect, through KYO – sound /teaching/vibration. But the sound is far more than the words or their meaning. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the pulse and rhythm of life. It’s the phone number of the universe. Call and make a request. Then make causes to receive your benefit because ultimately, it comes from you.


We chant to a scroll called the Gohonzon. On it is a graphic representation of enlightenment. Your higher self is right there in front of you, eager for your connection. The most important thing to know about the Gohonzon is that even though it appears to be separate from you, it is not. The Gohonzon is not a god or deity, or a magic lamp. It’s not an exterior force – it’s an interior force. Nichiren said, “…if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching.”


This force is your Buddha nature, your enlightened self that exists as potential inside you, ready to break free. Enlightenment is portrayed on the Gohonzon in kanji characters that represent all life conditions, with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo written down the center. When you chant, you align yourself with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and connect with your enlightened self.

Interaction with the Gohonzon is a process like using sheet music to bring out a melody that is inside of you. On the surface, both sheet music and the Gohonzon are pieces of paper, but when they are activated with sound that comes from you, they energize the music of life itself. All life conditions need a stimulus to bring them out, because there is no such thing as a cause without an effect, or an effect that doesn’t have a cause. Chanting daimoku – the honorific sound – is the cause for absolute happiness.


Unlike fame and fortune, absolute happiness is never fleeting, but a life condition independent of outside circumstances. It’s a pilot light that never goes out, no matter what happens. It’s much easier to change your attitude and reaction to things and events, than to change all things and events so you will become happy. In Buddhism, everything that happens is a benefit because it is the exact thing you need to accept/deal with/change/eliminate or conquer to be happy. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the tool you need to transform all suffering into happiness and benefit.


The Gohonzon is like a barbell you use to gain muscles. Strength isn’t in the barbell – you use it to build strength in yourself. It’s like phones that click screens to transfer data. In Buddhist terms, the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in you clicks with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on the Gohonzon. Chanting NMRK conveys your life force the way a kiss expresses love. And love is what the world needs.

NMRK is energy. It’s the gas, you’re the car. You still must drive. You can’t just sit there and wait for the benefits to happen. Benefits require the fortune you create by chanting; plus the actions you take to make those benefits a reality. Good fortune does not fall from the sky; it’s a result of awakening your Buddha nature, taking action to attract benefits. See yourself as a magnet for good fortune. Instead of chasing your benefits, they chase you. That is how Buddhist practice works.


Chanting NMRK changes your karma – the sum of all the causes you have made throughout your eternal life. Sometimes that is totally awesome and sometimes… not so much. But dealing with karma and clearing it out of your life leads to enlightenment. With the Gohonzon you can overcome any obstacle, achieve any victory, and enjoy absolute happiness in the process. Human revolution is the life activity of Buddhist practice.

The late president of the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, Daisaku Ikeda, said it best: “A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.”


Buddhist practice has three parts: faith, practice and study. There is no blind faith in Buddhism. Only hope is needed to begin, and, only when you start to pile up the benefits (aka: awesome experiences of people who chant daimoku), do you begin to develop faith. Faith comes from actual proof that your practice is working.

To help keep us going, we study the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, who first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the 13th century and wrote profound letters of encouragement to his disciples and followers. Astonishingly, these letters are just as relevant and inspirational today as they were then; we have the same issues, in modern clothing. There are also books, newspapers, periodicals, and many other study materials to help you practice. Study, however, is to support our practice, not the practice itself. Often people say, well, I’ll just read about it. That’s like reading the menu but never tasting the food. (OK, that concludes the abundant metaphors. Sorry, I’m a metaphoric.)


The worldwide organization, Soka Gakkai International, has members in nearly 200 countries. You can practice Buddhism in the comfort of your own home, and/or in multitudes. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with others is a powerful, uplifting experience. When you’re in a group, the energy magnifies and multiplies synergistically.

When you heal yourself, you heal the world. That is why we’re here.


For more information: https://www.sokaglobal.org/

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I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 40+ years and making beaded jewelry for 25 years, specializing in Buddhist chanting beads, also known as JUZU.

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