The Power of Chanting - How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra

When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion, the Buddha nature within us summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is meant by “Buddha”. To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, birds that are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature (1), being summoned, will invariably emerge. The Buddha nature of Brahma and Shakra (2), being called, will protect us, and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, being summoned, will rejoice.

(Passage from “How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p872-890)

The letter is generally thought to have been written by Nichiren Daishonin in March, on the third year of Kenji (1277). Its recipient was a woman called the lay nun Myoho who lived at Okamiya in Suruga Province (the present Numazu city at Shizuoka Prefecture). Little is known about lay nun Myoho, other than that she was widowed in 1278 and also lost an elder brother. She appeared to have maintained steadfast faith throughout her life.

The word “Lotus Sutra” in this Gosho title should be understood from the hidden and profound meaning to refer to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and not literally to the 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra.

Written in a question-and-answer form, this writing first established that, among the various schools of Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra is the foremost. The Daishonin asserted that in this age of the Latter Day of the Law, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo which represents the heart and core of the Lotus Sutra is the Law that can benefit all people.

He further stated that, regardless of whether people believe in the law or slander it, we should teach others about it. Daishonin concluded by explaining about the significance of the daimoku (the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), that is when we chant daimoku, we are able to summon forth the Buddha nature within our lives.

Nichiren Daishonin clearly stated in this Gosho passage the significance of the Gohonzon and the daimoku. It elucidates that the Buddha nature (Myoho-renge-kyo) inherent in our lives is the object of devotion (the Gohonzon), and that the manifestation of this Buddha nature through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha.

Each of us can become a Buddha. This is true no matter what circumstances we face. Developing the firm conviction that this is true is the point of our Buddhist practice. This conviction, or faith, is essential if we wish to manifest the state of enlightenment. The Gohonzon is a mirror that reflects the object of devotion within us – our Buddha nature. In this sense, the Gohonzon constitutes the environment through which we can manifest our Buddha nature.

The key to bring out the Buddhahood from the depths of our lives is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. By developing faith in the Gohonzon, which is the manifestation of the Buddha’s life or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and by practicing for oneself and others, we can reveal the wonderful life-condition of Buddhahood. The daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that we chant is none other than the Gohonzon.

The phrase, “is summoned forth”, means that each of us can summon forth and manifest our own Buddha nature. To illustrate this point, the Daishonin used the analogy of how the singing of a caged bird could attract birds in the sky to gather, this interaction then motivates a caged bird to break free. The singing of the caged bird refers to our chanting of daimoku while the birds in the sky refer to the Gohonzon, which reflects our Buddha nature and help us to summon forth and manifest the state of Buddhahood. Just as the birds in the sky and the caged bird call to one another and strive to gather together, the Buddha nature within us will reveal itself through the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.

The Daishonin went on to state that we can also reveal the Buddha nature of Brahma and Shakra, as well as the Buddha nature of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas so that they will function to protect us. This means by practicing the Mystic Law, we can also bring forth the Buddha nature from our environment and those around us. This response, which we refer to as the oneness of life and its environment, comes about when we manifest our Buddha nature. The principle of oneness of life and its environment explains that our environment possesses the ten worlds and which state our environment manifests, depends on the life condition of our lives.

In this regard, SGI President Ikeda said, “The power of daimoku is stupendous. It is truly without bound. The Mystic Law is the fundamental Law of the universe, and daimoku is the essential rhythm pervading all life. A person who chants resonant daimoku as he strives towards the goal of kosen-rufu will enjoy limitless expansion and boundless growth in his strength and ability.”

The power that we possess to transform our circumstances towards a positive direction for our lives through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is truly unsurpassed. Let us score victories in our lives by continuously chanting daimoku.

1. Buddha nature – The internal cause or potential for attaining Buddhahood. Mahayana Buddhism generally holds that all people possess this innate Buddha nature.

2. Brahma and Shakra – The two protective gods of Buddhism. Brahma is also known as the great heavenly king Brahma. Shakra is known as Taishaku, or simply Indra.