The One Essential Phrase - The Practice of Chanting Daimoku: The Perfect Teaching for All Eternity

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase or verse, but it is no ordinary phrase, for it is the essence of the entire sutra. You asked whether one can attain Buddhahood only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-lyo, and this is the most important question of all. The spirit within one’s body of five or six feet may appear in just one’s face, which is only a foot long, and the spirit within one’s face may appear in just one’s eyes, which are only an inch across… Similarly, included within the title, or daimoku, of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the entire sutra consisting of all eight volumes, 28 chapters, and 69,384 characters, without the omission of a single character.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p922)

Nichiren Daishonin sent this letter from Minobu in the seventh month, 1278 to the lay nun, Myoho who lived in Okamiya Village in Suruga Province.

This letter was written in response to a letter she had sent to the Daishonin, asking whether one can attain enlightenment by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo alone.

She was a sincere believer and received several letters from the Daishonin, who apparently placed great trust in her.


The following explanation is based on SGI President Ikeda’s study series: “Learning from the Gosho: The Eternal Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin” on the Gosho, “The One Essential Phrase”.

All people share the wish to lead truly joyous lives. Everyone hopes he or she can meet death with a sense of having lead a fulfilled existence. In reality though, these aspirations are seldom met. What, then, should one do?

One of Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, lay nun Myoho put the questin this way: “Can one attain Buddhahood just by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?”

Buddhahood is an immense state in which life and death are joyful. The question, in other words, is whether it is possible to attain such a wonderful state of life by simply chanting daimoku.

In a sense, she posed this candid and straightforward question as a representative of all people of the Latter Day of the Law and this Gosho is the Daishonin’s reply to her.

Chanting daimoku is a teaching that is “easy to uphold and easy to practise” (WN-1, p923) Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once said: “The Gohonzon is truly great. But because this is so simple, people fail to understand it.”

Perhaps this was also the sentiments shared by lay nun Myoho when she asked the Daishonin the question if the simple practice of chanting daimoku can actually lead one to happiness.

Because the Law is profound, the practice is simple. The more technology advances machines become simpler to operate. Mr Toda went so far as to liken the Gohonzon to a “happiness-manufacturing machine”. And the switch for turning this machine on is chanting daimoku for oneself and others.

It could be said that Nichiren Daishonin distilled Buddhism down to an essence of irreducible simplicity for the sake of all people.

It seems all too simple. When television was invented, though, people were no doubt amazed at how extremely simple and convenient it was. Now television is taken for granted; no one thinks of it as mysterious anymore. The same will be true of the Mystic Law when kosen-rufu is achieved.

President Toda predicted that 200 years later, everyone would finally understand the significance of our efforts. He also said, “As science progresses, the validity and correctness of Buddhism will be increasingly borne out.”

The air around us is filled with radio waves of various frequencies. While these are invisible, a television set can collect them and turn them into visual images. The practice of chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon aligns the rhythm of our own lives with the world of Buddhahood in the universe.

It “tunes” our lives, so to speak, so that we can manifest the power of Buddhahood in our very beings.

The Daishonin indicated in this Gosho that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the heart of the entire Lotus Sutra. It is the “eye” and essential core of Buddhism. The eyes are indeed the windows to the soul. The eyes express a person’s life in its totality. Similarly, the immense energy of a nuclear explosion is expressed by the succinct formula E=mc2.

Through these analogies, the Daishonin assured lay nun Myoho that the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the key that unlocks the limitless energy of life. The Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo contains all the wisdom of Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra.

It contains a comprehensive compilation of wisdom for helping people become happy and its essence is none other than the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

That is why everything becomes a source of value, everything is brought to life, when we base ourselves on daimoku.

In fact, the practice of chanting daimoku embodies the Buddha’s ardent and heartfelt wish to lead all people to happiness.

Anyone can perform it. It can be done anytime and anywhere. It is the most highly refined and simplified method of practice.

As such, it is the perfect Buddhist teaching for not only the 21st century, but for the next centuries and for 10,000 years and more of the Latter Day of the Law – for all eternity.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once said, smiling brightly:

“If a large hospital were to concoct a treatment that, if you took every day for an hour, would enable you to become happy without fail in both body and spirit, the place would no doubt be packed. Regardless of whether it was expensive or if you had to wait in line for hours, people would come everyday to receive it. We can get this medicine, the mystic medicine of daimoku, in our own homes – and while sitting down, at that. All we need to pay for are candles and incense. So form the standpoint of cost, it is the least expensive method available. If someone just grumbles and fails to carry out the practice, it’s a great waste.”

Based on this Gosho, there is not a slightest doubt that the practice of chanting daimoku, though simple, is the correct practice that never fails to lead the people in the Latter Day to absolute happiness.