28 April 1253 – Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time

Tomorrow (or today – depending on your timezone…) is the anniversary of the founding in 1253 of Nichiren Buddhism. 28 April is the date 762 years ago when Nichiren Daishonin first chanted the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo – the name he gave to the Mystic Law – the creative force and the rhythm of cause and effect that flows through Life itself. So I would like to offer some personal reflections, after 30 years of chanting this mantra. To ponder why it was that in 13th century Japan, the son of a lowly fisherman dedicated his life (and was prepared to lose his life) so that all humanity for millennia to come could tap into this prayer, whose power he compared to the ‘roar of a lion’.

Daimoku
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

[Note: if you would like to read a literal translation of what Nam-myoho-renge-kyo means (and find out why it may even anticipate the latest discoveries of quantum physics…) please visit this page on my blog. If you want to hear the sound of chanting, check out this Youtube video by my fellow blogger, a magnificent Buddha called Robbie Lockie.]

 

The Law behind the mantra

Of course the Mystic Law already existed before Nichiren began studying and teaching Buddhism. It is the force at the core of the Universe that flows through all Life, and has done so since time without beginning. And it was revealed by Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) in the Lotus Sutra 2,000 years before Nichiren was born. But Nichiren was the first Buddhist teacher to distil it into a simple and accessible mantra that anyone can recite. I think that on a spiritual level, Nichiren simply realised – with his whole life – that when this Mystic Law manifests as words, the sound and form it takes is “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”. And when it manifests as a picture, the form it takes is the Gohonzon – the scroll that Nichiren Buddhists chant to.

Nichiren D
Nichiren Daishonin

People often ask  me what chanting feels like and what it does. Personally, when I chant with full concentration, I feel a liberating sense of fusion, freedom and timelessness. I reach a place that feels like the effervescent epicentre of Life itself. There is a sense of losing who you are yet feeling whole, of being totally free yet also belonging, of being utterly relaxed yet completely focused, like your whole life is in the zone. When I am in this life state I don’t even feel I am consciously chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo any more. I feel that I actually am Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and that when I open my mouth and just let the words out, it would be labelled ‘chanting’ by an external observer.

So, that’s what it feels like. But what does it actually do?

The power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

My experience over the last 30 years is that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo shatters your illusions, bulldozes your comfort zones and removes your subconscious and karmic reasons for being unhappy and/or disrespectful to others. It is a sort of ‘spiritual alchemy’ that lights a fire in your soul and lifts your spirits, transforming all your desires and delusions into enlightenment, and increasing your reverence for other people and for the inherent dignity of their lives. As a result, when we chant, we are raising the life-state of the whole planet, we are transforming humanity’s collective consciousness. At the same time it is immensely practical as well as spiritual. It’s a tool you can use. I get my best business ideas and creative insights when I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

And, perhaps most amazing of all, when you let Nam-myoho-renge-kyo flow through your life, your mission unfolds before your very eyes. When faced with a decision to make about my life direction, I sometimes chant with this question in mind: “When the wondrous Mystic Law of Myoho-renge-kyo expresses itself through me, David Hare, what action do I take? Where do I go? What do I say? Who do I connect with? Who do I become?” I find this is a good way to overcome my smaller self (ego) so that I connect instead with my big Buddha-state. In short, and unlikely as it seems to our logical minds, this little mantra is complete and it is profound. When I doubt its power, it is because my understanding is partial and shallow. You may also want to read this post on why chanting goes deeper than personal development techniques such as affirmations.

The Mystic Law – a poem by Rob Cook

Of course prose is too clumsy a tool to convey the spiritual depths of this mantra, so I will resort to poetry. A poem composed by beloved SGI Buddhist musician and artist Rob Cook (1953 – 2013) who described his core beliefs as being ‘rooted in a spiritual humanism that sees humanity and the environment as one’. Towards the end of his life, when Rob was no longer able to paint, he wrote a poem called ‘The Mystic Law’ to communicate his love of Buddhism. Rob’s beautiful verses (published here with the kind permission of his partner Jane), are not a literal translation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but rather a personal interpretation of what this mantra meant to him as an artist inspired by a love of nature:

Nam is that

I take my diamond seat

and address the gaze of being

without doubt

without fear

with you in mind

Myo is that

the thought is all

and the light in the garden

never paused

from disclosing

our true mind

Ho is that

the river flows still

and the rain falls soft

without pausing

from washing into

a pure mind

Ren is that

the wind stirs the trees

and the air fills the sky

sweet and sharp

as we breathe

inside an unbounded mind

Ge is that

the earth gathers together

the life of plants

soft on the water

as we hold up

a joyful mind

Kyo is that

the ripples in the lake

reflect it all so perfectly

woven together

entwined eternally

walking in heaven here.

 

Isn’t it wonderful? When I first heard this poem at Rob’s funeral, its beauty moved me and many others to tears. Thank you Rob! And wherever you are now, I am sure you are once again inspiring people with your warmth and wisdom!

Rob Cook
Buddha Rob Cook (1953-2013)

So, Happy Anniversary everyone!! And please feel free to contribute your own comments below about how you feel when you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Or any questions you may have. Thank you.

Love and Light,

David

10 thoughts on “28 April 1253 – Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time

  1. Thank you for a beautiful and heartfelt description of what we so often can allow to become routine and mundane.

    Thanks also for sharing Rob’s poetry and in so doing, his life and all our connection.

    Congratulations on your book deal. Was our hash out over the spoon title in vain? I don’t think so. There is a spoon on my alter.

    Mel

    1. Hi Mel,
      great to hear from you and for my readers to see your eloquent prose again :-))) . A spoon on your altar? Wow! How marvellous! When I started practising, I had one too, a teaspoon and an empty glass (which served as a gong…). The book title… well, my publishing mentor said that ‘Thanking the Spoon’ could sound like a cookery book title and that for searches on Amazon and Google etc… it would be much better to have ‘Buddha’ or ‘Buddhism’ in the title. After some daimoku, I agreed, and came up with the current name, which the publishers seem to love. So I lost a bit of quirkiness, but will hopefully gain some readers! But this blog won’t be changing name any time soon… Warm wishes, NMRK, David

  2. What a profound poem by Rob Cook!! Talks about the serenity experienced by chanting in wonderful words..Just happened to view your blog posts yesterday. I am a practitioner of ND’s Buddhism since the beginning of this year. I must gratefully agree that chanting has transformed me in so many ways with the way I tackle problems in my everydaylife.Waiting to explore more about my inner self through this clear-cut, straight forward and wonderful practice!! Thanks David for the intellectual insights on quantum physics..

  3. Oh david,I just blew away a room full with this post and beauty of the poem.One is a senior in faith with over 40 years in the practice. thanks David for all you do ,Lynn PS: sorry,about chanting,I too feel a kind of deep down joy and that is when I know I have chanted to my hearts content. I have finally begun to say to myself,at all times,use the strategy of the Lotus sutra first,it will never let you down.

    1. Hey Lynn, thanks loads for sharing and I am sure Rob’s wife will be comforted and moved that his poem had such a profound effect on so many. D 🙂

  4. Thank you David for sharing the significance of 28th April. We are all grateful to Nichiren Daishonin for giving us this life changing philosophy and the powerful mantra – Nan Myoho Renge Kyo.

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