Born in Japan in 1222, Nichiren Daishonin based his teachings on the Lotus Sutra, the ultimate teaching preached in India 3,000 years ago by the first Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni. Many powerful personal development principles – including some that closely resemble the ‘Law of Attraction’ – were first taught in the Lotus Sutra 3,000 years ago. Nichiren himself was the son of a fisherman – the lowest of the caste system: “I am merely the son of a commoner from a remote province,” he said.
Nichiren believed in everyone’s innate wisdom, courage and compassion (the three main qualities of ‘Buddhahood’) and taught his followers how to access these qualities, a full 700 years before mindfulness went mainstream and before popular psychology, ‘New Age’ affirmations, NLP or CBT had been invented.
Many of his writings were sent to women and the working classes, telling them the good news that enlightenment was available to them in this lifetime. Radical stuff in 13th century feudal Japan. Little wonder the government repeatedly exiled this rebel monk and tried to chop his head off.
The mantra that Nichiren Buddhists chant morning and evening is ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ which literally translated means “I dedicate my life to the wonderful mystic law of cause and effect.” I sometimes prefer to explain it as:
- the voice of your Buddhahood
- the rhythm of life
- the vibration of the Universe.
From a simple linguistic point of view, ‘Myoho Renge Kyo’ is the classical Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren added the Sanskrit prefix ‘Nam’, meaning ‘devotion’. Here is a more detailed translation of this multi-layered mantra:
‘Nam’ means what I devote my life to. Where I pour my energy, my determination, my focus, my intention – the goals I have and the Values I hold most dearly.
‘Myo’ is, as Nichiren himself says: “The mysterious nature of our lives from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend nor words express.” Usually translated as ‘Mystic’, it also means to ‘open’ and to ‘revive’ our full spiritual potential.
‘Ho’ indicates how much of our potential we are achieving, the ‘manifest’ rather than latent aspects of our lives. ‘Ho’ also means Law.
‘Renge’ means Lotus flower, which seeds and blossoms at the same time, symbolising how every cause we make, everything we think, say and do, simultaneously creates a ‘latent’ effect which will surface when the external conditions are right. This stunning flower only grows in a muddy pond, and so it is also a metaphor for happiness blooming from the harsh realities of daily life.
‘Kyo’ signifies sound, teaching, thread, sutra, vibration and flow of life. It also evokes the eternity of life transcending birth and death.
For Nichiren Buddhists, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the ‘Daddy of all affirmations’ (with multi-layered meanings) and chanting is a ‘boot camp for the soul’. It turns up the volume on the good stuff in your mind. In positive psychology jargon, it generates your highest level of esteem (for self and others), your most resourceful state and your ultimate life-purpose, all rolled into one simple mantra. It takes the complex and profound philosophy of Buddhism and helps you ‘make it real’ in your everyday life.
The semantic meaning of Myoho Renge Kyo even seems to anticipate Quantum Physics’ current model of everything, known as String Theory. This proposes that the entire multi-layered Universe, including you and me, is not made up of particles and solid matter but of minute strings of energy vibrating at different frequencies. It also reveals that cause and effect can be simultaneous rather than sequential. As a life coach exploring the ‘inner cosmos’ I wouldn’t know a quark from a boson if I tripped over them in the street, so I write this paragraph without a single grain of scientific expertise. But it strikes me that there are strong similarities between String Theory and the title of the 3,000 year-old Lotus Sutra which could be literally translated as: Mysterious Universal Law of Simultaneous Cause and Effect Vibrating Thread. Just saying…
This Youtube video of one hour’s chanting made by a great Buddha called Robbie Lockie has had 2 million hits and will show you how to chant if you are interested in giving it a go.
More about the practice at: