I don’t know how many amongst us here have heard of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo! But I gather there must be quite a few if one is to go by the chanting groups that have proliferated like mushrooms in every nook and corner of the country with such an umbrella effect that it is almost on par with our numerous Bhajan Mandalis everywhere.
I hadn’t. Heard of it I mean. In fact the first time I heard it, it made no sense at all. The second time, it rang a distant bell and the third time it registered.
It was too much of a coincidence, three times in as many months and in different parts of the world! But perhaps fate nay destiny had something to do with it. I’d like to think so anyway!
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I needed to know what it meant. I had to know. And thus began my journey into unchartered waters. And hopefully for those of us who are yet to hear of it this will open up new vistas.
History records that in the 6th century BC Gautama Buddha, born a prince of the Sakya clan in Lumbini Kapilavasthu in what is today’s Nepal, gave up his all to go in search of an answer to man’s sufferings. He found it after many a trial and tribulation, we are told, while meditating under the Bodhi Tree, in Gaya, India. It was then thereafter that he apparently became the ‘Buddha’ or the ‘Enlightened One’. This is a tale that is so oft told that it is probably as much a part of us as are the stories of the birth of Christ, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.
But in the last eight years of his life Buddha -for those of us who don’t know- apparently began expounding the ‘Lotus Sutra’, as the ultimate form of enlightenment. All his former teachings, he said were to be treated as being merely preparatory! The Lotus Sutra explained the belief that everyone could attain enlightenment regardless of caste or creed, race or gender, or the state of one’s finances! Everyone, he said had a “Buddha’ inherent in him.
And in the 13th century, in Japan, almost to the exact date prophesied by Buddha so many centuries before, the “Lotus Sutra” came into its own.
Nichiren Diashonin (1222-1282 AD), a truly great Buddhist teacher, I was informed, based his entire teachings on the interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. He had the remarkable ability of being able to explain and clarify the sutra to the common man, which is as relevant today as it was then. He explained that it was not necessary to make any major changes in life to become enlightened. One could begin the process by simply reorganizing it —-to the chants of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, the title of the Lotus sutra.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!
Nam, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘devotion and dedication’,
Myoho meaning ‘Mystic Law” or life itself and revival,
Renge meaning the beautiful Lotus flower that springs out of the slime
Kyo meaning teachings and the enunciation of its vibrant sound
Written in ancient classical Chinese characters and pronounced in Japanese, its literal translation would mean ‘I dedicate myself/ life to the mystic laws of the lotus’.
But it also refers to the emergence of man’s Buddha nature from within man himself like the lotus from the slime. And when set to the rhythm of his chanting voice it can apparently draw out ‘wisdom, courage and compassion’ even while expressing ‘respect and gratitude’ to life itself.
Thus, chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as often as one can, I was told, would enable one to bring out the positive aspects of ones life while addressing the unhappy ones. Ideally, one is to chant in front of the Gohonzon, a scroll bearing Nichiren’s inscriptions, as do the members of some Buddhist societies (Soka Ga Kai), who follow his teachings. But chanting without it is also believed to be no less beneficial.
Chanting energizes the positive vibes of one’s life into gradually overcoming the negative ones. Subtle changes take place replacing anxiety with calm, restlessness with peace and can even help prevent or at least control illness say those who have tried it. At the least it promotes happiness and harmony within the person…and at the most it could be contagious. A welcome contagion regardless of religion, caste or creed!
The Buddha nature it is believed cannot be attained by education, money or power .It has to be felt. That feeling will only manifest itself when one is attuned to the positive aspects of self and nature/the world around you. When the self becomes happier, society becomes happier, and then wouldn’t it be just a small step to the entire world itself?
All of us are apparently potential Buddhas as there is Buddha hood lying dormant in all of us. Buddha himself was a mortal who awoke to his enlightenment. He was no God. If he could achieve it, I was told, there is no reason why seemingly we cannot. One doesn’t have to become a Buddhist or change one’s religion or beliefs, one needs to only incorporate this chant into one’s daily life as a matter of routine to achieve a happier frame of mind. Buddha- hood is a state of mind, the state of enlightenment, a state of happiness and by chanting this everyday we sow the seeds of that attainment.
I am no Buddhist and nor have I become one but I did try chanting it along with my other prayers for a few minutes everyday and I do believe that there has been an improvement in the quality of my life! So…
‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’