In past posts we have discussed what to do when you first start to chant. You were introduced to the 90 day challenge, where you learned to set a goal and chant for it for 90 days to prove to yourself that you would gain benefits through chanting. In this post I’ll orient you to the full practice.
First – Chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo
You are taught to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo first. This is the primary practice. By chanting daimoku (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo over and over) you’ll have the experience of what it’s like to chant. Before the 90 days are up you will have experienced the kinds of wonderful results in your life, which we expect when you start to practice.
Second – Learn Gongyo
After you are comfortable with the chant, you will want to know more, the full practice. This includes chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and reciting two books of the Lotus Sutra. (link) The whole thing takes about 15 minutes twice a day, morning and evening is called gongyo. Gongyo is considered the secondary practice.
How Do I Learn it?
The two books of the Lotus Sutra are recited in ancient Chinese and Sanskrit. It’s not as difficult as it sounds but takes a little while to learn. Here are two ways to make it easy.
- Download it from www.sgi-usa.org and also from www.American Gongyo.com. You can listen to one sentence at a time and then repeat it. You’ll be surprised how soon it feels like second nature. Your sponsor, the person who introduced you, can teach you.
- A sponsor is experienced in the practice and can help you with the pronunciation as well as answer all your questions.
I don’t want you to be worried about speaking in another language. If you want to know what you are saying, there is translation is in the book. Even though you don’t know what the words mean you will still receive benefits from chanting.
If you don’t have a sponsor yet because you’ve connected with this website or bought my book, you can go to www.sgi-usa.org . This is the official Nichiren Buddhist website. There click Find US. You will be prompted to put in your zip code to find the group closest to you. Don’t be shy. They will be happy to have you and help teach you.
I’m no good with languages and when I learned gongyo I needed someone to help me with pronounciation. My husband was my sponsor. I was practicing on a trip with him. He was driving us up the long hill to Baker city in Eastern Oregon in heavy traffic. Not paying attention to his driving issues, I held my gongyo book in front of him, pointed to a sentence and asked, “How do I pronounce this?” He swerved, avoided a truck and let me know that it was not a convenient time to do this. He’s never let me forget it. Believe me, if I can learn it, you can.
How Does the Practice Work?
Here is the intellectual explanation. When you use the chant, you tap your Buddha Nature, that universal part of yourself, which connects with that universal level in all of creation. You can bring its vitality, deep wisdom, compassion, unshakeable happiness to be used in daily life. As you chant you put your life in rhythm with the universal life of the universe.
I have chanted for twenty years and how it works is still mysterious to me. What I know is your whole life works when you chant. I’ve seen it with hundreds of people as well as in my own life. You can’t really understand it intellectually, although we’d all like to. It has to be experienced.