Many of you have come from different kinds of spiritual practices many of which have included some form of meditation. A frequent question is, “How is chanting different from meditation?” Since I have only tried one form of meditation, and there are many, I am going to describe the chanting practice and you can compare it with the meditation practice you do.
The chanting practice in Nichiren Buddhism is not an inward practice. It’s an outward practice done with the eyes open. The chant is done with the voice while focusing on a mandala which is called the Gohonzon. I’ll discuss the Gohonzon in a different post.
The purpose of chanting is to tap into the creative power, compassion and wisdom that exists within of us, so that we can bring those enlightened qualities out to be used in everyday life and to be able to put our lives in rhythm with that energy.
Practitioners chant about goals and issues and then go out and deal with them in daily life. In this way you will transform your life, overcoming weaknesses and maximizing strengths as you walk the path to enlightenment. This chanting practice does not withdraw you from the world but rather strengthens and grounds you in the world.
Meditation or samadhi generally is a silent, inward mental practice where a person focuses the mind on one point so it becomes perfectly tranquil and the practitioner becomes inwardly serene.
Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th century monk, who deeply studied Shakyamuni’s teachings and became the founder of this branch of Buddhism, taught that the needs of the time determine which practices to use. He teaches that chanting and reciting two book of the Lotus Sutra is the discipline needed during our time. It takes about 15 minutes twice a day and accords with the realities of 21st century life where people must work for a living and then attend to the needs of their families.
Chanting is not a goal in itself, but rather the means of allowing the practitioner to manifest his or her innate wisdom in society while working both for the enlightenment of self and others. Every day we sit and chant to polish our lives and bring out the qualities of compassion, courage and wisdom so we can use them in our daily lives and in society.
Maybe you practice a certain form of meditation and are not sure how it would be different or the same as the chanting practice. I can compare and contrast them if you will describe to me what you do.