The short answer is, “no.”
Traditional Buddhist schools believe that desires cause suffering. They teach that you must eliminate desires to become enlightened, and believe that this process will take many lifetimes of consistent effort.
Most people in the West don’t really relate to this kind of practice. It’s too different from their beliefs. In order to eliminate desires, they envision someone sitting in the Lotus position, meditating under a tree all day, a life for a monk or nun. How then can you expect to live and support a family without working? Not practical in today’s world.
Nichiren Buddhism believes that desires can be good. After all some of them keep us alive, such the desire for food and water.
We all agree that desires can cause suffering. If someone cares about something a great deal and it is taken away from them, they suffer. Other desires such as cravings and addictions can create great negativity and unhappiness.
Nichiren Buddhism says you don’t have to eliminate your desires to become enlightened. But you will use them differently. Instead of pursuing desires as an end in themselves to make you happy, you will use them as steppingstones to enlightenment.
Let’s See How This Works
Let’s say you have a goal and sit down to chant about it everyday. Chanting allows you to access your Buddha Nature, that universal level of life within each of us which embodies great wisdom,compassion, vitality and unshakeable happiness.
Even chanting about material things connects you to your universal self on a daily basis. Over time you will come to trust and rely upon that enlightened part of yourself to guide your life. Through having this experience on every day you will awaken to the reality of your life, that you are one with that universal self.
How Does chanting for Material Things Develop spirituality?
Let me give you a personal example. When my husband and I were trying to complete an extensive remodel on our house, we ran out of money due to unexpectedly having to replace three basement walls. We had no ability to borrow any more money and had a deadline on our construction loan. The bank could repossess our home if we didn’t complete the remodel in the time limit.
Earlier in my life I’d had experiences, which made me very nervous and tense about not having enough money. Now, I had the practice, so I sat down and started chanting for money. My husband chanted for solutions to construction problems. It took us almost two months but the money showed up and ways I could never have anticipated. He found perfect solutions to his construction challenges.
Although having the funds to complete the house was important, the real benefit of this experience was that I learned that when we chanted and connected with that universal level of life within, we could attract what we needed and would never have to worry about having our needs met again. A profound relaxation spread throughout my life. All that tension disappeared.
The Role of Desires Changes
When you connect with that Self and come to embody the happiness of your Buddha Nature, the lure of material desires wanes. It’s similar to the way the stars pale when the sun rises. You might still enjoy something but you won’t feel so emotionally attached to it. You can easily let it go. When you become unshakeably happy, then acquiring stuff and making lots of money loses its importance. This doesn’t mean you won’t have goals and desires. You will, but you won’t rely on them to make you happy. They assume a different role. They become the firewood which carries you to enlightenment.
When you chant and then take action towards realizing a desire, you may have to overcome weaknesses. You will come to rely more and more on the enlightened level of your life. In this way you build both the internal strengths and the realization of the truth of your life, which are steppingstones to enlightenment, unshakeable happiness.
Desires have become the means to that end rather than the end itself.
Next Topic: What is the full practice for Nichiren Buddhists?