How Do I Know If I’m Chanting Effectively?

(Photo above by Yuliia Tretynychenko / Pexels)

Every aspect of our life, from work to relationships to health, depends on our inner state of life or life force. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo daily, we summon forth limitless reserves of wisdom, courage and compassion that help us move everything forward in the best possible direction. For that reason, those who make chanting a priority are never deadlocked.

Having said that, there may be times when we run up against a difficult challenge and question whether there’s a more effective way to chant. While there is no single correct way to pray, Nichiren Buddhism emphasizes the attitude with which we pray. Here are four things to consider when chanting to the Gohonzon for our goals and dreams.

1. Am I Being Honest and Open?

All of us face times of anxiety, worry, suffering and sadness. Whatever life state we find ourselves in, we can go to chant, just as we are, openly and honestly about our problems. It is by “carrying on a conversation” with and “confiding our innermost thoughts” that we can transform our inner state of life. Buddhist Philosopher Daisaku Ikeda recalls the guidance of his teacher:

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often said that there’s no need for us to stand on ceremony when chanting about our problems; we just need to chant honestly to the Gohonzon, to truly look at what is in our hearts. The practice of chanting, he said, is the practice of manifesting the same life state as the Daishonin within us, so we should chant with the resolve to embody his state of life.

The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 134

As we chant unpretentiously, expressing whatever is in our hearts, we will be able to polish and forge our lives at the deepest level.

2. Do I Have a Focused and Concrete Determination?

It’s important to have concrete prayers. A prayer that is ambiguous or irresolute will not fundamentally transform our life, just as following a map with vague instructions won’t get us to our destination. When we chant with a clear determination to never be defeated by any circumstance, we can summon forth the power to move the universe.

When we chant with a clear determination to never be defeated by any circumstance, we can summon forth the power to move the universe. 

As Daisaku Ikeda says:

Because our practice of faith is aimed at attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, it is essential that we have a solidly focused attitude when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is like trying to shoot an arrow: without a clear target, we won’t draw the bow with any real force or determination. In the same way, when we replace vague yearnings with concrete determinations and confident prayer, we can definitely accomplish what we hope to achieve.

SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime, p. 32

When we set clear goals, decide to be victorious and wholeheartedly pray to the Gohonzon with concentrated effort, we can blaze a winning path.

3. Am I Actively Fighting My Inner Negativity?

Having doubts or being pessimistic sometimes is only human. But through engaging in our daily practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can continuously challenge our disbelief in our Buddhability and prevent it from hindering the way forward. The key is to chant with the spirit to battle our fundamental ignorance. Ikeda explains:

The power of this wondrous Law cannot fully manifest in a life clouded by ignorance. Ignorance is the inner darkness that prevents us from believing in the Mystic Law and staying focused on our own Buddha nature and that of others. The practice of chanting enables us to break through this darkness and vibrantly bring forth our Buddhahood. Battling our fundamental darkness—this inner struggle is the essence of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime, p. 29

By actively challenging our doubts through prayer, we not only come to experience a deeper sense of confidence in our actions, we will also enjoy the process.

4. Am I Praying With a Vow?

Nichiren Daishonin states, “It could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered” (“On Prayer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 345). The power of our prayers are unfathomable. In particular, those who exert themselves to fulfill the vow of the Buddha and help all people become happy as a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will have their prayers answered, as Nichiren says. Elaborating on this point, Sensei states:

When we pray based on a vow, we can bring forth the life state of Buddhahood, activate protective forces and tap into the life force necessary to achieve our goals.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “There is no true happiness for human beings other than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681). Chanting brings us immeasurable benefit. By praying honestly to the Gohonzon, having concrete determinations, challenging our fundamental ignorance and praying with the spirit to fulfill our vow, we can challenge our obstacles and achieve all of our goals. No problem is a match for those who base everything on this kind of prayer. 

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