Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect and That’s Okay

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Daisaku Ikeda shares his thoughts on how to make the most of your daily chanting.

Though you might aspire to chant every day, you may not be as consistent as you’d like. Buddhists don’t believe in guilting people into practicing. We’re more interested in helping you cultivate a practice that feels the most comfortable and sustainable. The following is an excerpt from Discussions on Youth, Daisaku Ikeda’s conversations with youth representatives. (pp. 221–23)

Some people feel guilty when they skip reciting the sutra.

As long as we have faith in the Gohonzon, we are not going to suffer punishment or negative consequences on such account. So please put your mind at ease. Nichiren Daishonin says that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once contains limitless benefit.

Then chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 10 times must contain incredible benefit!

Yes, so you can imagine the immense benefit you will obtain when you continue to recite the sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening. Basically, you do both for yourself. Reciting the sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not an obligation—it is a right.

The Gohonzon will never demand that you chant to it. An attitude of appreciation in being able to chant to the Gohonzon is the heart of faith. The more you exert yourselves in faith, the more you stand to gain.

Also, Nichiren writes nothing about the specific amount we should chant. It is entirely up to each individual. Faith is a lifelong pursuit, so there’s no need to be unnecessarily nervous or anxious about how much you chant, or to put unnecessary pressure on yourselves. Buddhism exists to free people, not to restrain them. Doing even a little bit every day is important.

Faith is a lifelong pursuit, so there’s no need to be unnecessarily nervous or anxious about how much you chant, or to put unnecessary pressure on yourselves. Buddhism exists to free people, not to restrain them. Doing even a little bit every day is important.

Reciting the Lotus Sutra each day amounts to what we might call a spiritual workout. It gets our bodies and our minds working smoothly and puts us in sync with the universe.

A young woman’s high school division leader said that many of the members in her area find themselves unable to recite the sutra regularly. But all seem to know that when they have problems, they should take them to the Gohonzon and chant about them.

The spirit to seat oneself before the Gohonzon is in itself very important. You might decide, for example, “I’m going to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, even for just a few minutes” or “I’m going to chant to the Gohonzon every day.” Buddhism teaches the principle that “earthly desires are enlightenment.” To explain this very simply, “earthly desires” refers to suffering and to the desires and cravings that cause suffering, while “enlightenment” refers to attaining a vast and expansive state of absolute happiness.

Normally, one would assume that earthly desires and enlightenment are separate and distinct—especially since suffering would seem to be the exact opposite of happiness. But this is not the case in Nichiren Buddhism, which teaches that only by igniting the firewood of earthly desires can the flame of happiness be attained.

I guess you could say that earthly desires are transformed into enlightenment by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our problems and sufferings all turn into fuel for our advancement.

So, the greater our problems, the happier we can potentially become.

That’s right. The wonderful thing about faith in Nichiren Buddhism is its capacity to transform people’s lives from the direst suffering into the greatest possible happiness, and turn the most daunting problems into a source of growth and a foundation for human greatness.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes. You may be wondering how to help your parents live long and fulfilling lives or you may be worried about a friend who is sick or depressed, wishing for that person’s recovery. On a different level, you may be deeply concerned about the issue of world peace or humankind’s direction into the coming century.

Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you can use these worries to propel yourselves forward.

Faith means setting goals and working to realize each one.

If we view each goal or challenge as a mountain, faith is a process whereby we grow with each mountain we climb.

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