What Should I Focus on When I’m Chanting?

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Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda shares his thoughts on what and how to keep focus during your daily chanting routine.

Though you might try to concentrate, it’s easy to get distracted and that’s OK. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is supposed to be enjoyable, not rigid and uncomfortable. We wanted to share some helpful tips and a perspective you can have when your mind starts to wander or you find it hard to focus. The following is from Discussions on Youth (pp. 223–24).

One student admitted being uncertain about how to pray … he wanted to know whether he should just chant about one thing at a time—waiting for that prayer to be answered before going on to the next one—or whether it was all right to pray for many things at the same time.

You can chant for as many things as you like. A person with many wishes and dreams should pray earnestly to fulfill each one. Buddhism is reason.

You are the only one who can realize your desires; it’s up to your own faith and practice, no one else’s.

To use the analogy of shopping, you can buy many things when you have enough money in your wallet. To buy something that costs three hundred dollars, you need to have three hundred dollars. If you only have ten dollars, you can only purchase ten dollars’ worth of goods. If you want to buy something, you need to bring along enough money to do so.

In faith, the same logic applies. You are the only one who can realize your desires; it’s up to your own faith and practice, no one else’s.

Some members say that they have trouble concentrating or focusing on the Gohonzon when they chant; they get distracted, and their minds wander. What can they do about this?

Because we are human, it’s natural for our minds to wander, for all sorts of thoughts and memories to surface. You can just share all those thoughts with the Gohonzon. There is no set form or pattern for how we should pray. Buddhism speaks of being “uncreated” and “unadorned.” In other words, it emphasizes being natural. Therefore, simply chant earnestly and without pretense, just as you are. In time, as your faith develops, you’ll find it easier to focus your mind when you chant.

Is it all right to chant mainly for ourselves?

Yes, it’s fine. It’s natural for prayers to center on your own desires and dreams. There’s no need to pretend that you’re praying for something lofty when you’re not. You’re only fooling yourself if you do. By chanting naturally, without affectation or reservation, for what you seek most of all, you’ll gradually come to develop a higher and more expansive life-condition.

Simply chant earnestly and without pretense, just as you are. In time, as your faith develops, you’ll find it easier to focus your mind when you chant.

Of course, it’s also fine to chant with the resolve to become bigger-hearted or for the welfare of your friends and for kosen-rufu—the happiness and prosperity of all humankind. You are free to chant for whatever you wish. It’s all up to you.

Reciting the sutra morning and evening and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are not obligations. They are a wonderful right you possess.

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