(Photo above by Aleksandr Neplokho / Pexels)
Question: I’ve just started to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but I’m not quite sure what is supposed to be happening. How do I know if it’s working?
Answer: Great question. There isn’t a single person who didn’t feel this way when they started to chant.
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like planting a garden. At first, you water the seeds, not sure if you’re doing it right. Then you think you see subtle changes as days go by, but you still don’t know if it’s having an effect. But then, after weeks of tending to it, flowers start to bloom all around you!
Now you plant seeds and water them with more confidence, and they bloom more brilliantly than before. In other words, it’s only natural that the longer and more frequently you do it, the greater changes you will see. Even weeks and months is enough time to see Nam-myoho-renge-kyo work in your life.
Weeks and months is enough time to see Nam-myoho-renge-kyo work in your life.
Change comes in all shapes and sizes
Some of the changes we see are very obvious—our boss recognizes our work or we find a great apartment. Some are subtler and less tangible—we feel more comfortable in our own skin. We feel more optimistic. Or we expand our ability to listen to others, and they trust us more as a result.
Of course, the biggest thing that changes when we chant is us. We open our eyes to the courage and wisdom within. In this sense, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not supernatural. It fuels us to work hard and helps us find the wisdom to move forward.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not supernatural. It fuels us to work hard and helps us find the wisdom to move forward.
Chanting inspires us to put in the work
Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda once shared with a student that our lives change when we chant and make effort:
Yes, it’s misguided to think that simply chanting without making any serious attempt to study will improve your grades. The realization of your prayers begins with making concrete efforts toward their fulfillment. … At the same time, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you will see, as clearly as the morning sun illuminates the earth, what you must do to succeed in your studies and your life. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will give you the energy to keep trying to achieve your goals. Faith and prayer are the engines that fuel our efforts-we have to make our own efforts.
Discussions on Youth, p. 306
As we chant, we bring out our best selves and become the solution to our problems.
Make it concrete
It wise though to have something concrete we are chanting about. This helps us focus our chanting and use it to move us in a specific direction. With concrete goals, we can also see clearly if it’s working for us.
Chant and apply Buddhism
Finally, it’s important to chant and put the teachings of Buddhism into practice. The 13th-century Buddhist teacher Nichiren Daishonin once wrote in a letter,
Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.
The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 345
Yes, Nichiren was certain of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’s effectiveness even more so than the sun rising each morning. However, it’s important to note that he writes here: a “practitioner of the Lotus Sutra.” In other words, in addition to chanting, we should apply the teachings of Buddhism to our lives.
When we chant to believe in ourselves and help those around us to be happy—we are definitely putting the teachings of Buddhism into practice, and our lives will move forward.
Just chant and be yourself
In the end, the most important thing is just to keep chanting. As long as we just chant for a period of time and be ourselves when we do it, we’ll definitely see incredible change in our lives.
As long as we just chant for a period of time and be ourselves when we do it, we’ll definitely see incredible change in our lives.