What Should I Think About When I’m Chanting?

(Photo above by Eugene Golovesov / Pexels)

You’re sitting down to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with clear goals in mind but once you actually start chanting, miscellaneous thoughts start popping up. You’re trying to re-focus each time but it feels uncontrollable.

We have just the advice for you. Well, we have some advice from Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda really. Ikeda shares about how our worries can become our prayers, or thoughts, when we’re chanting:

When we turn our problems into prayers, their significance changes. By turning them into prayers filled with determination and conviction, we can expand our state of life.

November 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 65

Contrary to popular belief, you’re not expected to clear your mind when you’re chanting. Actually, allowing your thoughts to naturally come up can also signal what’s in your heart. There’s nothing specific you have to think about but if you’re having some trouble focusing, here are some helpful examples from Ikeda:

If we’ve done something we regret, we can chant with a determination never to repeat the same mistake, making our prayer the first step toward a new and better future. When we face a decisive challenge, we can chant strongly and courageously with the firm resolve to win. … When we’re faced with the opportunity to transform our karma, we can infuse our prayer with an unwavering resolve not to be defeated. When we’re happy about something, we can chant with a deep spirit of appreciation and gratitude.

Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 134

The point is, whatever is on your mind you when chanting is fine. In fact, that’s usually when you get the most out of your chanting. The important thing is to have a determination of some kind in whatever you’re facing.

So, don’t worry too much, and just be yourself. Remember, you’re a Buddha just as you are and tapping into your Buddhability is how you can awaken to that fact.

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