You Asked: What happens when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for others?

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Buddhism encourages curiosity and a seeking spirit, so we’re happy to answer this question from a Buddhability reader: “What happens when I am chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for someone? Should I only be chanting for myself or is it OK to chant for others, even if they’re strangers?”

This is a really important question. While developing authentic happiness is a focal point of Buddhist practice, it isn’t the only one. Buddhism is a practice for both self and others. Meaning that while we focus on polishing our life and going for our dreams, helping others become happy too is an important part of the process.

Chanting is like radio waves

But what is happening when we chant for other people? To explain it simply, we can think about our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo like radio waves that permeate everywhere. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes:

You may have friends who are sick, who cannot attend school, or are struggling to cope with problems at home. Whatever the case may be, the best thing you can do is to chant for them. Your prayers, like radio waves, though invisible, will definitely reach them.

Discussions on Youth, p. 42

Interconnection of all life

To understand why chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can reach anyone, we can look to the Buddhist concept of dependent origination. Daisaku Ikeda describes this concept:

Each living thing manifests the enlightenment of which it is capable; each contributes to the harmony of the grand concert of symbiosis. In Buddhist terminology, dependent origination describes these relationships. No person or thing exists in isolation. Every being functions to create the environment that sustains all other existences. All things are mutually supporting and interrelated, forming a living cosmos, what modern philosophy might term a semantic whole. That is the conceptual framework through which Mahayana Buddhism views the natural universe.

My Dear Friends in America, fourth edition, p. 355

All beings are interconnected and interdependent. This means that harming someone else is ultimately harming yourself. In the same token, however, supporting someone else is also supporting ourselves. This profound interconnection means that our chanting can manifest the enlightenment in all things and truly reach anywhere.

Who can we chant for?

You can chant for anyone. It doesn’t matter whether it is a stranger you saw upset on the bus or your closest friend. Buddhism teaches that we should also chant for those we don’t like or get along with. Daisaku Ikeda writes:

It is also important to chant for those you don’t like, find hard to get along with, or feel resentful toward. It may be difficult and perhaps even impossible for you to do so at first. But if you keep trying and chant for them, the situation will change. Perhaps you will change, or they will change. Either way, the situation will move in a more positive direction. Many people have experienced this firsthand. Above all, becoming a person who is able to chant for the happiness of such challenging individuals will be your greatest fortune.

Discussions on Youth, p. 43

It’s natural to be resistant to the idea of chanting for someone we don’t like. Just as it is a continuous battle to tap into and believe in our own Buddhability, we must also challenge ourselves to believe in the Buddhability of each person. Because to become the kind of person who can wish for all people’s happiness is to develop an expansive life where we can see the Buddhability in all people and work toward a truly peaceful society.

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