Wednesday, 15 February 2012

About buddhist daily practice

(a makeshift Butsugu me and my mother devised when she visited me with her Omamori. That was a stack of books and don’t you just love the orange in the coffee-cup?)

I know it's bit naughty, but I will start by reposting something I wrote ages ago for my old blog.
It was originally intended as a meme's entry (ABC Wednesday), called P is for Practice, as in daily practice.

Daily practice is an important aspect of Buddhism. The core elements of daily practice are Gongyo and Daimoku. 

Every morning and every evening, we determine our goals and objectives in faith by chanting parts of two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, the Sutra our Buddhism is based upon, the Hoben chapter and the Juryo chapter. This is done in Japanese, to be more specific ancient Japanese. We read this chapters in a little book (Gongyo book), with the Kanji and the transliteration. After a while (not so much, actually) you learn them by heart.
The second part of daily practice is Daimoku. Daimoku means ‘title’ and is the repetition of the mantra Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Myoho-Renge-Kyo means ‘Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law’ and is the title of the Lotus Sutra’s Japanese translation. The word ‘Nam’ is Sanskrit and means ‘I dedicate my life’. So the mantra means ‘I dedicate my life to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law’. The repetition of this sentence takes the form of a chant and can be done as slowly or as fast as one wishes, for as long or as little time as one wants or can afford.

(Buddhist paraphernalia. The bell, the Gongyo book, juzu beads, a fukusa.
Many people have complained to me: “what is the point in chanting something in a language you don’t understand? You are just fooling yourself with those words”. This usually comes, I am sad to point out, from arrogant and narrow-minded people.

They totally miss the point.

First of all, do you have to understand how your body digests your food to take energy from it? Do you have to understand the mechanics of your synaptic processes to be able to think? No. They work whether you’re ignorant of their practicalities or not. Which is not to say that we do not study the profound meaning of this ‘prayers’ (I use the term loosely for want of a better word, since we are not actually ‘praying’ anyone).

(Our old home Butsuma. Those were lemons from our trees!
I remember a particularly snotty catholic girl (lapsed, as most Italians are) dismissing my religion for that reason. Well, she may understand the superficial meaning of her prayers (assuming she ever prays), but does she really understand them deeply? The fact that something is in your language doesn’t mean you understand it.

For example, why do we recite these parts, and not others? (and here we come at the root of my unshakeable faith in this Buddhism) Mainly, because these two parts contain the ultimate truth of our Buddhism: that Enlightenment is accessible to any and every person. Here and now. You don’t have to wait to be reborn in another land, you can change your life here and now, by expressing your Buddha nature here and now. And most importantly (for me, heh) you can do that, even if you’re a woman.

Yes, folks, this Buddhism is the only one that allows women to attain enlightenment. I find the idea that only men can do it so stupid and arrogant that I can’t imagine how other Buddhisms can survive, but hey, that’s me.

Secondly, and this is a really cool aspect, every disciple of Nichiren Daishonin in the world recites the same ‘prayers’. It happened to me to be in a room with people coming from five, six different countries, and we were all united by our chanting.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to go to a European Youth division meeting. Five thousand people in the same auditorium, coming from every country of Europe. Nothing can be said to explain the feeling of five thousand voices chanting Daimoku with the same heart. They resonate in you, and you resonate in them, so that you come to a point in which you feel as though the entire world is chanting within you, through you, and you are a precious part of the wonderful flow of life.
In that moment I realised that I was going to be a Buddhist for the rest of my life.

(Taplow Court, Central Kaikan of the UK, taken on the day I received my Gohonzon )


  1. This is a fantastic site...please keep going!!!! Thankyou

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! Please let me know if there's anything in particular you would like me to write about.

  2. Fantastic! Thank you very much for this text - to me it is very helpful on my path into Nichiren Daishonin. There is so much to learn, and your blog is exactly what I need at the moment.

    1. Thank you Maresolaris! I am glad to be of help.

  3. my new favorite site, why I didn't discover you sooner! thanks for these posts. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!


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