Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō
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Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō (南無妙法蓮華経), (also Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō) (English: Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra or Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law) is a mantra that is chanted as the central practice of all forms of Nichiren Buddhism—Myōhō Renge Kyō being the Japanese title of the Lotus Sūtra. The mantra is referred to as daimoku (題目?) or, in honorific form, o-daimoku (お題目) and was first revealed by the Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren on the 28th day of the fourth lunar month of 1253 CE at Seichō-ji (also called Kiyosumi-dera) near Kominato in current-day part of the city of Kamogawa, Japan. The practice of chanting the daimoku is called shōdai (唱題). The purpose of chanting daimoku is to attain perfect and complete awakening.
As Nichiren explained the mantra in his Ongi Kuden (御義口傳; Orally transmitted teachings), a transcription of his lectures the Lotus Sutra, Namu (南無) is a transliteration into Japanese of the Sanskrit "namas", and Myōhō Renge Kyō is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese title of the Lotus Sutra, in the translation by Kumārajīva (hence, Daimoku, which is a Japanese word meaning 'title').
Namu is used in Buddhism as a prefix expressing the taking of refuge in a Buddha or similar object of veneration. In Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, it represents devotion or conviction in the Mystic Law of Life (Saddharma) as expounded in the Lotus Sutra, not merely as one of many scriptures, but as the ultimate teaching of Buddhism, particularly with regard to Nichiren's interpretation. The use of Nam vs. Namu is, amongst traditional Nichiren schools, a linguistic but not necessarily a dogmatic issue, since u is devoiced in many varieties of Japanese.
Broken down, Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō consists of:
- Nam(u) (南無) from the Sanskrit namas meaning 'devotion to'
- Myō (妙) meaning 'strange', 'mystery', 'miracle', cleverness'
- Hō (法) meaning 'law', 'principle', 'doctrine'
- Myōhō (妙法) meaning 'supreme (marvelous) law of Buddha'
- Ren (蓮) meaning 'lotus'
- Ge (華) meaning 'flower'
- Kyō (経) meaning 'sutra' or 'teaching'
The Lotus Sutra is held by Nichiren Buddhists, as well as practitioners of the Chinese Tiantai (T'ien-t'ai) and corresponding Japanese Tendai sects, to be the culmination of Shakyamuni Buddha's 50 years of teaching. However, followers of Nichiren Buddhism consider Myōhō Renge Kyō to be the name of the ultimate law permeating the universe, and the human being is at one, fundamentally with this law (dharma) and can manifest realization, or Buddha Wisdom (attain Buddhahood), through Buddhist Practice.
The seven characters na-mu-myō-hō-ren-ge-kyō are written down the centre of the gohonzon, the mandala venerated by most Nichiren Buddhists. The veneration towards the mandala is understood by those who believe in it as the veneration for a deeper representation, which they believe to be the Buddha Nature inherent to their own lives.
Precise interpretations of Namu-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō, how it is pronounced, and its position in Buddhist practice differ slightly among the numerous schools and sub-sects of Nichiren Buddhism, but "I take refuge in (devote or submit myself to) the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Flower Sutra" might serve as an universal translation.
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- Stone, Jacqueline, I. "Chanting the August Title of the Lotus Sutra: Daimoku Practices in Classical and Medieval Japan". In: Payne, Richard, K. (ed.); Re-Visioning Kamakura Buddhism, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu 1998, pp. 116–166. ISBN 0-8248-2078-9