Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō
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Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō (南無妙法蓮華経) (commonly known as 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 the central mantra chanted within all forms of Nichiren Buddhism.
The words Myōhō Renge Kyō refers to 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) meaning title and was first revealed by the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren on the 28th day of the fourth lunar month of 1253 at Seichō-ji (also called Kiyosumi-dera) in present-day city of Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture, Japan.
The practice of prolonged chanting is referred to as shōdai (唱題) while the purpose of chanting daimoku is to reduce sufferings by eradicating negative karma along with reducing karmic punishments both from previous and present lifetimes, with the goal 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 about 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 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.
Linguistically, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō consists of the following transliterations:
- Namu 南無 "devoted to", from Sanskrit namas
- Myōhō 妙法 "exquisite law"
- Ren 蓮, from Middle Chinese len, "padma (lotus)"
- Ge 華, from Middle Chinese xwæ, "flower"
- Kyō 経, from Middle Chinese kjeng, "sutra"
The Lotus Sutra is held by Nichiren Buddhists, as well as practitioners of the Tiantai and corresponding Japanese Tendai schools, to be the culmination of Gautama 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 of the phrase 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 a universal translation.
In popular culture
Perhaps the most famous and well known attribution in pop culture is in Tina Turner's autobiographical movie What's Love Got To Do With It, featuring her conversion to Nichiren Shōshū in the early 1970s through her co-dancer friend Jackie Stanton. After the excommunication of Soka Gakkai on 28 November 1991, Turner became an Independent Buddhist.
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