Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō
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Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō (南無妙法蓮華經; sometimes truncated phonetically 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 refer 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 publicly declared by the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren on 28 April 1253 atop of Mount Kiyosumi, now memorialized by Seichō-ji temple in Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture, Japan.
The practice of prolonged chanting is referred to as Shōdai (唱題) while mainstream believers claim that the purpose of chanting 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.
The Tendai monks Saicho and Genshin are said to have originated the Daimoku while the Buddhist priest Nichiren is known today as the greatest proponent. The mantra is an homage to the Lotus Sutra which is widely credited as the "king of scriptures" and "final word on Buddhism". According to American author Jacqueline Stone, the Tendai founder Saicho popularized the mantra "Namu Ichijo Myoho Renge Kyo" as a way to honor the Lotus Sutra as the One Vehicle teaching of the Buddha.
Accordingly, the Tendai monk Genshin popularized the mantra "Namu Amida, Namu Kanzeon, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" to honor the three jewels of Japanese Buddhism. Nichiren, who himself was a Tendai monk, edited these chants down to "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" and Nichiren Buddhists are responsible for its wide popularity and usage all over the world today.
According to various claims, Nichiren reputedly explained[dubious ] the mantra in his Ongi Kuden, 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 Sino-Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese title of the Lotus Sutra (hence, Daimoku, which is a Japanese word meaning 'title'), in the translation by Kumārajīva. Nichiren gives a detailed interpretation of each character (see Ongi kuden#Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) in this text.
Namu is used in Buddhism as a prefix expressing 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.
By syllabary, Namu — Myōhō — Renge — Kyō consists of the following:
- Namu 南無 "devoted to", a transliteration of Sanskrit namas
- Myōhō 妙法 "exquisite law"
- Renge-kyō 蓮華經 "Lotus Sutra"
However, followers of Nichiren Buddhism consider Myōhō Renge Kyō to be the name of the ultimate law permeating the universe, in unison with human life which can manifest realization, sometimes termed as “Buddha Wisdom” or “attaining Buddhahood”, through select Buddhist practices.
Associations to popular culture
- American born artist Tina Turner through her autobiographical film What's Love Got To Do With It (1993), featured her conversion to Nichiren Buddhism in 1974. In a film scene after an attempted suicide, Turner begins to chant this mantra and turns her life around. Turner continues to chant this mantra in public venues and numerous publications.
- The mantra appears in a number of international pop songs including Welcome Back Home by The Byrds, Let Go and Let God on the Grace and Gratitude album by Olivia Newton-John, and Yoko Ono's NamMyohoRengeKyo song.
- The mantra was used in the final episode of The Monkees to break Peter out of a trance.
- The mantra is also present in the film Satyricon (1969) by Federico Fellini during the grand nude jumping scene of the Patricians.
- An American Navy prisoner, Larry Meadows (played by Randy Quaid), being escorted by shore patrol attends a Nichiren Shoshu of America meeting where he is introduced to the mantra in Hal Ashby's 1973 The Last Detail (screenplay by Robert Towne and based on Darryl Ponicsan's novel); the Meadows character continues to chant during the latter part of the film.
- In Louis Malle's acclaimed film Atlantic City (1980), Hollis McLaren's Chrissie, the pregnant, naive hippie sister of main character Sally (Susan Sarandon) is discovered hiding, fearful and chanting the mantra after witnessing violent events.
- The mantra is used by the underdog fraternity in the film Revenge of the Nerds II in the fake Seminole temple against the Alpha Betas.
- In the film Innerspace, Tuck Pendleton (played by Dennis Quaid) chants this mantra repeatedly as he encourages Jack Putter to break free from his captors and charge the door of the van he is being held in.
- The mantra appears in songs such as The Pretenders' "Boots of Chinese Plastic" and Xzibit's "Concentrate".
- The Nichiren Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji peace walks uses the mantra whilst beating Japanese hand drums, a practice they call as gyakku-Shodai.
- Some activist believers have associated this mantra with Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks along with the “Peace Stupas” named in this honor built all over India.
- English actor Orlando Bloom appeared in a video interview for Soka Gakkai International-USA in January 2019, citing his practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo since the age of 16.
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- "NamMyohoRengeKyo". Ono. YouTube. May 24, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- "Pretenders - Boots Of Chinese Plastic Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- "Orlando Bloom on Buddhism, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and Daisaku Ikeda". SGI-USA Media. Soka Gakkai International-USA. January 31, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
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