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"Practice and study to strengthen your faith. Without practice and study, Buddhism cannot exist. To practice and to study are caused by your faith. Follow these yourself and influence others to do the same. Even if only a word or a phrase, spread it to others."

Nichiren

Five Practices of the Dharma Teacher in the Lotus Sutra

In the Lotus Sutra, there are five kinds of practices that we should perform. They are

  1. to receive and keep the Sutra in each one's body and mind
  2. to read the Sutra with the eyes
  3. to recite the Sutra
  4. to explain the Sutra to others
  5. to copy the Sutra.

In order to receive and keep the Lotus Sutra, you must have a heart to believe in the teaching. That fundamental heart is called "faith" (Shin) and "pray" (Nen). Having faith in the Lotus Sutra is that we take the teaching into our daily life and follow it. Therefore, we should not receive and keep the Sutra with a vague mind.

Reading the Sutra does not simply mean "reading" the letters of the Sutra but reading the Sutra with understanding. However, if you have read the Lotus Sutra, you may think that the Sutra is very difficult to understand. So some Nichiren-Shu temples hold study class on the Lotus Sutra to help you understand the Sutra more clearly. By participating in the class and listening to the minister's lectures, you will be able to understand the teachings of the Sutra that you didn't understand before.

Not only reading the Sutra with your eyes but reciting it with a loud voice is another practice. We usually recite chapter two (Hoben-pon) and chapter sixteen (Nyorai Juryo-hon) at temple services and at our daily family service in our homes. The reason why these two chapters are recited most often is the two chapters expound the most important teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Chapter 2 expounds that everyone is able to become a Buddha and chapter 16 expounds that Sakyamuni Buddha's life is eternal. But even if you recite other chapters of the Sutra besides chapters 2 and 16, it is also great reciting practice because every single letter of the Lotus Sutra is as valuable as the Buddha himself.

Next, when you achieve understanding of the Sutra, do not keep the merit in yourself only but try to transfer what you learn from the Sutra to your family, friends and people around you. It is said in the Lotus Sutra that by being transferred one after another, the merit that the fiftieth person receives is as great as the first one receives.

And there is a practice of copying the Sutra. You may copy the Lotus Sutra in Kanji characters or in English. Nichiren Shu is promoting a practice of copying Odaimoku.

Odaimoku (shown on the left in kanji) - practice of the Lotus Sutra in Mappo Period, Declining Latter Age of the Dharma.

Our founder, Nichiren Shonin aimed to save people living in this defiled time of Mappo, Declining Latter Age of the Dharma. He appealed to them to take a good medicine, Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Odaimoku was left by the Eternal Buddha for people of the Mappo Period and was revealed by Nichiren Shonin from the bottom of the scriptures of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Shonin wrote in "Kanjin Honzon Sho,"


'All the good deeds and virtues of the Buddha Sakyamuni are manifested in the title of the Lotus Sutra, that is, in the five letters: "Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo." However sinful we may be, we shall be naturally endowed with all the deeds and virtues of the Buddha if we adhere to these five letters.'

He teaches us that the right practice in the Mappo Period is to keep and hold the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. By practicing so, we receive the greatest merit from the Buddha. Receiving and holding the Odaimoku is exactly equal to receiving and holding the Lotus Sutra, reciting the Odaimoku is equal to reciting the whole Lotus Sutra, and copying the Odaimoku is equal to copying the whole Lotus Sutra.

A question, "How many times should I chant the Odaimoku ?" is asked very often. Of course, the more Odaimoku you chant, the more merit you accumulate and the greater benefit you receive. But some people abuse this by saying, "If you do not chant Odaimoku 100 times or 1,000 times everyday, you will fall into hell." There is no authority to prove such a statement, and on the contrary, such a ridiculous statement perplexes people who have pure faith in the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin. No matter how many times you chant the Odaimoku , when you chant with faith, admiring the Buddha, respecting Nichiren Shonin and appreciating everybody around you from the bottom of your heart, your merit is truly equal to the merit of the Lotus Sutra consisting of 8 volumes, 28 chapters, 69384 letters. As long as your time permits, please try to chant Odaimoku from the bottom of your heart.

Shodaigyo The practice of Odaimoku Chanting

At Nichiren Shu Churches and Temples a form of meditation called Shodaigyo is practiced on a regular basis along with other types of services. Shodaigyo is a practice of chanting Odaimoku. There are several styles of service in the Nichiren Shu, Shodaigyo is one of these styles. Please check with your local Church or Temple for times and to learn this practice.

An example of a Shodaigyo service is as follows:

RAIHAI (a deep bow preparing oneself to receive the Buddha and his teachings)

DOJOKAN (Meditation on the Throne of Enlightenment)

HONMON SANKI (Taking refuge in the Three Treasures, Buddha, Dharma and Samgha represented here by Nichiren Shonin)

JOSHINGYO (a few minutes of silent meditation to cleanse and bring harmony to the Body and Mind)

SHOSHOGYO (Odaimoku chanting)

JINSHINGYO (a few minutes of silent meditation to reflect on the Odaimoku and the merits received)

PRAYER (dedication of the merits received to family, friends and all the beings of the universe)

BODHISATVA VOW'S

Sentient beings are innumerable; I vow to save them all.

Our evil desires are inexhaustible; I vow to quench them all.

The Buddha's teachings are immeasurable; I vow to study them all.

The way of the Buddha is unexcelled; I vow to attain the path sublime.

RAIHAI (a deep bow in appreciation for the merits received and the chance to practice the Dharma)

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Morning and evening services at home

The most important practice at your home is morning and evening services. At the morning service, let us pray to the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin for our family's safety and best effort on their work and school, doing good deeds following the Dharma and contributing to other people in the community. At evening service, let us show our appreciation for our family's safety on that day.

One example of family service procedure is as follows (This is the same basic format that may be used for regular services at your local Temple):

  1. Invocation (Invitation to the Buddha, Dharma and Samgha to be present at this service)
  2. Kaikyo-ge (Opening Canon)
  3. Lotus Sutra Ch. 2 Hoben-pon
  4. Lotus Sutra Ch. 16 Juryo-hon (Jiga-ge)
  5. Chanting Odaimoku Namu Myoho Renge Kyo
  6. Lotus Sutra last part of Ch. 11 Hoto-ge (The difficulty in keeping this Sutra)
  7. Prayer
  8. Four Great Vows

Sentient beings are innumerable; I vow to save them all.

Our evil desires are inexhaustible; I vow to quench them all.

The Buddha's teachings are immeasurable; I vow to study them all.

The way of the Buddha is unexcelled; I vow to attain the path sublime.

Ch. 2 (Hoben-pon) and Ch. 16 (Juryo-hon) are recited the most frequently; however, you may recite Ch. 12 Daibadatta-hon, whole Ch. 16, Ch. 21 Jinriki-hon (whole or from "Shobukkusesha") or Ch. 25 Kannon-gyo. Furthermore, it is a great practice to recite the whole Lotus Sutra from the beginning little by little everyday. You may choose which chapter to read by yourself.

There are two versions of the Lotus Sutra, one is the Japanese version and the other is the English version. You may recite either one. NBIC has a cassette tape for daily service at home with a booklet of the Japanese and English version and Yohon, which gives the Japanese version of chanting chapters 2, 12, 16, 21 and 25. It is helpful for you to practice recitation.

The Nichiren Buddhist International Center, 29490 Mission Blvd. Hayward, California 94544, U.S.A.
Telephone: 510-690-1222 , Fax: 510-690-1221

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