Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not just a silent practice. Chanting sutras is also considered a form of meditation. The primary meditation service in Nichiren Shu is known as Shodaigyo. "Shodai" literally means chanting Odaimoku (the sacred title of the Lotus Sutra) and "gyo" is practice. This service combines periods of silent meditation with chanting. This is a very different practice from sutra chanting services (daily service).
Shodaigyo begins with the ringing of the bell. Our minds are already focusing and our bodies begin to relax. We bow in reverence and then sing a praise to the three treasures. We read a verse about the merits of the Odaimoku. This is followed by a short silent meditation period to center us and empty the mind of the day's activities. After we are centered and calm, we begin to chant very slowly, accompanied by the mokusho (wooden drum) and the taiko drum. The Odaimoku gradually becomes faster and more intense. After reaching a peak intensity, we quickly slow down to the pace at which we began. The bell sounds and we end our chanting. This is followed by another short silent meditation period to contemplate the Odaimoku and bring it into our lives. We then read a dedication prayer, followed by the four Bodhisattva vows. We finish with a deep bow and the bell.
When we first start practicing shodaigyo, our minds may not want to calm down. Our minds tend to fight the practice; yet, through continued effort and practice, we can calm our minds and become tranquil. We become more aware and mindful of our surroundings and circumstances. This can be very helpful in our daily lives which so often throws us off of our center.
Shodaigyo services are broadcast on Wednesdays via Ustream every week. We also use Google+ or Skype when possible.
The Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas is online at 8:00 PM, central standard time. The service generally runs about 45 minutes and may be followed by a brief dharma talk. Please double check our calendar for times and dates.
The program for the Shodaigyo service can be found here [English] or [Spanish].