Shakyo - Copying the Odaimoku
Rev. Kanto Tsukamoto
April 28th, 1253, at Asahigamori of Mt. Kiyosumi, Nichiren Shonin
recited the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, for the first time and
declared the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism. In the year 2002
we will celebrate the 750th Anniversary of this event. Nichiren Shu
follows the vow of Nichiren Shonin, which is, "May all beings
of the whole world live in accordance with the Lotus Sutra",
and promotes the campaign of the copying of the Odaimoku. The idea
of the campaign is to copy the Odaimoku and store it permanently in
the monument at Seichoji Temple in Chiba, Japan, which is the sacred
place of the proclamation of Nichiren Buddhism. This campaign has
been taking place not only in Japan, but all over the world. Thousands
of copied Odaimoku have been sent to Seichoji Temple, where they are
stored in a time capsule. The first capsule is full of copies of the
Odaimoku, and the second one is beginning to be filled.
There are many reasons why people copy the Odaimoku. "During
my busy daily life, I am able to calm down and reach peace of mind
with this practice." "My calligraphy has become much better."
"I used to have a short temper, but its much better now."
"I obtain a peaceful mind more deeply than in Zen meditation,
and I can concentrate more easily now." "I no longer make
simple mistakes at work." "As I practice copying the Odaimoku,
I hear beautiful music." But some people don't know how to practice
copying the Odaimoku. Later in this article I will explain how to
Merit of copying sutras
The copying of sutras has been done since 1st Century BC. The materials
used were mostly leaf, bark, and cloth. The oldest copied sutra on
bark was discovered in Central Asia. It is interesting that Theravada
Buddhism does not expound the merit of copying sutras, but Mahayana
Buddhism expounds many merits of copying sutras. This is because,
in Theravada Buddhism, the teachings are mainly transmitted verbally,
and in Mahayana Buddhism they try to copy the sutras in order to spread
them correctly. The Lotus Sutra in particular clearly expounds the
merit of copying sutras as follows;
"The good men or women who keep, read, recite, expound or copy
this Lotus Sutra will be able to obtain eight hundred merits of the
eye, twelve hundred merits of the ear, eight hundred merits of the
nose, twelve hundred merits of the tongue, eight hundred merits of
the body, and twelve hundred merits of the mind. They will be able
to adorn and purify their six sense organs with these merits."
- Ch. 19, The Merits of the Teacher of the Dharma
"If anyone keeps, reads, recites, expounds and copies even a
gatha of the Lotus Sutra, and respects a copy of this sutra just as
he respects me (the Buddha), and offers flowers, incense, necklaces...
to it, or just joins his hands together respectfully towards it, he
should be considered to have appeared in the world of men out of his
compassion towards all living beings. Such a person will become a
Buddha." - Ch. 10 The Teacher of the Dharma
"Anyone who copies, keeps, reads, and recites this sutra, makes
offerings to it, and expounds it to others after my extinction, will
be covered by my love." - Ch. 10 The Teacher of the Dharma
"Anyone who keeps, reads, or recites this sutra, expounds it
to others, copies it, causes others to copy it, or makes offerings
to a copy of it after my extinction, need not build a stupa or a monastery,
or make offerings to the Samgha. (Because he receives the same merits
as doing so.)" - Ch. 17 The Variety of Merits
"Anyone who keeps, reads and recites the Lotus Sutra, memorizes
it correctly, studies it, and copies it, should be considered to see
me, and hear this sutra from my mouth." - Ch. 28 Universal -Sage
Thus, copying the Sutra is recognized as an important practice carrying
with it great merit. In the Lotus Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha states the
five kinds of practice as necessary practice for those who follow
the Sutra. The five practices are to keep (upholding the Sutra), to
read, to recite, to expound and to copy the Sutra. Nichiren Shonin
teaches that keeping the Lotus Sutra is the most important, so we
should chant the Odaimoku, have deep faith and act to make the teaching
Copying the Odaimoku
Nichiren Shonin teaches in his writing "Kanjin Honzon Sho,"
"All the good
deeds and virtues of the Buddha Sakyamuni are manifested in the title
of the Lotus Sutra, that is, 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."
In other words, the five characters of Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo are not simply
the title of the Lotus Sutra, but they possess wonderful power to
save people. Copying the Odaimoku is to experience this wonderful
power, and it also brings you a peaceful mind and the opportunity
to be awakened to your Buddha nature.
Nichiren Shonin put importance on the Buddha's words in Ch. 21. "All
the teachings of the Buddha, all the treasury of the hidden core of
the Buddha, and all the profound achievements of the Buddha are revealed
and expounded explicitly in this sutra. Therefore, keep, read, recite,
expound and copy this sutra, and act according to the teachings of
it with all your hearts after my extinction."
The way to copy the Odaimoku
Copying the Odaimoku means that you write the seven characters of
'Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo', so it is difficult to realize its appeal
by copying it only once. Therefore, we recommend that you practice
copying the Odaimoku many times. It is similar to chanting it. When
you become ready, after some practice, please copy the Odaimoku on
an official Odaimoku sheet provided by Nichiren Buddhist International
The manner of copying the Odaimoku
1. Purify your body.
Even though you copy the seven characters, it should be considered
the same as copying the entire Lotus Sutra. Before you begin to copy,
purify your body by washing your hands and rinsing your mouth.
Do meditation for seven to ten minutes in order to calm down and make
your mind void.
3. Read the Sutra
When you achieve concentration of your mind, put your hands together
in Gassho, chant the Odaimoku three times, then read the following
"Anyone who keeps, reads and recites this Lotus Sutra, memorizes
it correctly, studies it, practices it, and copies it, should be considered
to see Sakyamuni Buddha, and hear this sutra from the Buddha's mouth.
He should be considered to be making offerings to the Buddha.
He should be considered to be praised by the Buddha with the word
He should be considered to be caressed by the Buddha on the head.
He should be considered to be covered with the Buddha's robe.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo."
4. Copy the Odaimoku
Take a brush or pen, and start copying the Odaimoku.
5. Ending the copy
When you finish copying, please read this prayer.
"May all sentient beings be blessed with these merits,
and may we altogether attain Buddhahood.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo"
Materials for copying
You may use a pen or brush. Your practice sheet and official Odaimoku
sheets are available at your local Nichiren Shu church or temple or
Email NBIC for practice sheets and Odaimoku sheets.You may copy the
Odaimoku as many times as you want. The Odaimoku you copy will be
stored at Seichoji Temple. Your donation is $5.00 or more no matter
how many Odaimoku you copy.
On the practice sheet, you can trace the characters and learn the
order of the strokes of each character. If you need more, please make
copies. Even though it is practice sheet, it is the same as the Odaimoku,
so please try to copy from your heart. After your practice, please
bring your practice sheets to your church or temple. You should never
throw away your practice sheets.
Our life is getting more convenient with the advance of technologies
like the Internet and cellular phones. On the other hand, we seem
to be chased by time and daily tasks, and time seems to fly away.
In such a busy time, it is important and necessary to stem the rapid
stream of time and recover your own life pace. Copying the Odaimoku
is a good practice to get your life pace back, as well as accumulating
Try to banish all other thoughts from your mind, release yourself
from all attachments, and concentrate on copying the Oaimoku. When
you achieve such a state, time stops and you can reach a deep, peaceful
state of mind.
At this opportunity of the Campaign of Copying the Odaimoku to commemorate
the 750th Anniversary of Nichiren Buddhism, please try copying the
Odaimoku, experience the merit of the Odaimoku and spread the merit
to your friends by introducing them to the practice.
I would like to
talk about Fuse (pronounced fu-say). Fuse is a donation made without
any expectation of return. There are three kinds of Fuse - Zaise,
Hose and Muise. Zaise means to donate something like money. Hose is
to donate the teachings of the Buddha, or to preach the Buddha's teachings.
Muise is to clear one's fear and to donate relief. I can say that
there are Fuse of material, Fuse of Dharma and Fuse of mind.
Someone said that priests do nothing but collect Fuse. I don't think
that that is true. A priest is always offering the Fuse of Dharma
and the Fuse of mind to his followers. The followers are expected
to do the Fuse of material. A temple can be maintained by Fuse of
the material of its followers, freeing the priest to practice more
of the Fuse of Dharma and Fuse of mind.
Fuse of material is for spreading the teachings of the Buddha and
for a better world, not an appreciation for the priest officiating
services. We can't expect return. To do something with the expectation
of return is an investment, not Fuse. Fuse is one of the most important
practices of Buddhism. Fuse is supposed to be done with joy and gratitude.
When you ask a priest to officiate at services like wedding ceremonies,
memorial services, funeral services and so on, you always offer Fuse
to the priest. Sometimes people ask how much you are supposed to offer
- sometimes the Fuse which is customary is too expensive. In these
cases, Fuse mean only Zaise.
How much are we are supposed to donate? For example, followers of
another religion that is often compared to Buddhism are requested
to contribute 10% of their total income to their churches. That's
why a follower can contribute a small amount of money when he asks
a priest to hold a service. In Buddhism, it is said that a follower
is supposed to pay membership dues and to contribute a large amount
of Fuse when he asks for services to be performed. Is this true? Does
a Buddhist do Fuse more than the other does? I don't think so. Think
of how large an amount of money 10% of someones total income
is. If all of the members donated 10% of their total income to a temple,
it would be quite easy to maintain the temple without any other donations.
Take, for example, the case of two men who contribute 10% of their
total income. If one earned $1,000 a month and the other earned $10,000
a month, their estimated contribution would be $100 and $1,000 dollars
respectively. Are they supposed to contribute those amounts? Is it
fair? It looks fair, but actually its not. Even though their
basic cost of living must be same, the man making $10,000 has much
more money left after his 10% has been paid. So a rule of 10% of someones
total income is not fair and good.
The Buddha teaches us that equality and fairness are essential. We
can do Fuse depending on our own situation. If you don't have enough,
a small Fuse is enough. If you have enough, you have more to give.
Each according to his abilities. It is said that Fuse is a very important
practice as a Buddhist, and you will have unexpected benefits if you
contribute to the Buddha and a temple.