Nichiren Buddhism: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - Meaning

Truly beneficial mantras are not merely rhythmical devices. They also have a deep and positive content - a hopeful, empathetic, and empowering message. "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo", the mantra employed in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, is one such mantra.

Mantra (and Sutra) recitation should be syllabic, rhythmic and seamless, and at a moderate pace, not rushed. In the beginning, slow is OK. "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" is chanted as "Nam-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo”, i.e. 6 syllables.

Meaning of "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo"

NAM (rhymes with "Mum")

NAM is a contraction of NAMU, i.e. NAM+U. NAM means devotion to something, and U means getting back appropriate effects, based on your target and intensity of devotion. For example, some businessmen are devoted to making profit. That’s their NAM. Their U is both good and bad – wealth, and health problems perhaps. Buddhists choose the Universal Law, or the Buddha Nature, as their NAM, which includes and embraces all the lesser NAMs, such as making money. So, a businessman who devotes himself to the Universal Law will succeed at business more than he ever did previously.

MYOHO (each syllable rhymes with "Go")

MYO means the Mystic Law - the cause and maintainer of all that exists. It is the Eternal Truth, or the all-pervading Life Force. It exists within each one of us and within all things, but it cannot be sensed directly. It is the ultimate source of goodness, capability, wisdom, fortune and compassion. HO comprises of all the phenomenal manifestations (or expressions) of MYO - both physical and spiritual. HO is that part which can be grasped through the senses. So MYOHO, together, means the Mystic Law (or the Universal Life Force) and all its manifestations.

RENGE (pronounced as "Wren-Gay")

RENGE stands for the Lotus Flower, which flowers and seeds at the same time. Thus the Lotus Flower is a symbol for the simultaneity of cause and effect. When we chant, our Buddha Nature emerges simultaneously. But to make Buddhahood the central tendency in our lives, it takes years of repeated daily chanting. Also, the Lotus Flower blooms from a muddy swamp, yet it remains untainted by the mud. This symbolizes how Buddhahood can emerge from the life of an ordinary person, by devoting oneself to the Mystic Law and chanting.

KYO (rhymes with "Go")

KYO stands for Teaching (or Sutra). Specifically, it stands for the Lotus Sutra, the teaching that bridges the gap between the Buddha and the common mortal. KYO also means voice. Everything we utter is some kind of cause. It can be positive or negative, and the highest cause we can make is to use our voices to chant our devotion to the Mystic Law. KYO also means the warp of cloth, which symbolizes continuity. Nichiren Buddhism is over seven centuries old, and it comes from a long lineage of earlier Buddhist teachings going all the way back to Shakyamuni, 2500 years ago in India.

As a whole, NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO can be translated as "Devotion to the Mystic Law of cause and effect through sound." But that is only one possible translation. MYOHO RENGE KYO is the title of the Lotus Sutra. By adding NAM, Nichiren discovered the mantra that actually taps the Buddha Nature, or the Law of the Universe.

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(Suggested reading: SGI-Experiences | SGI-Guidance)

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