Mindfulness is an all pervasive term and practice utilized outside most the Nichiren traditions. If Namu-myoho-renge-kyo contains the merits of all the accumulated practices of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings, then mindfulness must be inherent in the daimoku we chant. From reading Reverend Ryuei’s writings, he incorporates silent meditation in his services. This is vital.
Mindfulness meditation attempts to place one’s mind in the present moment for the purpose of relaxation and illumination. When one’s attention veers into the past, the future, or away from our present moment and into the endless clamor of the mind, our focus is gently returned to the present moment by the counting of breaths. The end-result of cultivating mindfulness is manifold, but the primary benefits are internal peace, stillness, serenity, and the eventual emergence of the tranquil, clear light of eternal mind. Furthermore, there are numerous health benefits to be derived such as lowered blood pressure, enhanced immune response, and a host of improved psychological benefits, including feeling younger both mentally and physically. Many new studies at universities throughout the world are currently being conducted to investigate the possible benefits of mindfulness. Is mindfulness counter-agenda to the teachings of Nichiren? The answer to that must be a resounding No!
If we return to our experience and training in Nichiren Buddhism or mirco-specific prayer, there is a great deal of emphasis on chanting for goals, praying to overcome karmic impediments, and extending our thoughts to the entire gamut of personal or collective desires without much consideration to being in the moment. Is there benefit to being in the moment? Can daimoku, as we have generally been taught to chant it, enable us to actually be in the moment, or are we bound to endlessly traverse past, present, and future in a roiling boil of emerging thoughts and targeted desires?
Perhaps a way to unravel this question is to consider how Shakyamuni Buddha attained his enlightenment. How did Nichiren attain his own enlightenment? In each case, silent meditation was at the root of their awakening. And so, this example can lead us to our own awakening. It must be stressed here, that dhyana, samadhi, or the basic efforts of mindfulness are not actually religious or even Buddhist – they transcend religion and cultures. It is when certain mythological or conceptual concepts are inserted, such as specific singular focal points, like the use of mandalas in samadhi meditation, that those meditations become Buddhist.
In recent years, I have introduced ten to twenty minutes of mindfulness into my practice, prior to chanting daimoku and reciting gongyo. At first, it was astonishing to witness what an uncontrollable chaos emerged once I closed my eyes to be in the present moment. If I could give you a visual of my mind when I began mindfulness, it would be like a plane flying through an electrical storm with pockets of turbulence and the flash of lightning jolting the aircraft every which-way. Perhaps it could be compared to a raging bonfire with sparks shooting into the sky. Now, with little effort, my plane glides effortlessly through the clear air, and the bonfire has been reduced to a glowing bed of coals.
It is my belief that chanting daimoku for healing can benefit us greatly by beginning with quiet meditation that prepares us for mantra-powered visualization.
There are three basic elements to effective Mantra-powered visualization.
Be the sound
Be the vision
Be in the moment.
Like mindfulness, focus your attention into the moment. Become the sound of daimoku. When you drift off, bring your mind back into the sound. By being the sound, it is a skillful means to be in the moment.
Be the vision. By being the vision, you are in a lucid state where you can see the sound, you can feel the sound, and be in the moment. By realizing you are the sound and the vision, you can be in the moment. Have no concern for outcomes.
As you continue, the mind seeks to veer into the past, the future and the periphery – anywhere but in the moment. This problem is the lesser-ego fighting for control of your attention. This lesser-ego is your greatest adversary, not your illness. Now draw yourself back into the moment of the sound and the vision. Before long, you can quickly become the sound, the vision, and the moment. From there, images will emerge to induce your healing. As you progress, an ally will emerge to guide you, but that is further into the visualization process and is of scant use until you can master being in the moment. I will describe this ally very soon, but for now, be in the moment as you read these words. How do we get into the present moment with daimoku?
I believe that reciting three very long, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is the key. If that fails at first, repeat until you feel in the moment. These three long daimoku will quickly cleanse your mind of disturbance. You may need to do this five or ten times, but that’s fine.
It is not necessary to align the syllables of daimoku with the chakras or do anything complex. It is only important to relax and be the sound. After getting into the moment through the long daimoku, begin chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo as usual, staying in the moment, without attachment for outcomes or elaborate visualizations. Be the sound, be the vision, and be in the moment. Your intention when you started was to realize wellness. Soon, your visualization will unfold.
More detail on MPV and a possible podcast of my long daimoku for helping your healing efforts is forthcoming.