Chanting Meditation
Kanjin Insight Cultivation

As many of you know, Daimoku means “The Title” and Odaimoku translates as “The Sacred Title”. This mantra consists of seven {7} Chinese Characters. These are pronounced:
“Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo”
This pronunciation dates to at least as early as 9th Century China, though we usually chant it with a modern Japanese accent. Note that “myo” & “kyo” are each one {1} syllable, not two. These rhyme with ‘yo’ — not ky-oh. Myoho Renge Kyo is the Sino-Japanese Title of the Lotus Sutra. This translates as:

“Wondrous {Myo} Dharma {Ho} Lotus {Ren} Flower {Ge} Sutra {Kyo}”
This is formed into the sacred mantra by adding two Chinese Characters pronounced “Namu.” “Nan” & “Mu”, do not mean anything, in this context. They simply represent the sound of a Sanskrit word: Namah {Namas, Namo}. Namah was used, in ancient India, in pretty, much the same way as the Latin “Ave” was used, in ancient Rome. So it basically means “Hail!”
The Daimoku Mantra first appears in recorded history as one of many devotional mantras found in a 7th Century Confessional Liturgy, of the Chinese Tiantai-Lotus Sutra School, if not earlier. Nichiren, a 13th Century Japanese Buddhist Sage/Saint, was the first to teach it as a popular mantra. It was apparently brought to Japan by Saicho (767-822), aka Dengyo Daishi. There is a mention of the Daimoku in a kuden {oral} text associated with Saicho; as well as the Confessional Liturgy taught to Chih-I {Grand Master T’ien T’ai or Tendai Daishi} by Master Nan-Yueh. Nichiren mentioned this:
“The ‘threefold contemplation in a single mind as encompassed in the Dharma container’ is precisely Myoho-renge-kyo…. At the time of death, one should chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Through the workings of the three powers of the Wondrous Dharma [subsequently explained in considerable detail as the powers of the Dharma, the Buddha, and faith], one shall at once attain enlightened wisdom and will not receive a body bound by birth and death.”Shuzenji-ketsu {Decisions of Hsiu-cha’n-ssu}. The Shuzenji-ketsu is said to be a record of transmissions received by Saicho during his journey to China.
“But when they appeared in the world [as Nan-yueh and T ien-t ai, respectively], they knew it was not the right time to spread the Mystic Law. Therefore, for the words “Myo-ho” they substituted the term “calming and insight [Shikan/Samatha-Vipassana],” and instead engaged in the practice of ichinen sanzen and the threefold contemplation in a single mind. But even these great teachers recited Namu-myoho-renge-kyo as their private practice, and in their hearts they understood these words to be the truth. …
Thus the Great Teacher Nan-yueh in his Hokke sempo employs the words NamU myoho renge kyo. The Great Teacher T ien-t ai employs the words Namu byodo daie ichijo myoho renge kyo, Keishu myoho renge kyo, and Kimyo myoho renge kyo. And the document concerning the vow taken by the Great Teacher Dengyo on his deathbed carries the words Namu myoho renge-kyo.”
Note that Kimyo {I devote myself} and Keishu {I bow before} are Chinese ttranslations of the sanskrit Namah; while Namu is a transliteration or phonetic rendering. The practice of Chanting Daimoku {shodai}, while contemplating Nichiren’s Lotus Sutra Mandala, is called Kanjin. Kan = Vipassana = Insight; Jin {shin} = citta = mind-heart. It is based on Tiantai Shikan. Kanjin as taught by Nichiren might be described as a devotional or faith-based Insight-Wisdom Cultivation. The mantra is usually chanted with 6 beats, and Namu is sometimes elided as Nam’ {a regional Japanese thing}. In modern Mandarin Chinese, it is read Namo Miao-fa Lien-hwa Jing. It may also be chanted with 7 beats.
The primary Nichiren Mandala is a calligraphy arrangement depicting the Ceremony in the Air as described in the Lotus Sutra. There are several others used in temples, including statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, & arrangements of specific statues and/or calligraphy.
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“on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth lunar month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), on the morning of his first public sermon, Nichiren rose before dawn, climbed Mt. Kasagamori in Awa province and, facing eastward over the Pacific Ocean toward the rising sun, chanted “Namu-myoho-renge-kyo!” for the first time. Many people, both Nichiren Buddhists and others as well, have evidently understood this as meaning not only the “first time” Nichiren himself chanted the daimoku but the “first time” it was ever voiced by anyone. … However, as we shall see, Nichiren himself did not claim to have originated the practice of chanting the Lotus Sutra’s title, and in fact insisted that Buddhist masters of the past had chanted it before him. … Although Nichiren’s specific claims about his predecessors may be open to qualification, Japanese scholarship in recent decades has established that Nichiren’s practice of chanting the daimoku did indeed have antecedents.” — Essay: “Chanting the August Title of the Lotus Sutra: Daimoku Practices in Classical and Medieval Japan,” by Jacqueline I. Stone: Coffeehouse
Hokke sempo: “The Lotus Sutra Method of Repentance.” This work, in which the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo appear, was actually authored by T’ien-t’ai. {See SGI}; see also: The Confessional Samadhi, the liturgical practice of Maka Shinkan–Fa-Hua San-Mei Ch’an-I
Posted by rbeck at July 31, 2005 02:19 PM
Posted in Robin Beck on April 27, 2005 06:25 AM