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“The seven jewels are exactly the seven orifices in one’s head, {eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears] and these seven orifices are exactly the [seven characters] of Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, the Source Gate [that shall spread in] the Last Days of the Dharma.” — Oral Teachings passed on by Niko Shonin
“There are really cadence/beat and phonetics issues here. The phonetics issues are the ‘voicing’ and ‘aspiration’ {or lack thereof} of the ‘u’ in Namu. This can be Na-mu {2 beats}, Namu {1 beat}, or Nam’ {also 1 beat}. So there is the six {6} beat Dai-moku, a six {6} beat Dai-mok’, and a seven {7} beat prolonged ‘Dai-mo-ku’ {sic}.” — me

On Chanting Meditation
Insight-Wisdom Cultivation
Nichiren Lotus Sutra Mantra

Generally this is a topic that often causes people to become contentious or dismissive. Either way, the point is missed. It is a relevant issue that is worth examining and re-examining.
Charles wrote:
Please forgive my ignorance. I am curious what Nichiren actually chanted. Was it “Namu” or “Nam” myoho-renge-kyo?
I understand that when doing gongyo we do the hiki-daimoku before the silent prayers. I also understand that Nam is a contraction or abbreviated version of Namu(s) (Namah). But when you’re chanting daimoku using Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, it seems that that extra beat of “u” makes the mantra slower and less fluid. Where-in, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo sounds “tighter, more vigorous, and more powerful.” Perhaps that’s just my singular familiarity with the SGI/NST method.
I know that Nichiren often refers to the 5 or 7 characterss of daimoku, so what is your take on the difference in terms of execution, correctness, and benefit? And of course, what exactly did Nichiren chant?
Please forgive my ignorance, but I am very curious about this.

Posted by Charles at January 13, 2006 11:36 AM
Charles also wrote:
I just finsihed my evening prayers and can’t understand how you can chant “Namu” with one beat, because it’s two syllables.
Anyway, your answer begs more. If Nichiren chanted Namu-myoho-renge-kyo vs. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, why to millions of Nichiren’s followers chant Nam instead of Namu as the master did? If a mantra is supposed to be a mystic sound replete with tonal properties that unlock the mysteries of consciousness, why would we do different than he?
I find this whole matter very troubling and the explanations unsatisfactory.

Posted by Charles at January 13, 2006 06:11 PM
There are really cadence/beat and phonetics issues here. The phonetics issues are the ‘voicing’ and ‘aspiration’ {or lack thereof} of the ‘u’ in Namu. This can be Na-mu {2 beats}, Namu {1 beat}, or Nam’. So there is the six {6} beat Dai-moku, a six {6} beat Dai-mok’, and a seven {7} beat prolonged “Dai-mo-ku” {sic}.
Aspiration: In English, as in many languages, some letters represent two different sounds, one aspirated, and the other unaspirated. Aspiration is a “breath” that follows the initial part of a sound. Compare the sounds associated with the English letter t for example. Hold the back of your hand close to your mouth and say “Top.” Now say “Stop.” Can you feel the burst of air that follows the t in “Top” but not in “Stop”? The same difference exists between the p in “Peak” and the one in “Speak.” That burst of air after the t in “Top” and the p in “Peak” is called “aspiration.”
And the Japanese have an “unaspirated vowel” of sorts, which can be voiced or unvoiced. It is common for the Japanese to sort of “swallow” vowels in certain locations in a word or a sentence. Sets’ instead of setsu {one beat} is not really a contraction. Either way, the ‘u’ is unaspirated; but it can be voiced or not. Same with Dai-moku. The ‘moku’ is one beat, and the ‘u’ is unaspirated. Some will say it Dai-mok’, but it is never correctly read as ‘Dai-mo-ku’.
Now Na-mu is usually two beats, and the “u” is aspirated. That is how the “hiki” daimoku is chanted, with 7 beats. For a 6 beat mantra, as often used in shodai, we treat Namu as if it is drawn with one kanji. The ‘u’ becomes unaspirated. It may be voiced as in Namu {one beat}, or unvoiced as in Nam’.
There are several places in Gon-gyo {sutra reciting} where two syllables get one beat. Usually, the two syllables that get one beat are drawn with one kanji. For example, Hon Matsu Ku Kyo To. Matsu is drawn with one kanji and gets one beat. The “u” in matsu is unaspirated. Some Japanese voice the u, as in matsu {one beat]. Others unvoice it as mats’. It can also be contracted as “Hon Ma_ku_kyo to.” But the u in matsu is never aspirated, that would make it two beats {ma-tsu}. We never read it as Ma-tsu.
Sometimes, for the sake of cadence, two syllables drawn with one kanji get just one beat. The example that I recall is that Sha Ka Mu Ni is drawn with 4 kanji, but read with only 2 beats — Shaka-Muni. This also occurs with the two {2} kanji for Nan & Mu, when they become the elided Nam’ or a one beat Namu, to create a six {6} beat mantra for shodai.
Here are two sound files of the six {6} beat Odaimoku with the “u” voiced but ‘unaspirated’; the mantra is Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo:
1. Shodai: Odaimoku with moku-sho (wood drum) to keep rhythm, from a Nichiren Shu Temple, in mp3 format: 5hodai.mp3 245KB .mp3 {corrected link 1-19-06 10:10 PM}
2. From Sado Konponji, the site of the Tsukuhara Samadhi Hut, this is an ITunes 41 KB MPEG-4 Audio File: namu2.m4a 41 KB MPEG-4
Here is one with the seven {7} beat ‘hiki’ Odaimoku, the “u” is both voiced and aspirated; the mantra is Na-mu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo:
*Slow prolonged Odaimoku in mp3 format from the 750 year ceremony held at Seichoji aka Kiyosumi-dera Temple. hikisancho.mp3 151 KB .mp3
Here is a Nichiren Shoshu Shoshinkai six {6} beat Daimok’ sound file with the unvoiced and unaspirated “u”. I understand that Taisekiji and Kitayama both usually chant shodai this way. [Except that I know Taisekiji uses the 7 beat "hiki" or prolonged Daimoku before silent prayers during Gongyo.] The mantra here is Nam_myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo: nst.mp3 131KB
These are stored at ripway, and there is a daily use limit. So, if possible, save them to your computer for future use. You may also access these and more in the files at nichirenpix
As Charles mentioned Nichiren often refers to the 5 or 7 characterss of daimoku. This is about the way Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo and Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo are written in Kanji. I do not think we can infer pronunciation from that. It does appear that multiple lineages use the six {6} beat Mantra for Shodai. In this case, the “u” is never aspirated, but can be voiced or unvoiced. It also appears that multiple lineages use the seven {7} beat ‘hiki’ Odaimoku on occasion. In this case, the “u” is aspirated and voiced. I think it is reasonable to assume that these traditions go back to Nichiren.
And then there is the 19 beat Honmon Shoshu invocation that takes 53 seconds for one Daimoku: Na = 4 beats; Mu = 3 beats; deep breath = 1 beat; Myo = 3 beats; Ho = 1 beat; Ren = 3 beats; Ge = 1 beat; Kyo = 3 beats.
Here is a real player sound file. This, I think, is chanted by Nichiryu, the Chief Priest at Fujisan Kuon Jyozai-in (Taihei Kyodan) Honmonji. It is said that Nichiryu is descended from Nitta {Niida} Nichimoku. The sound reminds me of traditional Tendai Shomyo. {or maybe think Yoko Ono}: hnd1.ram 40 Bytes
Posted by: robin at January 17, 2006 09:25 PM
Posted by: robin at April 27, 2006 09:25 PM