For those in the English speaking world who would like to have a daily practice that is in line with the Nichiren Shu’s temple services the Nichiren Buddhist International Center sells a book called Dharma: Nichiren Shu Service Book. This book can be purchased from this site:
The book Dharma does not, however, explain how it is to be used. There is a pronunciation guide on the inner cover, but no other instruction. Unless you have been able to participate in Nichiren Shu temple services, you may not know how to go about doing a service. So I am writing this as a way of explaining to people how to use this service book. I should also note that I have also provided instructions on pp. 90-93 of the second edition of Lotus Seeds. That book is also available from the NBIC website:
The following explanation is consistent with the one in Lotus Seeds, but they are not identical. I hope that they can be viewed as complementary to one another.
First of all, please be aware that the way this book is bound is rather unusual. It is published in the folding style that liturgy books in Japan are published in. This facilitates laying it flat on a table so that one need not hold it while one is chanting and conducting a service. This is necessary for the priests who have to have their hands free to ring bells or beat the mokusho or are supposed to be holding their hands in gassho or shashu. Laypeople, who are usually not provided with tables in the temple, need to be careful to keep hold of both ends of the book so that one end does not fall away which may cause the book or part of it to get dirty or even damaged. At home, of course, you should have a table on which you can lay down the book while you are chanting. Once you get used to it, I think you will find that it is a very convenient format for practice.
When you first look through the Dharma book, even if you have participated in some Nichiren Shu services, you may feel a little confused by all the different things that are provided in it. Many of those things are not usually used during the temple service. So why are they there? I will explain those a little further on. First, however, I would like to take you through the bare minimum elements of a daily service. Ideally, a Nichiren Buddhist practitioner will take time to practice this service in the morning before going about one’s daily work, and in the evening before going to bed. If things are not so ideal, you should at least take time to chant Odaimoku, as that is the primary and essential practice and it can be done anywhere and anytime. Still, you should aim to develop your faith by trying to make time to do this service so that one can begin or end or both begin and end your day be devoting your time and energy to being mindful of and celebrating the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra.
So what are the minimum elements of a Nichiren Shu service? They are these: you should open the service by chanting the Odaimoku three times. Then you should recite the Invocation on p. 5 and the Verses for Opening the Sutra on p. 9. You can then recite the key passages from chapters 2 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra. If you wish to chant the sutra using the Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese characters then go to p. 11 for chapter 2 and p. 35 for chapter 16. If you choose to recite these passages in English, then go to p. 15 for chapter 2 and p. 40 for chapter 16. I will say more about the sutra passages below. After reciting the Lotus Sutra, you should then begin the primary practice of chanting Odaimoku. After that, recite either the prayer on p. 71 or the one on p. 74. End the service by reciting the Four Great Vows on p. 78 followed by three Odaimoku. Note that in a temple service the Invocation and final prayer would only be said aloud by the priest who is the officiant. However, if you are doing this service at home you would of course recite all of these things aloud yourself. Also, in some groups the priest may invite everyone to say all the parts of the service aloud together, especially if he or she is teaching lay members how to conduct services at home.
I am now going to explain each of these parts and following that I will explain the other things that you will find in the book and how you can incorporate them into your daily service if you wish. In addition, I will also provide links to online versions of these parts, though they differ a little in some cases from the Dharma book.
The daily service begins and ends with three Odaimoku. I will have more to say about Odaimoku further on, but for now let me point out that Odaimoku is considered the seed of buddhahood in Nichiren Budddhism and so everything begins and ends with it, just as a fruit tree begins with a seed and then produces more seed bearing fruit. Why three times? Three is an important number in Buddhism, for instance there are the Three Treasures (also known as the Three Refuges), the three bodies of the Buddha (the truth-body, enjoyment body, and transformation body), and it is customary in sutras for the Buddha to respond to a request after it has been made three times.
The Invocation on p. 5 pays honor to the Three Treasures that all Buddhists take refuge in when they take up Buddhist practice. The Three Treasures are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In Nichiren Shu the Buddha is specifically understood to be the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha of chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra; the Dharma is the ultimate teaching of the Buddha expressed in the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma; and the Sangha refers to all those in this present age who uphold the Wonderful Dharma with preeminence given to the Great Bodhisattva Nichiren Shonin who is the founder of our lineage. In addition to the Three Treasures, honor is given to the Great Mandala that Nichiren inscribed in order to portray the Ceremony in the Air of the Lotus Sutra, to Nichiren’s disciple Nichiji Shonin who left Japan to spread the Odaimoku abroad, and to the protective deities of the Dharma. These last are understood to be bodhisattvas and what in our culture would be understood to be angelic beings and spiritual guardians. All of these are honored and invited to be present and to accept the following service as an offering. So from the very beginning of the service we are putting ourselves into the vast context of all those beings that practice the Dharma, protect it, and pass it on to us. Even if we are practicing by ourselves, we should reflect on the Buddhist insight that we are never really alone but always interdependently involved with all that is and when we practice the whole Dharma-realm practice with, in, and through us.
The Verses for Opening the Sutra on p. 9 is a reflection that acknowledges what a rare and precious opportunity it is to encounter the Dharma. The first paragraph of it is actually common to most East Asian Buddhist liturgies. A Nichiren Shu priest named Nichiki Udana-in (1800-1859) appended the additional paragraphs. This version of the Verses for Opening the Sutra draws our attention to Nichiren Shu’s view of the incalculable merit of being able to encounter the Lotus Sutra. By encountering the Lotus Sutra we are able to approach awakening, meet the three bodies of the Buddha (the Buddha as truth, as wisdom, and as concrete presence in the world), expiate our misdeeds, cultivate the good, and attain buddhahood even if at present we have no understanding or may even mistakenly slander the sutra. What these verses are saying is that simply by virtue of encountering the sutra and reciting it we are making a connection to the Dharma and through that connection, despite any shortcomings we may have, we will inevitably attain buddhahood. These verses are telling us to not take this opportunity to meet and practice the Lotus Sutra for granted, but rather to have unshakeable confidence in the great blessing of being able to practice this Wonderful Dharma.
You might be startled to see that the Verses for Opening the Sutra says, “It does not matter whether we believe the sutra or slander it.” Surely this cannot be right? However, this statement is actually a quotation from the Annotations on the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra by the T’ien-t’ai patriarch Chan-jan (711-782, posthumous name Miao-lo). This statement does not mean that people can denigrate the Lotus Sutra with impunity. What it means is that the Lotus Sutra is so efficacious that even those who reject it will in time come to understand its message and thereby attain buddhahood. In chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra the Buddha says, “Anyone who hears the Dharma will not fail to become a Buddha.” (Lotus Sutra translated by Senchu Murano, p. 43) Buddha does not say, “hear and accept it,” or “hear and understand,” but simply, “anyone who hears the Dharma.” In time, what is heard will be understood, accepted, and put into practice, thereby leading to buddhahood. So it is the ultimate and perhaps inevitable fruition of hearing the Dharma that is being affirmed by this statement.
The next part of the service is the recitation of key passages from the Lotus Sutra. The first passage is the opening prose section of chapter 2 (Hoben-pon, or “Expedients”) of the Lotus Sutra. The way of reciting it that is called shindoku can be found on p. 11. I will explain what shindoku is in the next paragraph. The English translation that can be recited instead begins on p. 15. The next passage is the verse portion of chapter 16 (Nyorai Juryo-hon, or “The Duration of the Life of the Tathagata”). The shindoku version begins on p. 35. This section is called the “Jiga-ge” because the first two characters are “Ji” and “Ga” and “Ge” is the Chinese character that means “verses.” The English version that can be recited instead begins on p. 40. These two passages were particularly important to Nichiren as he saw chapter 2 and chapter 16 as the most important sections of the first and second halves of the Lotus Sutra respectively. In short, the passage from chapter 2 sets up the teaching of the One Vehicle whereby the Buddha tells Shariputra and the other major disciples that they will all be able to attain buddhahood because all the buddha’s teachings lead to buddhahood; while chapter 16 is where the Buddha reveals that his awakened lifespan has no conceivable beginning or end. You can read more about why we chant these passages in Lotus Seeds.
Since the beginning of Buddhism the Buddha’s followers have recited the Dharma in order to remember it and pass it on and most importantly in order to take it to heart so that it can be a guide to practice and lead the practitioner to their own awakening. For over 2,000 years the sutras have been committed to writing, but the practice of reciting the sutras continues. In Japan, the sutras are often recited in what is called shindoku or “authentic reading.” This means reciting the Chinese translation of the sutras according to the Japanese approximation of the sounds of the Chinese characters. Another way of reading the sutras is kundoku or “country reading,” which means that a Japanese translation of the sutra is being recited (though often the translation is archaic). In English speaking countries, the kundoku reading would be an English translation of the sutra. Some may have the mistaken idea that the Lotus Sutra should only be recited in the shindoku manner, but even in Japan this is not always the case. It is just as legitimate to recite the sutra in the vernacular. In fact, this is what the Buddha strongly recommended in the Vinaya. Once there were two brahmans who had become monks. These brahmans were offended that the Buddha’s teachings were being recited in the various local dialects instead of in the classical Sanskrit meter that was used for the sacred writings known as the Vedas. The Buddha, however, rebuked them and said, “Monks, the speech of the Awakened One should not be given in metrical form. Whoever should (so) give it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow you, monks, to learn the speech of the Awakened One according to his own dialect.” (p. 194, Book of the Discipline Part 5) Given that statement, I wonder if the Buddha would ever approve of reciting sutras in anything but the vernacular. The point of reciting the sutras, after all, is to hear the Dharma, understand it, keep the Dharma in mind, and practice in accord with it. For now I am going to set aside the argument of which way of reciting the sutra (shindoku or the vernacular) is more legitimate and simply affirm that both ways are used in Nichiren Shu. Having said that, I am going to share my thoughts about each.
I think there are many positive aspects to reciting the Lotus Sutra in shindoku. To begin with, there are Nichiren Buddhists all over the world now, and they do not all share a common primary language. In some cases, they may not share a common language at all, but can only communicate with each other through translators. Because of this, shindoku provides a way whereby Nichiren Buddhists from different countries can practice reciting the sutra together. It provides a way to transcend language barriers without privileging any particular nations language, because the shindoku is not really Japanese and not really Chinese and is certainly not Sanskrit or Pali. It is a transnational liturgical language that facilitates a common practice among all Nichiren Buddhists throughout the world. In addition, though there are many translations of the Lotus Sutra in various languages, it is the Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra by Kumarajiva that is the basis and inspiration of Nichiren Buddhism. Chanting the Lotus Sutra in shindoku is a way whereby all Nichiren Buddhists can acknowledge and affirm that particular work, which I believe is a classic in its own right above and beyond being a translation. Chanting in shindoku is also a way of honoring the lineage begun by Nichiren Shonin and propagated by faithful Nichiren Buddhist monks for over 700 years. Finally, I believe that chanting the sutra in shindoku is itself a form of meditation that allows one to simply be mindful in a non-discursive way of the sound and rhythm of the chanting. At the very least this can be a very effective calming (S. shamatha) practice for some people.
Reciting the Lotus Sutra in English is of course a very different way of experiencing it. In Nichiren Shu, chanting in English is not the same as simply reading it. Instead of a straight reading, you chant one syllable per beat. It is of course best to learn this by chanting in this manner with others. If that is not possible than there is a CD available from the NBIC. One change that has been recommended but which is not in the Dharma book is that the title of the Lotus Sutra that heads each chapter should still be chanted the shindoku way as Myoho Renge Kyo. Chanting in English naturally allows you to understand what you are chanting, and thereby you are able to become more and more familiar with the teaching and keep it in mind. You should not, however, try to figure out what the sutra means or get caught up in speculations or imaginings about what the sutra is teaching. That can and should be done at other times when studying or discussing the sutra. When chanting, you should simply be mindful of the words without trying to figure out the meaning of the words. In other words, you should have the same simple unified awareness centered on the chanting of the words of the sutra that you would have when chanting in shindoku.
There are some other considerations to keep in mind when chanting the sutra, regardless of whether it is in shindoku or English: chant in an uplifting manner and with a clear voice; make sure that you pronounce each word crisply and clearly; chant without mistakes, slurring, or hesitations; have a noble mind free of hindrances and distractions caused by sensual desires, ill will, drowsiness, agitation, or debilitating doubts; and be mindful and keep a dignified manner. Also, try to keep in mind that we are practicing in the presence of heavenly beings and Buddhas; that our practice should bring relief even to the inhabitants of three lower worlds; and that our practice should move and delight anyone who might be watching and listening. Even if we do not personally believe in spiritual beings (such as the inhabitants of the Buddhist heavens, hells, and other realms), and even if we are practicing alone at home we should still practice as though we were in the presence of these beings, because at the very least there are hells and heavens within ourselves and our practice should be an expression of our own joy and delight in encountering the Dharma and taking it to heart. If we are chanting the sutra with others, these considerations are all the more important. You should also be sure to be mindful of the tempo set by the practice leader and to ensure that your own chanting harmonizes with the others.
After the recitation of the Lotus Sutra we come to the primary practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting the Odaimoku (lit. Sacred Title): Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. All the other practices in Nichiren Shu, including even the other parts of the daily service, are all secondary practices whose purpose is to support the practice of Odaimoku. Now even if the Odaimoku is chanted in a negligent way, or with the wrong attitude (i.e. using it as a tool to further our own attachments and aversions), or with a misunderstanding of its meaning and significance, it will still bestow the incalculable merit of sowing the seed of the Wonderful Dharma in our lives. That is another reason why the Verses for Opening the Sutra quotes the teaching of the T’ien-t’ai patriarch Chan-jan who wrote, “It does not matter whether we believe the sutra or slander it.” However, if we truly want to receive the benefits of the Odaimoku and attain buddhahood without any unnecessary delay we should try to make sure that our practice is not mere lip service. We should make sure that we do not just praise the sutra with our lips but slander it in our hearts. In chanting the Odaimoku we are verbally receiving and upholding the Lotus Sutra, so wouldn’t it make sense to have a heartfelt aspiration to truly understand and practice it?
I have long thought that there are three important aspects to the practice of chanting the Odaimoku that are expressions of the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. I would like to suggest that these are things we should bear in mind when we chant Odaimoku. The first aspect relates to the teaching of the One Vehicle wherein the Buddha taught that all his teachings are for the purpose of leading all his disciples to buddhahood. In accord with that teaching the Odaimoku can express our own aspiration to attain buddhahood for the sake of all beings. The second aspect relates to the teaching of chapter 16 wherein Shakyamuni Buddha reveals that he actually attained buddhahood in an inconceivably remote past and that his passing away is itself only a skillful means and that he will actually continue to teach the Dharma into the future. Because of this teaching the Buddha of chapter 16 is called the Eternal Buddha or Original Buddha. In that chapter the Buddha also states that from his awakened viewpoint there is no birth or death. As far back as the teachings of the Pali Canon the Buddha spoke of nirvana as the unconditioned, which could also be called the unborn and the deathless. I think that what the Buddha is saying in chapter 16 is that nirvana and buddhahood are not two different things, buddhahood is the unconditioned, and therefore it is unborn and deathless, without beginning or end. That means that the buddhahood we are seeking is not going to began at some point in time or end at some other point. It is the unconditioned, unborn, and deathless true nature. Because we are deluded we do not see this. The Odaimoku, however, affirms the true nature. It is an expression of trust and confidence in the unborn and deathless true nature that is fully present but hidden from us by the fundamental ignorance that clouds our lives. Finally the third aspect relates to the final six chapters of the Lotus Sutra wherein various bodhisattvas are shown dedicating their lives to sharing the Wonderful Dharma with all beings. The chanting of Odaimoku is therefore an expression of our own sharing of the Wonderful Dharma with others and a dedication of the boundless merit of our practice to others. We do not need to consciously reflect on these three aspects when chanting but I think it would be good if we practitioners of the Odaimoku realize, at least in the back of our minds and in our hearts, that Odaimoku is most truly a verbal expression of our aspiration to buddhahood, our trust in the unborn and deathless nature of buddhahood in our lives, and our dedication to sharing this teaching with all beings.
Now apart from the attitude and intention that we bring to chanting the Odaimoku there are some more mundane yet important considerations that we should have if we want to express our faith and sincerity. The Nichiren Shu liturgical manual for priests, the Hoyo Shikki, offers the following guidance, beginning with a quote from an earlier manual: “The Raijugiki warns against, ‘…chanting Daimoku in a gloomy, lazy, or distracted fashion’ and adds that chanting as if it were a hardship is folly whereas chanting it joyfully is wise. The intention of our practice is to chant joyfully. As part of daily practice, we should chant it three hundred times, each time mindfully in a moderate tempo free of distraction or drowsiness but with courageous effort. Finally we should chant it ten more times at a slower tempo with deep sincerity and clarity so that everyone is focused and mindful [of the Daimoku]. In short, because chanting Daimoku is the main practice we should chant it often with sincerity and mindfulness.” (p. 273) The Hoyo Shikki also says, “Namu” and “Ge” must be pronounced as spelled. The pronunciations “Namyo” and “Gei” are unacceptable. (p. 273) It is true that in spoken Japanese the “u” is often dropped off in many words, but when chanting the Odaimoku we should pay reverence to each character and make sure to enunciate them correctly. This shows our sincerity and mindfulness. Note also that it is suggested in the quotation above that one chant at least 300 times. Now I will be the first to argue that quality (of faith, attitude, sincerity, and mindfulness) is more important than mere quantity, but I also know that the quality of our practice is reflected in the time and energy that we devote to it. I also know that if we give our practice enough time we will be able to better settle into the calm and peaceful abiding that allows the light of insight to shine into our lives. Please give your practice the time it needs to allow for the development of authentic centering in and awareness of the full depths the Wonderful Dharma.
The next part of the service is to dedicate the merits of practice to the welfare of all beings. Prayer 1 on p. 71 actually begins by dedicating the merit to the Three Treasures and all the protective deities of the Dharma. This is followed by a series of petitions for the spread of the Dharma; for the health, peace, prosperity, and happiness of all beings; and finally for the development of our own practice in terms of basic Buddhist values and virtues. The principle behind this is that it is karmically wholesome or meritorious to recite Buddhist sutras, and in particular to recite the Lotus Sutra and the Odaimoku; but as bodhisattvas we do not practice only for our own benefit, so instead of hoarding this merit we dedicate it the welfare of all beings. In that way, all are able to benefit from our practice, not excepting ourselves. You may doubt whether “merit” is something that can actually be given away or shared. It may or may not be possible to dedicate something as nebulous as the merit of Buddhist practice, but it is really the thought that counts. At the very least, we are cultivating the thought of boundless loving-kindness, compassion, and generosity. We are cultivating the intentions and attitudes of a bodhisattva, in fact of a buddha. You may also wonder, as I have, why the merit would be dedicated to the Three Treasures and protective deities. Don’t they already have boundless merit? Aren’t they in a sense the source or origin of merit? The thinking here is that they are also the worthiest recipients of anything that we have to give. I think it would also be fair to say that if in fact merit can actually be turned over to others, then the Three Treasures are may best be entrusted with our merit in that they are the best possible distributors of merit. What is happening is that a circuit of merit is being established between our own practice, the infinite merit of the Three Treasures, and the welfare of all beings. Our own limited efforts pour into the vast pool of merit of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and this pool of merit overflows into the lives of all beings.
The service concludes with a recitation of the Four Great Vows on p. 78 followed by three Odaimoku. The Four Great Vows are also known as the Four Bodhisattva Vows. They originated in an apocryphal Chinese sutra that appeared in the 5th century called the Bodhisattva Practice Jeweled Necklace Sutra. The founder of the Tien-t’ai school, Chih-i (538-597; posthumously known as T’ien-t’ai) popularized them and since that time all schools of East Asian Buddhism have adopted them. Some people have noticed that these vows are not something that an individual is likely to accomplish in a single lifetime. In fact the four vows appear to be downright impossible. This is as it should be. As long as one clings to the notion of a fixed, independent selfhood, then one is far from awakening from delusion. The Four Great Vows are pointing the practitioner to a dropping away of the finite limited notion of self so that the boundlessness of buddha-nature can accomplish all things.
Having described the minimal elements of the daily service of Nichiren Shu, I will now explain the rest of the Dharma book and how they can be used.
Bowing to the Three Treasures on p. 2 is basically an English version of a hymn called Sanborai. Actually Sanborai is one of a number of hymns that are called shomyo in Japanese. Shomyo are usually only performed by the priests, and they are usually accompanied by prostrations and other gestures. In this case, however, it can simply be recited in English after the three Odaimoku and prior to the other parts of the daily service. This is basically an expression of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Three Treasures on p. 3 is another way of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, though written as a call and response. It can be used along with Bowing to the Three Treasures. That would make sense, as you first bow to the Three Treasures and then state that you are putting your faith in them. If you are practicing alone you would not, of course, do this as a call in response. If alone, just say the parts for “Others.”
The Japanese version of the Invocation on p. 4 is irrelevant to English speaking practitioners. This was only put here for Japanese priests to use.
Kaikyoge on p. 7 is the Japanese version of the Verses for Opening the Sutra that is sometimes used in services at the temples. If you have learned how to recite it at the temple and like the sound of it, then feel free to use it at home instead of the English version. Otherwise just use the English version on p. 9.
The shindoku version of the prose section of chapter 16 can be found on p. 19. There is no English version in the Dharma book. If you should want to recite all of chapter 16, simply begin on p. 19 and chant all the way through to page 39. Note that if you do this you should not chant the title of the sutra and the chapter on the top of p. 35, but simply start the verse section at “Ji ga toku butsu rai.” If you wish to chant the entirety of chapter 16 in English, please feel free to use whatever English translation of the Lotus Sutra you have and feel most comfortable for using for that purpose, though of course in Nichiren Shu temples and Sanghas it is likely that the Senchu Murano translation will be chosen.
The verses of chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra can be found in shindoku on p. 46 and in English on p. 49. Chapter 21 is very important in Nichiren Shu because it is in this chapter that the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha gives the specific transmission of the Dharma to Bodhisattva Superior Practice and the other Bodhisattvas from Underground so that they will uphold it in the Latter Age. It is sometimes recited on retreats or at other practice meetings, but not usually during regular temple services. You may of course recite it as part of you own home practice if you wish. In that case it would follow the recitation of chapter 16.
The Yokuryoshu on p. 53 is the kundoku version of a selection of passages from different parts of the first 11 chapters of the Lotus Sutra. It is not recited the same way as the shindoku passages previous to this. Unless you have learned the rhythm of it from a Japanese priest, I would not even try to recite this. I have yet to hear this version recited in any temple in America. The English version of the passages can be found on pp. 58-61. These passages are usually only recited during specific commemorative services, such as the Buddha’s birthday or the day of his awakening. They would be recited prior to reciting chapter 16, sometimes after or sometimes in place of chapter 2.
The Devotion or Unzo (to use the original Japanese name for this passage) on p. 62 is a reflection on the meaning of our Odaimoku practice that can be recited after the sutra chanting and before chanting the Odaimoku. The aforementioned Nichiki Udana-in authored this. In parenthesis you will see that it says unzo, a word that is hard to translate into English but roughly means “directing thoughts.” So “devotion” is not quite what this passage is about. The purpose of the Unzo is explained in the Hoyo Shikki as follows: “In the Raijugiki it says, ‘Unzo is observing thoughts… In dokuju (reading & reciting the sutra), whether chanting shindoku or kundoku, it is difficult to maintain contemplation of our thoughts; during shodai, it is easy to maintain contemplation of our thoughts. The reason is that, when doing dokuju, we must chant concentrating on only the characters and phrases of the sutra so that we do not misread or skip any of them. During shodai, though it is easy to maintain contemplation of our thoughts, it is also easy to get distracted and even bored. So beforehand, we do unzo so that we can reflect on the meaning of the dokuju and bring about and manifest a pure mind during shodai. That is why we need to have unzo after dokuju and before shodai.’” (p. 272) What this means is that when we are chanting the sutra our minds are less likely to stray because we have the words (or Chinese characters) of the sutra to focus on and chanting them correctly and in harmony with others takes a bit more effort. Chanting Odaimoku is simpler and so it is more likely we will get bored or distracted and may even begin daydreaming. In order to counteract this tendency, the Unzo is a short reflection on the meaning of the Lotus Sutra that was just chanted and the significance of the Odaimoku that we are going to chant.
The Hotoge on p. 64 is the shindoku version of a passage from chapter 11 of the Lotus Sutra that can be recited after Odaimoku. It has a particular rhythm however that you would need to learn from someone who already knows it. The English version is on p. 66, and while the special rhythm can be applied to the English version it does not need to be. Feel free to simply recite it after the Odaimoku. It is basically a statement by Shakyamuni Buddha congratulating those who are keeping and practicing the Lotus Sutra.
The Golden Chain on p. 68 and Lord Buddha’s Children on p. 69 are different post-Odaimoku reflections that you may, or may not, want to include. Japanese Americans early in the 20th century probably put these into the English Nichiren Shu services. That is my guess. I actually have no idea where these came from.
The Vow to Embrace and Maintain Faith on p. 70 is usually used as part of Shodaigyo practice. I am not sure why it was placed here.
The Memorial Prayer on p. 75 can be used in place of the prayers on 71 and 74 if one is doing a memorial service.
Shiguseigan on p. 77 is the shindoku version of the Four Great Vows on p. 78 and can be used instead of the English version if one wishes and has heard how they are supposed to sound at a temple service.
The Four Vows on p. 79 are vows specific to Nichiren Shu practice. They could be used in place of or in addition to the Four Great Vows.
On pp. 80-110 are 31 pages of passages from Nichiren Shonin’s writings. These can be used instead of or in addition to the Devotion just prior to Odaimoku chanting. Some pages have passages from two different writings but they are meant to go together. The idea is that there is a page for every day of the month.
That should provide you with what you need to know in order to use the Dharma book. I would like to point out that while this is the English language service book used in Nichiren Shu temples in North America and elsewhere it is not exhaustive. The basics are indeed provided in it. Nothing essential is missing. Be aware, however, that there is more to Nichiren Shu’s heritage of teaching and practice than can be encompassed by this one basic service book. The priest’s liturgical manual, the Hoyo Shikki, for instance, contains many other elements that can be used in services, and there are many other versions of invocations and final prayers (dedications) that can be used. Nichiren Shu priests are also free to craft their own invocations or dedications to respond to particular needs. The priests may also include or exclude different elements from a service, though the minimal elements I listed above will almost always be included (with the exception of the chanting of chapter 2 which is sometimes dropped or replaced with other passages). Please do not think that Nichiren Shu practice is restricted to only what appears in this one book.