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Nichiren Daishonin first chanted NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO on 28th April 1253. He had entered the priesthood at the age of 15 with the aim of finding the ultimate teaching of Buddhism. He attained enlightenment through his own efforts and continued his studies so that he could find a way of making the life state of Buddhahood available to everyone.
To Nichiren Daishonin, MYOHO-RENGE-KYO was far more than the title of the Lotus Sutra. It is the expression of the ultimate truth to which he was enlightened. It is the entity of all phenomena, the Buddha nature inherent in all life, sentient and insentient. Chanting NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO enables us to fuse our lives with the ultimate law and immediately manifest enlightenment.
Means "mystic law" - it is called mystic (myo) because it is difficult to understand. Ho means all phenomena. Myoho means that all phenomena and the ultimate law are one.
"It is simply the mysterious nature of our lives from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend nor words express…"
Nichiren Daishonin - 'On Attaining Buddhahood'
Literally means "lotus flower". It indicates the simultaneity of cause and effect. This is because the lotus produces seeds and flowers at the same time. This means that when we chant NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO (cause) the state of Buddhahood (effect) immediately wells up from within us. As we experience Buddhahood more and more, the entire network of causes and effects (which make up our individual karma) is dramatically transformed. Those things which induced suffering in the past now work to enhance our development as human beings based on enlightenment rather than illusion. The lotus also blooms in muddy swamps showing that beauty can emerge from the darkest of places.
Means sutra or teaching; it can also be interpreted to mean sound. Nichiren Daishonin said:
"Kyo means the words and speech, sound and voices of all living beings."
Nichiren Daishonin says "This word derives from Sanskrit, and means to devote one's life. Ultimately it means to offer our lives to the Buddha."
NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO contains many depths of meaning which we can study and which inspire us. It is, however, the action of chanting which activates Buddhahood, even if we understand nothing.