Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / Prayers in Nichiren Buddhism

Prayers in Nichiren Buddhism

Q:    To whom do I pray when I chant NamMyohoRengeKyo to the Gohonzon?

A:  A prayer is a desire for accomplishing a certain goal. 

-     In Christianity, for example, a prayer is asking an external power to realise our goal. 

-     In Buddhism, a prayer is activating one’s inner power to realise our goal.

The word “Nam” itself conveys a desire to reveal one’s highest state of life, the Buddhanature.  The Buddhanature is the life-energy of Buddhahood existing within the individual.  When we pray for something we automatically reveal and direct the life-energy of Buddhahood to gain wisdom and courage - to take action to realise our desire.

The Gohonzon embodies the Life of Buddha.  It is like a mirror reflecting our inner Buddhanature. 

Chanting towards the Gohonzon directs our desire - or prayer -  towards our inner power of wisdom.  In effect we experience clarity in our mind about our desire (or prayer), for example whether it has a true value, whether it is truly beneficial, and if yes - what are the correct actions we can take in order to realise our wishes. 

In order to achieve what we aspire for, we need to raise our own life condition to a higher level of clarity of mind, wisdom, and courage.  Through a higher state of life, we can attract good circumstances from the environment and we can feel the courage to act with the correct causes - (to make our desire a reality).  It is our attitude and determination that can attract the environment to help us.

Chanting to the Gohonzon is the action through which we raise our current life state to its highest power.  Our consciousness becomes energized to its highest capacity. This is the first step to make the potential of our prayer become a reality.

        “Prayer is a solemn means by which you can raise your life condition” (Ikeda, DiscussionOnYouth-2, 141)

Q:    What is the essence of Buddhist prayer?

A:   A prayer expresses our appreciation to the power of Buddhanature within our life (and which is represented in the Gohonzon). A prayer expresses Appreciation to the Gohonzon, the life of Buddhahood which motivates and empowers us to achieve our goals.

Q:    Why does prayer entail appreciation to the Gohonzon?

A: The Life of Buddhahood, represented by the Gohonzon, embodies the Universal Law of Cause and Effect.  One’s appreciation for the great value of the power of the Law of life enables us to align our individual tendencies and motivations to be in harmony with the energy of the Law of Cause and Effect.  Through chanting, we can tune our personal life to be in harmony with the ultimate Law of the universe:

        “Prayer is an expression of our reverence for the universe,

        our awe towards forces that are greater than ourselves” (DOY-2, 127).

Chanting to the Gohonzon (which embodies the Mystic Law of the Universe) is the vehicle to communicate and unite with the eternal life of the Universe:

        “A cellular phone is of no use without base stations that transmit the radio waves

        from one point to another.  In the same way, the Gohonzon is a ‘base station’

        that makes it possible for us to communicate with the universe” (DOY-2, 140). 

Prayer is also a declaration of awe and admiration to the greatness of the Universal Law that we wholeheartedly desire to manifest in our life.

Q:  What is the attitude to pray for our desires to be fulfilled?

A: When we pray to the Gohonzon, we are not beseeching any God or Buddha to grant us our wishes.  Rather, prayer to the Gohonzon is made with a clear determination to take complete responsibility for our life: to get rid of weaknesses and to achieve inner strength.

Our prayer (or inner desire) is infused with the conviction that we are the scriptwriters of our own lives.

        “Prayer in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism means to chant NamMyohoRengeKyo

        based on a pledge or vow…. It means chanting resolutely with determination: …

        ‘I will show magnificent actual proof in my work’ - please enable me somehow

        to bring forth my greatest potential” (Ikeda, NHR-1, 304-05).

When we chant NamMyohoRengeKyo, we are praying to the Gohonzon to manifest our highest life condition of Buddhahood. It is like filling our vehicle with fuel.  The direction (and the way of how we use our life) must be based on clear and concrete goals.  Praying for what one hopes to achieve each day, for both self and others, and challenging oneself to make such intentions a reality - forms the foundation of prayer.

Prayers are the means for overcoming hardships and transforming our tendencies, or our history of actions (karma): the way we think, speak and behave.  Self-correction is achieved through determined prayers:

        “[We] must pray sincerely to apologize for and eradicate our past offenses

        with a deep sense of gratitude to the Gohonzon for enabling us to expiate

        our negative karma” (Ikeda, NHR-10, 266). 

Therefore, our prayers should be filled with the determination to banish all obstacles we experience because of inner weakness, and transform our karma into a mission of using our life in the most meaningful and beneficial way.