Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo

Late January, 2016
The temple on Bainbridge Island traces its origins back to Nichidatsu Fujii (Guruji), a Japanese Buddhist monk who lived from 1885 to 1985. Guruji based his practice on reciting the mantra “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo”. According to Guruji, this chant is the distillation of the entire Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra contains about 96,000 verses, so it’s kind of impressive that it all got condensed into seven syllables. I remember asking Senji once about what the chant actually meant. We were on the peace walk when I asked him.


Senji kind of smiled and said, “It mean: ‘We are beautiful. We are Buddha. We are love’. It say that.”


I’ll go with that translation.


The chant is basic to everything at the temple. It is the core of all that happens there.


The morning service starts with one of the monks lighting the candles and the incense. Gilberto would strike the large singing bowl three times. Then one of them goes over to a huge drum, big as a 55-gallon drum, that sits sideways on a wooden frame. Senji or Gilberto beats the drum and chants “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” over and over again. Senji has a deep baritone and chants beautifully. Gilberto has a slightly deeper voice, and his chant is a bit harsher. In the morning, Cindy and Lani come to chant along, and they also drum. Karin and I came too. Karin chanted with them all. Stefan would also show up. He had no problem praying with the Buddhists. The chanting went on for at least an hour.


When the chanting stopped, Senji would strike the kai, a small piece of metal suspended from a wooden frame. Gilberto rang the singing bowl, and struck the makusho, a hollow, wooden bowl. Then we would recite part of the Lotus Sutra in Chinese. After that, we read something from Guruji, and finally we recited the morning prayer in Chinese.


The evening prayer was similar. It all centered on Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.


The chant is powerful in a odd way. It is like praying the rosary or reciting the Jesus prayer. After a while, it sinks into a person’s psyche and becomes part of that person, or maybe the person becomes the chant. All I know is that I hear the chant in my dreams now. That’s how deep it goes.


Guruji believed that he could create world peace by drumming and chanting. He might have been right.


Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.


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