Chanting the Sutra with One's Body
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Dialogue with the Buddha
One of the basic practices in Rissho Kosei-kai is chanting of the Lotus Sutra. Specifically, the act of chanting the sutra each morning and evening, the fundamental element of our religious practice, is extremely important to us.
In the little volume of sutra readings used by our organization, difficult words follow one after another, and particularly among those members who have only recently joined Rissho Kosei-kai, there may be some who do not understand what is written in the readings.
However, as has been said “Read something again and again and you will realize its meaning”; even if we do not understand the sutra at first, in the course of repeated daily readings, the meaning becomes clear naturally. Just like the effect of reciting something from memory in childhood, one day we will be deeply impressed by a sutra verse we have grown accustomed to seeing. It is like perfume―that is, just as a pleasant fragrance gradually permeates things, the teaching will naturally seep into us by daily chanting, and understanding will come upon us without our thinking about it.
That being said, what is most important in grasping the teaching of the Buddha is comprehending the Truth that “All things are constantly changing” and “All things are interconnected and function together.”
In our sutra readings, there are some scenes in which the Buddha engages in dialogue with his disciples as he calls out to Shariputra, and then answers the questions of the bodhisattvas. When we chant such passages aloud, we are hearing the Buddha’s sermons in our own voice, and in that sense we could even say that sutra chanting is a dialogue between ourselves and the Buddha.
The Important Practice of Offerings
The practice of making offerings is in essence a heartfelt expression of our taking refuge in and being grateful to the Buddha. The practice of making offerings includes three types: material offerings, offerings of flowers, incense, food, and drink; offerings of reverence, which means giving praise to the Buddha; and practical offerings, which means putting the teachings into practice.
Sutra chanting is itself a form of offerings of reverence, and devoutly placing water, rice, tea, and flowers before the home Buddhist altar is a form of material offerings. Further, through sutra chanting we communicate with the Buddha’s heart and mind, and become people with consideration for others through our practice of the teachings, which equals practical offerings. In fact, that is the most important form of making offerings, which ultimately means following the teachings and putting them into practice. We could say this is “chanting the sutra with one’s body.”
Sutra chanting also means realizing the preciousness of our lives received from our parents and our ancestors, and expressing our gratitude to them. Practical offerings are a true form of venerating our ancestors and of showing devotion to our parents. Through sutra chanting we partake of the Buddha’s priceless heart and mind. Let us pledge ourselves to faithfully strive to convey this to others.