The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching (Honmon no Daimoku)

Unlike the Daimoku of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism of the Harvest as expounded in the surface text of the Lotus Sutra, the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of actual ichinen sanzen, the seed of Buddhahood from kuon ganjo that Shakyamuni secreted away in the depths of the Life Span (Juryo; sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and which allows all people direct access to the Buddha realm.
The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching more specifically refers to the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with faith in the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching (honmon no honzon) that was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha for the Latter Day of the Law and the master of the Buddhism of Sowing.
In his work entitled, “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths” (“Montei hitchin-sho”), the Twenty-sixth High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichikan Shonin, states the following: “The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching invariably includes both faith and practice.” (Six Volume Writings [Rokkan-sho], p. 70) Nichikan Shonin explains here that the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching encompasses two aspects,, faith and practice.

Faith
Although Buddhist practice traditionally includes the three disciplines of precepts, meditation, and wisdom, the Daishonin explains that people with lesser capacities should abstain from the disciplines of precepts and meditation, and rely solely on the practice of wisdom. However, because ordinary people born in the Latter Day are deficient in their ability to exercise wisdom, the Daishonin states the following in “On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice”:

And because our wisdom is inadequate, he teaches us to substitute faith, making this single word “faith” the foundation.
(Gosho, p. 1112; MW-6, p. 216)

In the foregoing, the Daishonin explains the importance of substituting faith for wisdom (isshin daie). Faith is said to be belief that is free of doubt. Our hearts should profoundly embrace the Buddha’s teachings without allowing doubt to interfere.
A passage from the Daishonin’s “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”) reads:

All Buddhas throughout the three existences of the past, present and future attain the Buddha Path through the single word “faith.” This single word “faith” is likewise the sharp sword that will cut through humanity’s innate darkness.
(Gosho, p. 1737)

The Daishonin explains that the single word “faith” is the means by which all Buddhas throughout time invariably attain Buddhahood, and that the same word “faith” can cut through humanity’s congenital blindness to the truth. But he is also is informing us that faith is the foundation for Buddhist practice and the means by which ordinary people can attain Buddhahood within a single lifetime.

Practice
In his Annotations on the Rissho ankoku-ron (Rissho ankoku-ron guki), Nichikan Shonin also states: “Practice begins with faith and the result of faith is practice.” (Gosho mondan, p. 6) In stating that the invariable catalyst for practice is faith, and that faith ultimately manifests as practice, Nichikan Shonin explains that it is vital that our Daimoku includes both faith and practice. If our practice lacks faith, we easily run the risk of abandoning our faith when we encounter negative influences. By the same token, if we have faith but do not put it into practice, then we cannot be said to have true faith.
The Daishonin further states the following in “On the Three Great Secret Laws” (“Sandai hiho-sho”) with regard to the Daimoku for the Latter Day of the Law.

Now in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daimoku that Nichiren chants is different from that of former ages. It is the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of both practice for oneself and practice for the sake of others.
(Gosho, p. 1594)

The Daishonin explains that because it involves practice both for oneself and for others, the Daimoku for the Latter Day of the Law is different from the Daimoku that was relevant during the Former and Middle Days of the Law. We, the members of Nichiren Shoshu, do not chant Daimoku purely for our own attainment of Buddhahood. We also include, in our practice of Daimoku, prayers that the mystic Law (Myoho) will spread throughout the world. Our Daimoku for the sake of others must also must include the practice of shakubuku.

The Significance and Rewards of Daimoku
Nichikan Shonin writes as follows in Exegesis on “The True Object of Worship”:

When we place single-minded faith in the Gohonzon, the entire entity of the Gohonzon melds with our minds. When this happens, the realm of Buddhahood and the other nine worlds immediately become one. When we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with perfect focus, our lives become completely saturated with the Gohonzon. On that basis, our nine worlds instantly fuse with the Buddha realm.
(Gosho mondan, p. 205)

Nichikan Shonin explains that when we believe in the Gohonzon, our minds meld with the Gohonzon and our lives manifest the true mystic cause, whereby the realm of the Buddha merges with the other nine worlds functioning in our lives. And when we chant Daimoku facing the Gohonzon, our lives completely fuse with the Gohonzon, and we reap the true mystic cause, whereby our nine worlds become one with the Buddha realm.

In short, when we chant Daimoku with faith in the Gohonzon, our nine worlds and the Gohonzon’s realm of Buddhahood sense and interact with each other. In this way, our minds can become imbued with the original infinite Law, and in that instant, we can attain the Buddha Path and receive the supreme reward of Buddhahood within a single lifetime.
Traditionally, the practice of the Lotus Sutra entailed the five practices of embracing, reading, reciting, teaching and transcribing the Lotus Sutra. However, in his “Orally Transmitted Teachings,” the Daishonin makes the following comment about ordinary people born during the Latter Day of the Law with regard to these five disciplines:

Of the five practices, four can be omitted and people can attain Buddhahood through the single practice of embracing the mystic Law.
(Gosho, p. 1795)

People in the Latter Day can attain Buddhahood simply by embracing the Gohonzon. This is because the practice of embracing the mystic Law (Myoho) includes the other four practices.
A passage from “The True Object of Worship” (“Kanjin no honzon-sho”) reads:

Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the single phrase, Myoho-Renge-Kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.
(Gosho, p. 653; MW-1, p. 64)

The Daishonin explains here that the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo are endowed with all of the practices that Shakyamuni himself carried out to become a Buddha, as well as the virtues that he accrued as a result. For that reason, the Daishonin states that when we embrace faith in Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the Gohonzon of the Essential Teaching, we are, in fact, carrying out all of Shakyamuni’s practices and will therefore receive the same rewardsthatas he didreceived.
There are four powers at work when a person embraces the Gohonzon: the power of the Law, the power of the Buddha, the power of faith and the power of practice.
The power of the Buddha is the function of the mandala Gohonzon of the mystic Law (Myoho) to relieve people’s suffering through the profound compassion of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The power of the Law refers to the infinite power of the mystic Law (Myoho) with which the Gohonzon is endowed. The power of faith is our belief in the Gohonzon of the Essential Teaching and our absolute conviction that there is no other way to attain the Buddha Path outside of this Gohonzon. The power of practice is our exclusive and single-minded chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, without incorporating a single idea from any other system of thought.
In “Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” the Daishonin asserts that these four powers are activated when we chant Daimoku with faith in the Gohonzon:

If only you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come? This is the truth, and it is of great profundity. You should believe and accept it.
(Gosho, p. 406; MW-5, pp. 110-1)

As this passage states, when we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, we can attain Buddhahood just as we are, and can receive limitless and unimpeded blessings.

Conclusion
The true essence and significance of the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching stems from the Gohonzon, the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching. On that basis, the great path to Buddhahood requires strong faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, the physical embodiment of the Three Great Secret Laws. We must also must practice for ourselves and for others, inby strictlyfollowkeeping with the High Priest’s instruction.
At the same time, we must realize that the Soka Gakkai’s chanting of “Daimoku” to false objects of worship will produce nothing positive. On the contrary, because that behavior slanders the true Law, it will cause them to fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
Let us therefore use what is left of this year to chant Daimoku, both for our own sakes and for the sake of all people, and do our utmost to convert even one more person to true Buddhism.
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