FAQ

Frequently Thought of (but rarely asked) Questions About

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Nichiren Buddhism

(Note: these answers are from my own experiences, study and discussions with wise people.)

Question: If I try chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, what can I expect?

As Daisaku Ikeda, SGI President, says: “Problems, however are not in themselves the fundamental cause of unhappiness. According to Buddhism, the real cause is not just that we have problems but that we lack the power and wisdom to solve them.” Unlocking the Mysteries of Life and Death, at page 1. You will develop your innermost life condition called your “Buddha nature” or “enlightenment.” Among other things, Buddhahood includes the power and wisdom to overcome problems in your life and find permanent happiness. The Buddha helps others to become enlightened to the best of her or his ability.

Anything of deep value comes from within. The chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is pure enlightenment we generate from at the deepest part of our lives. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we are “producing” energy, power, wisdom, determination, true self, harmony, happiness, purity… This powers our own lives and radiates into the environment.

This enlightenment is not being generated by an outside power or force. Many religions call upon God, gods or the Great Spirit to grant some benefit or gift. When chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we are connecting deeply with our environment at the highest or deepest level. We radiate enlightenment. The environment radiates enlightenment back to us.

“Endurance”, for example, is a quality of the Buddha or a person who has developed his or her Buddha Nature by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Giving up on a relationship, job, education, worthwhile project, getting healthier, losing weight, making friends or life itself often leads to more unhappiness. Sticking to something good or the completion of your goal (small or large) results in happiness and a sense of well being.

The World According to Bob

On the day I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo I was totally broke and deeply in debt. In Buddhism there are two types of benefit or “kudoku”: conspicuous benefits (ken’yaku) or instant good things and inconspicuous benefits (myoyaku) or good things that develop over a longer period of time.

Conspicuous benefits come fast. Within a day or two of beginning chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, a friend and fellow law student told me about the emergency loan program offered by the law school. I applied and a few hours later, I had enough money to see me through the rest of the semester, go to the NSA LA Convention (1969) and take (and pass) the bar exam.

Inconspicuous benefits take longer to develop, are less noticeable and always result from a fundamental change in our own character. Financial security has been a basic desire of mine and I suppose of most people. While I made good money as a lawyer, I managed to spend most of it. After practicing Buddhism for several years, I began to changemy life view. I got a job that offered a good pension and security. I worked very hard. I saved money. I had a part time job teaching law at Nellis Air Force Base. I drove the same truck for fifteen years even though I could afford a BMW. My desire became to be able to live well without having to work as soon as possible. I was able to retire at the age of 56 years and 24 days with savings, a good pension and no debt. This whole process is called “Human Revolution.” I have chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about my finances, every day, twice a day, for more than 30 years. In my opinion, chanting every day to carry out a vow shows more determination and commitment than chanting about something a lot for a short period of time, then not chanting about it. Now, I just express thanks for my inner Buddha, Gohonzon and good financial fortune.

Question: I have been chanting for a while, a few years in fact, and I am still buried in credit card debt. While I still work hard at a pretty decent job, I can’t seem to get ahead or save anything. I’m very unhappy about this. What can I do from a Buddhist point of view?

Tuesday, August 22, 1950. Clear.

Our company has decided to suspend operations.

Exchanged parting cups with Mr. Toda. He shared with us his great hopes and his profoundly touching resolution in the face of defeat.

I felt as though my heart would break. How mortifying! How tragic!

I, however, will advance with Mr. Toda toward our next effort. Nothing else matters. Forward. Eternally forward. Those who truly me will know my destiny.

Daisaku Ikeda, A youthful Diary, at page 43.

Everybody has karma, chanting or not. Nothing can happen to you unless you have the karma for it. Karma means “action.” Your karma is the total of all of your words, thoughts and deeds, since time without beginning. This karma is stored in the eighth level of consciousness. (See, Nine Levels of Consciousness in Ten Good Reasons to Chant.) Standard karma theory (pre-Lotus Sutra) holds that you have to offset “bad” karma with “good” works. Of course, this will take several thousands of lifetimes to accomplish.

So if that does not sound attractive, Nichiren Buddhism is right for you. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, helping others to practice, and study, you can get rid of your bad karma and establish enlightenment karma in THIS lifetime. Nichiren says that if you want to know about your past lives, look at your life condition now. If you want to know what the future will be, look at what you are doing now.

Credit cards are useful if you want to fly or buy something online. However, the credit card companies are waiting for you not pay your balance within the grace period. Then they sock it to you. So your credit card debt came from buying stuff and not paying for it right away, just like the Federal government. Except you can’t print money or borrow from China. (A pre-paid credit card will allow you to charge things as long as you have money in your account.)

Your “bad” karma is the way you think (or don’t think) talk and act about money, debt, happiness and the future. Something is wrong and counter-productive about your words thoughts and deeds. Until these change, you will be in financial trouble. You will also be building up more “bad” financial karma.

Of course, the answer is to expiate your “bad” karma and build up “good” karma. I put good and bad in quotation marks because Nichiren Buddhism is individual and subjective rather than objective. Bad is what you, as an individual person, do not like. Good is what you like. Earthly desires ARE enlightenment, according to Nichiren. Thus, Nichiren Buddhism carries a strong dose of individual responsibility and decision-making.

How to get out of and stay out of financial trouble (and other forms of trouble) and build actual happiness

Make and stick to personal determinations and vows because every good change in your life starts with a real vow. No deep change will occur without your serious vows. (Note on Vows: the vow I’m talking about is like Scarlet O’Hara declaring, “I’ll never be hungry again,” in Gone With The Wind. You may recall Scarlet says this after eating grass following a long period of near starvation. Thus, your suffering and pain is actually a benefit because it is the force behind your vow. Without suffering first, a vow of “not being hungry again” is the same as if said by John Belushi dressed as a fat Liz Taylor after eating a whole chicken with his bare hands on Saturday Night Live.)

Vow to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo every day for the rest of your life.

Chanting produces the power, wisdom and life force to change poison into medicine. Maybe you are in trouble because you are simply too weak and dumb. I know that’s true for me. We also need power, wisdom and life force to live with hope, success and happiness in many other areas of our lives.

Vow to practice and study with SGI-USA for the rest of your life.

I know some people have quit SGI for various reasons. That’s a mistake. SGI is the

source of the correct practice of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI is filled with good people also struggling to bring enlightenment to the themselves and the world. Of course, there are some weird people who practice. That’s okay because I’m a little weird myself. A few may be overbearing. Tell them in a nice way to “bug off.” If you are strong, you will calmly brush off attempts to dominate you. SGI-USA is not the old NSA, so we need get over it. Dominating other people is a characteristic of Dai Roku Ten-no Mao, the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven. So if you are always telling people what to do and are pissed off when they don’t do what you want, you may be the Devil King.

Make sure you are not engaged in slander towards other SGI members. Hating, belittling, jealousy, and grudge holding are the four slanders that prevent you from bringing forth benefit (kudoku) from your own life and the Universe.

It is ridiculous to say: “YES, I AM A BUDDHA AND DICIPLE OF NICHIREN. BUT YOU KNOW, I HATE MY DISTRICT LEADER BECAUSE SHE SAID SOMETHING NASTY TO ME 12 YEARS AGO…I THINK JOE IS REALLY FAT AND WEARS OLD CLOTHES. HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY SMELL BAD BUT I DON’T LIKE TO BE NEAR HIM …JERRY GOT A NEW JOB AND NOW MAKES LOTS OF MONEY. EVERYBODY KNOWS HE DOSEN’T DESERVE IT.”

President Ikeda wrote: “There are cases when we wonder why merit doesn’t reveal itself in spite of our earnest and high degree of faith. At such times, rather than suspecting that you may entertain doubt about the Gohonzon, it is better to ask yourself whether you are guilty of a type of slander. Because a person who is contemptuous, hating, jealous or hold grudges will realize no benefits.For Today and Tomorrow, Daily Encouragement, at page 336.

Chant about your financial situation everyday for the rest of your life, even when you overcome your bad karma.

Buddhism is not just about you. If you follow Nichiren and President Ikeda’s guidance you will expiate your bad karma and accumulate abundant good karma. You will not be broke. Keep chanting about it. Your experience will help other people. You will gain valuable Buddhist wisdom you need to share.

Face your situation honestly. When chanting ask “what am I doing wrong? What changes do I have to make in my thinking about money? What’s the most correct path for me to take?” Your mind has limitations imposed by your karma. Your Buddhahood has unlimited wisdom to guide you. Open your mind and listen. Don’t assume your current feeble wrong mind farts are the ultimate wisdom of the Universe.

Get rid of your “bad friends.” Somewhere in every financial disaster story there is a toxic mix of your own greed, anger and stupidity (three poisons) and “bad friends.” Bad friends increase the rate and severity of financial decline. A bad friend may be that relative or friend who is needs a “loan” to get over a rough spot; the hot chick you want to impress with a new expensive car; the mortgage lender who piles on debt you can’t afford; your drug dealer or bookie who extends you credit; that no good boyfriend who watches TV and drinks beer rather than work. The worst bad friend is the one who discourages you from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

Because, in your current life condition (weak and stupid) bad friends see you as easy pickin’s. Some people are like the Cowbird. The Cowbird raids the nests of victim birds and eats their eggs. Cowbirds then lay their own eggs in the victim birds’ nests and let the victim birds raise their offspring. Some victim bird species have been nearly wiped out. Don’t you be made extinct by the Cowbirds in your life.

The World According to Bob

As a lawyer, I have encountered many people in financial trouble. I never practiced in the Federal Bankruptcy Court, so it’s not my field. However, I am pretty familiar with the basic outlines of Bankruptcy. In Vegas, an expert bankruptcy lawyer will charge about $1000 (for simple cases) to complete the whole procedure. You can get discharged (free from) many kinds of debt, especially credit card. Also included are personal loans, checking account overdrafts, qualified tax debts, medical and utility bills. If qualified, you can usually keep your home, automobile and many personal items as long as you continue to make payments on them. Some debts can’t be discharged: most taxes, child support, court ordered fines/criminal restitution and most student loans.

I am NOT saying you should file for bankruptcy. I AM saying that bankruptcy is ONE choice you might consider if you are deeply in debt with no clear way out. If you are considering bankruptcy, GET COMPETENT LEGAL REPRESENTATION, A LAWYER WHO SPECIALIZES IN BANKRUPTCY AND HAS A SOLID REPUTATION. A good lawyer will tell you if Bankruptcy makes sense for you. (Yes Virginia, there are good lawyers.) Using a do-it-yourself bankruptcy kit is like do-it-yourself dentistry.

Also, I am very suspicious of some for profit debt consolidation schemes. Dishonest ones make all kinds of promises but fail to be of actual help. The worst ones will take your money and fade into the night leaving you with even more debt. Straight Bankruptcy (Chapter 7) will actually clear the debt while minimum payments will often put you a plan that may last for the rest of this life and your next life. For every $100 in actual debt you might wind up paying $300 in penalty and interest. Of course you must be qualified for Chapter 7. A competent lawyer can advise you.

“Moral” and Other Considerations for Bankruptcy

In law, the Balancing Test is often used. The Balancing Test, like the scale of justice, places one set of values on the left side and the opposing set of values on the right side. The decision is made in favor of the heavier set of values.

Bankruptcy is dishonorable

Pro. No one wants to be unable to pay his or her debts. People will thinks less of me and pity me.

Con. Federal Bankruptcy in America (and in most countries) is good, humane law for people in deep debt. Under the Common law of England and most of colonial America, debtors were put in Debtor’s Prison. You were locked up until someone paid the debt. Light Horse Harry Lee a hero of the American Revolution and father of Robert E. Lee was put in Debtor’s Prison. The collective wisdom of the American people created the Bankruptcy law and Bankruptcy Courts. It is not some weird scheme invented by Bernie Madoff.

If you don’t want people know about your bankruptcy, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. It is a private matter. Nichiren said that people ruin themselves by talking too much. He could have been a criminal lawyer as well as Sage of the Universe.

What about the people I owe money to? Shouldn’t I pay them back?

Pro. The credit card companies extended credit in good faith and need to get repaid. The hospital took care of you when you were sick; they need your money.

Con. Credit card companies mass mailed millions of credit card offers to people regardless of their ability to repay. They hid exploitive fees, penalties and interest rates in the pages of fine print.They calculated a default percentage and charged rates high enough to make billions in profit each year. They hired collection agencies to bug you, sometimes in violation of Federal law. Besides, credit card companies make a lot of their money by charging merchants a stiff fee for each transaction.

Some hospitals and doctors are guilty of all sorts of questionable practices. Admitting patients just to fill beds, performing unnecessary and harmful surgery, charging $8 for a can of Coke are some. People without insurance are charged many times more than people with insurance. They refuse medical care to poor people whenever possible. The medical, drug and hospital establishment have viciously attacked actual health care reform, unless they stood to make even more money. Medical schools have limited enrollment in order to keep doctors’ fees high.

Given all this, of course you would pay if you could. But you can’t. The Karmatic collision between you and them is your karma and their karma.

Bankruptcy is stressful and would ruin my credit.

Pro. A Bankruptcy says on your credit record for ten years. Could you stand the stress of being a dead beat?

Con. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, your credit is already a mess. Discharge in Bankruptcy can actually improve your credit. A lender will know that you are pretty debt free and can’t file again for several years. You will also stop putting new bad things in your credit file. You may not be able to borrow a lot of money. That’s a good thing.

You are already in the highest state of stress right now. Worry, arguments, loss of self worth, anger, the hopelessness of being a debt slave for many years, the inability to save for your children’s education or enjoy some simple things in life, having to scramble to get the car fixed, mental and physical illness, and the breakdown of relationships are all part of being burdened with heavy debt.

Even thought you are not buying NEW stuff, your debt is increasing rapidly due to interest and penalty.

Jane’s Story

I’ll call her Jane Doe. Jane has been an SGI member for several years. She has a house, a car and a pretty worthless dog. She works as a radiology technician and as a part time waitress. She had a musician boyfriend and a bunch of family members who lived pretty much for free at her house. (The Frees.) Sometimes the Frees worked but contributed little to the household expenses. The Frees also “borrowed” money from Jane. The Frees favorite trick was to make themselves helpless and expect Jane to rescue them, because she did.

Jane called me for advice. She was so upset about her debt, mostly credit card, she had become physically and mentally sick. A friend at work said that she and her husband filed for bankruptcy, got discharged and were much relieved. She asked if she should file herself. I gave her all of the advice stated above. She eventually filed, got rid of all the Frees from her house and is wiser and happier. But the real change was her attitude on life. Instead of being a soft touch, she expects people to stand up for themselves. She became wiser in money matters.

Again, I am NOT telling you to file for Bankruptcy. You should consider it as one option if you are deeply in debt. Make sure you get competent legal advice from a lawyer and not from a “financial planner” or “debt reduction service.”

Question: I know that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon works as I have experienced quite a few benefits. Why and how does it work? I’ve asked a few members this question and have gotten different answers.

Your life consists of ten words. (See below.) All these worlds are part of you from hell to Buddhahood. You can’t get rid of the “bad” ones, like anger. If you try too hard to get rid of your “bad” worlds and become a super goody-two-shoes you’ll just end up eating the liver of a homeless person in the basement of an abandoned building.

Before chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, you bounced between the first six worlds like a pachinko ball. Sometimes you got lucky and hit the slot of one of the higher worlds (7 through 9).

You now chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. Good things happen more and bad things happen less. When bad things happen you grow as a person and overcome the bad things. Maybe you just wanted to get out of trouble, but became happier anyway.

Here’s How You and Everyone Work-THE MYSTIC FORMULA:

1. Your Internal World (one of the ten) is Sleeping

2. + Something or Someone (Object) Appears in Your Environment

3. + Interaction Between You and the Thing or Person (Object) in your Environment

4. = Your Internal Sleeping World Wakes Up and Becomes Your Dominant World for the Moment

Example: ANGER. You come home early from a grueling business trip. You managed to catch an early flight. You drive home barely awake. You find the door to your house in unlocked and noise coming from the bedroom. You think your husband must be watching TV. You open the bedroom door and say, “hi honey.” The room is very dark. You see your husband humping the neighbor’s wife. You are shocked, angry and hurt and start yelling. Your face is contorted and red.

Your husband turns over and looks at you, only it’s not your husband but your neighbor you making love to his own wife. You are in the neighbor’s house, and boy is he mad and reaches for his .357 Magnum. In an instant, you go from the world of anger to the world of deep shit.

Apply the MYSTIC FORMULA:

1. Your Sleeping World = Anger

2. Appearance of Object in your Environment = “Husband” with Neighbor’s Wife

3. Interaction Between You and Object in your Environment = Seeing, Hearing Your “Husband” Having At It

4. Sleeping World Wakes Up = Anger Takes Over Your Mind and Body

You can apply the MYSTIC FORMULA to all of the Ten World.

1. Sleeping World = Hell

2. Environmental Object = Pile of Unpaid Bills and Zero Checking Account Balance

3. Interaction = Seeing the Bills and Realizing You Can’t Pay

4. Sleeping World Wakes Up = Hell wakes up and makes both your mind and body miserable and hopeless.

THE WORLD OF BUDDHAHOOD

1. Your internal world = Buddhahood Sleeping. This is YOUR Buddhahood that is part of your life. It may be the size of a peanut, but it’s there.

2. Object In Your Environment =Appearance of the Gohonzon. This is the Buddha and the Law, in perfect form and order. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Nichiren are right down the middle in big dominant characters. Gohonzon also has all the nine worlds, even the “bad” ones. They are in small controlled ranks. Nichiren inscribed the Gohonzon as the “object” by which all people can bring out Buddhahood from their own lives. The Buddhahood of the Gohonzon is exactly the same as the Buddhahood inside you. Nichiren wrote, “Never seek the Gohonzon outside of yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, at page 186.

3. Interaction Between You and the Object In Your Environment = Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon

4. Sleeping World of Buddhahood Wakes Up and Radiates Throughout Your Life and Your Environment. “In Nichiren’s teachings, nam indicates devotion to the Gohonzon in a bi-directional sense. We devote our livesto, or harmonize our lives with, the ultimate unchanging reality. By harmonizing, we simultaneously bring forth infinite wisdom with which to extract boundless joy and freedom out of the uncertainties of our daily lives. We focus outwardly, but manifest from within.Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, at page 170.

When chanting to the Gohonzon ALL ten worlds harmonize and contribute to our happiness, even the “bad” worlds. A toothache puts in the world of hell. You have no money to get it fixed. You chant. A friend tells you about the Dental School where you can get free care. The tooth gets fixed and you are a lot happier. You tell others and they get help. The Dental School is happy because you allow their students to get training under strict supervision. Without free patients the Dental School will close.

You have TEN WORLDS jikkai as the basis of your life. They are:

HELL jigoku (trapped in suffering with no way out)

HUNGER (endless, strong desire for something/someone you don’t have)

ANIMALITY (strong eat the weak)

ANGER (asuras, arrogant and belligerent demons)

These are the lower four worlds.

HUMANITY (calmness while trying to be good)

HEAVEN (joy of a temporary nature)

These are the six paths, which include the lower four worlds.

LEARNING (voice hearers, dedicated to self awaking)

REALIZATION (cause awakened ones-understanding though observation)

These are the two vehicles

BODHISATTVAS (compassion and helping others to become happy)

These are the nine worlds

BUDDHAHOOD (perfect and absolute freedom in which one realizes the true aspect of all phenomena and life itself)