Is the Odaimoku Japanese
Is The Odaimoku Japanese?
by Most Rev. Nisso Fukuoka
Q: When the Odaimoku, "NamuMyohoRengeKyo" is written in kanji (Chinese characters), it consists of 7 kanji. Japanese pronounce it "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo". However, Chinese people have their own pronunciation and Korean people have their own too. In India, maybe they chant it "Namo—Suddharma—Pundarika—Sutra". Why should we chant it "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo"?
A: I will tell you of my own personal experience as an answer to this question. In October 2006, I visited India with twenty young priests and members of HBS from Japan, Italy and Sri Lanka. It was my third visit to India on missionary work to propagate the chanting of the Odaimoku. In our schedule, a lecture meeting was scheduled at the School of Ancient Wisdom which is located in Bangalore, South India. It is a training institute for the learning of various kinds of religions, philosophies and cultures. I was invited to give a lecture to listeners who were interested in Buddhism at the institute. The number of the audience who were intelligent and cultured was around 50. I spoke on the subject of "the meaning of chanting the Odaimoku based on the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin." After finishing the lecture, we had a question period. During the period, a listener asked me the following question. "I think, pronouncing" Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" is the Japanese way of chanting, the sacred syllables of the Lotus Sutra. So, is it acceptable for us Indian people to chant it “Namo—Suddharma—Pundarika—Sutra"? When I was about to answer the question, the chief officer of the institute, Mr. Ram Menon raised his hand and said "May I answer the question?" and gave the audience his opinion, "I do not think Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is Japanese. When we think how we should chant the sacred phrase of the Lotus Sutra, it is important to think about the existence is the Bodhisattva Visistacaritra (Jyogyo Bosatsu). He is the highest of the immediate disciple of the Primordial Shakyamuni Buddha. He listened to the primordial eight chapters or the Lotus Sutra (Honmon Happon) and was entrusted to propagate the Fine Dharma in the Last Dharma Period (Mappo Period). Then who was the person who appeared in the world as the Visista Caritra? He was the Great Master Nichiren. He was born in Japan about 780 years ago. His life and activities were in accordance with the Buddha's prophecy. Therefore, Nichiren Shonin should be considered the reincarnation of Visistacaritra. If this is so, we should follow the same way which Nichiren Shonin did. Nichiren chanted the Odaimoku Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, so we, Indian people also should chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo like him. I had visited the institute before. That was in November, 2005. At that time, I handed my work entitled "A Guide To HBS". He read it carefully and answered the question about the meaning of chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo based on my work. It was more effective that Mr. Menon, an Indian person, answered the question to Indian people than me, a Japanese person. We held the chanting session after finishing the question period. All the Indian people who attended the meeting chanted the Odaimoku in unison in our way Namu Myoho Renge Kyo not Namu—Suddharma—Pundarika—Sutra.