Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spiritual Bites - The Lotus Sutra Feat. Rishi S, Jaya V.

Spiritual Bites - The Lotus Sutra Feat. Rishi S, Jaya Vidyasagar by Sonore Unison

" When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo"  " - The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

Buddhism originates in the teachings of Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha), who was born in what is now Nepal some 2,500 years ago.

The Lotus Sutra is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential sutras, or sacred scriptures, of Buddhism. It is highly valued in the Mahayana tradition, which spread throughout East Asia.

Its key message is that Buddhahood--a condition of absolute happiness, freedom from fear and from all illusions--is inherent in all life. The Lotus Sutra is also unique among the teachings of Shakyamuni in that it makes the attainment of enlightenment a possibility open to all people, without distinction based on gender, race, social standing or education. In this way, it is seen to be a full expression of Shakyamuni's compassionate intention of opening the way to enlightenment to all people.

Almost 2,000 years after Shakyamuni's death, Nichiren, a 13th-century Japanese priest, distilled the profound theory of the Lotus Sutra into a practice which could enable every individual to reveal their Buddhahood, or highest state of life, in the midst of day-to-day reality.

Nichiren established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the way to awaken one's Buddha nature and tap into the deepest levels of our existence, on which our own lives and that of the universe are one. He first taught the invocation of the phrase to a small group at Seicho-ji temple in Awa province, Japan, on April 28, 1253.

 Nichiren regarded Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the Mystic Law, the natural principle governing the workings of life in the universe, the law to which all Buddhas are enlightened and the true aspect of our own lives. He saw the practice of repeatedly invoking this law as the "direct path to enlightenment."

Many people associate Buddhist religious practice with silent, interior meditation. But the practice of vocalizing, reciting and chanting various teachings has played a vitally important role in the history of Buddhism. To voice one's innermost conviction and vow in prayer is an intensely public act. The emphasis on audible chanting as opposed to silent meditation reflects a core stance of Nichiren's Buddhism. Rather than simply exploring and withdrawing into the private realms of the inner life, religious practice is focused on bringing forth our highest inner potential in relation to and for the benefit of our fellow humans and human society. Nichiren often quotes the words of an earlier Buddhist philosopher that "The voice does the Buddha's work."

In line with earlier schools dedicated to the Lotus Sutra, he considered the five Chinese characters of the title of the sutra--myo, ho, ren, ge, kyo--as embodying the essence of the sutra, the Mystic Law to which Shakyamuni and other Buddhas are enlightened. Thus, when on April 28, 1253, he declared that to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was to activate its promise of universal enlightenment, Nichiren was establishing a form of practice that would open the way to enlightenment for all people--regardless of class or educational background. This was borne out in the diverse range of people who gathered around Nichiren, becoming his followers and fellow practitioners; they included people with a highly developed understanding of Buddhist doctrine and history as well as farmers with little if any literacy. It is also borne out in the astonishing diversity of people practicing Nichiren Buddhism globally today.

Myoho-renge-kyo is the name of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese pronunciation of classical Chinese characters, and so the literal meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is "I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra." As the following explanation shows, there are deeper levels of meaning attached to each element of the phrase.

Nam derives from the Sanskrit word namu, meaning "to devote oneself." Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a means to enable all people to put their lives in harmony or rhythm with the law of life, or Dharma. In the original Sanskrit, namu indicates the elements of action and attitude, and refers therefore to the correct action one needs to take and the attitude one needs to develop in order to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.


Myoho literally means the Mystic Law--the underlying truth or principle which governs the mysterious workings of the universe and our life from moment to moment. Myo refers to the very essence of life, which is "invisible" and beyond intellectual understanding. This essence always expresses itself in a tangible form (ho) that can be apprehended by the senses. Phenomena (ho) are changeable, but pervading all such phenomena is a constant reality known as myo. Myo also means to open, to revive, and to be fully endowed with the qualities we need to develop our lives.

Renge means lotus flower. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. The circumstances and quality of our individual lives are determined by the causes and effects, both good and bad, that we accumulate (through our thoughts, words and actions) at each moment. This is called our "karma." The law of cause and effect affirms that we each have personal responsibility for our own destiny. We create our destiny and we have the power to change it. The most powerful positive cause we can make is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; the effect of Buddhahood is simultaneously created in the depths of our life and will definitely manifest in time.
The lotus flower grows and blooms in a muddy pond, and yet remains pristine and free from any defilement, symbolizing the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of an ordinary person in the midst of the struggles of day-to-day existence.

Kyo literally means sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha. In this sense, it also means sound, rhythm or vibration. In a broad sense, kyo conveys the concept that all things in the universe are a manifestation of the Mystic Law.

By invoking the Mystic Law and bringing forth our highest, most enlightened nature, we naturally inspire those around us to strive toward the highest, most creative and compassionate way of life. This develops into a "virtuous circle" of mutually reinforcing celebration of the infinite dignity and value of all human beings. Nichiren uses a poetic metaphor to describe this process: "When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge."

Rishi's beautiful composition of this chant does let you close your eyes and imagine the snow clad peaks of Himalayas.  Thank you Rishi for giving me an opportunity to be part of this heavenly chant through lending vocals for the Alaaps.

Composition, Mixing and Buddhist Chanting by Rishi S 

Record Label   Sonore Unison

Vocals for Alaaps  Jaya Vidyasagar