The basic prayer or chant is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the name of the Mystic Law that governs life eternally throughout the universe. Nichiren Daishonin revealed this law as the underlying principle contained in Buddhism's highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra. A11 life is an expression or manifestation of this law. Thus when we chant this Mystic Law, we attune our lives to the perfect rhythm of the universe. The result is increased vital life force, wisdom, compassion and good fortune to face the challenges in front of us.
The translation or the literal meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is as follows:
NAM - Devotion. By devoting our lives to this law through our faith, practice and study, we will awaken the life-condition of Buddha, or enlightenment, inside ourselves.
MYOHO - Mystic Law. As the Daishonin explained in one of his writings: "What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our lives from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend nor words express. When you look into your own mind at any moment, you perceive neither color nor form to verify it exists. Yet you still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur to you. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence. It is neither existence nor non-existence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the middle way that is the reality of all things. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho to Its manifestations," (from "On Attaining Buddhahood," The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. I , p. 5 ; see "Suggested Readings") .
RENGE - Literally, the "lotus flower," which seeds and blooms at the same time. This represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. We create causes through thoughts, words and actions. With each cause made, an effect is registered simultaneously in the depths of life, and those effects are manifested when we meet the right environmental circumstances. Life itself is an endless series of causes and simultaneous effects. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the deepest cause we can make in order to produce our desired effect.
KYO - Sound or teaching. This is how the Buddha has traditionally, instructed-through the spoken word, which is heard.
Myoho-renge-kyo is the Lotus Sutra's title and contains its essential meaning. Nichiren Daishonin added namu (contracted to nam), which comes from Sanskrit. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate invocation of life, often referred to as the language of the Buddha.
There are no prerequisites or rules as to what to chant for. We simply make the decision to begin chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And by chanting, we experience the energy and wisdom to make our lives fulfilled.
In the sixty years since this Buddhism has been widely accessible through the efforts of the Soka Gakkai worldwide, millions have chanted about every conceivable problem and goal, from the most dire health and financial crises to the most urgent matters of the heart. Unlike in most Western religions, when we chant we are not praying to an external deity invested with human qualities like judgment. Our prayers are communicated into the depths of our being when we invoke the sound of the Mystic Law.
This universal Law is impartial, and no prayer is more or less worthy than another. The only issue is whether we can create value in our lives and help others do the same. As the Daishonin teaches, we attain enlightenment through a continual transformation that takes place in the depths of our existence as we seek to fulfill our desires and resolve our conflicts.
It is important to understand that our prayers are realized because we bring forth from within ourselves the highest life-condition and the wisdom to take correct action.
Once people begin experiencing the benefits of chanting, they may decide to make a deeper commitment and begin a more complete Buddhist practice. The first milestone after beginning one's practice is to receive the Gohonzon, the object of devotion for Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. The Daishonin inscribed his enlightenment in the form of a mandala called the Gohonzon, and believers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a scroll form of the Gohonzon enshrined in their own homes.