Another 500 yojanas anniversary has come and gone. (For those confused, see the 500 yojanas explanation here.) That’s how long it has been since I chose to start chanting a portion of the Lotus Sutra each morning.
I use the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Greater New England’s Myoho Renge Kyo Romanized as my morning service.
The book contains a Shindoku reading of the entire Lotus Sutra rendered in Roman characters. The 28 chapters of the sutra are traditionally divided into 8 volumes. Each volume is divided into four equal parts. Each day I recite one of the 32 portions of the Lotus Sutra, circling around to start over on the 33 day.
I’m not sure why I started, but I have continued because I feel this has deepened my practice. Five months after I began reading the Shindoku each morning, I started reading the equivalent portion of the Third Edition of Senchu Murano’s English translation of the Lotus Sutra in the evening. I’m on my 10th 32-day cycle writing daily about what I recite each day. (See 32 Days of Lotus Sutra)
I have received such great benefits, a real awakening of my faith, that I want to advocate that everyone do this. At the same time, however, I understand that asking new followers to devote 45 minutes in the morning and another 45 minutes in the evening would be a sure way to crush enthusiasm for the practice.
The practice of chanting the Odaimoku was not intended to completely replace either the study of the sutra or the reading of the sutra, though it could replace the practice of reciting each of the twenty-eight chapters as a practice. In one of his letters to a believer Nichiren said it was permissible to replace the practice of reciting a chapter a day for twenty-eight days with the single practice of chanting the Odaimoku. It is important to note that he did not say it was wrong to chant the twenty-eight chapters, in fact in Nichiren Shu temples the entire Lotus Sutra is chanted on various cycles of twenty-eight days or in some cases fewer.
And at the 2nd Annual Urban Dharma Retreat one of the activities will be a demonstration of a new, shortened Shodai Gyo Meditation service designed to be more appealing to those new to the practice.
I’m conflicted about this catering to those who would shy from making a commitment to the practice.
When asked by someone who knows little or nothing about Buddhism how to practice, I recommend Ryusho Shonin’s Lotus Sutra Practice Guide. For those moving from Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, I suggest they get the Liturgy of Nichiren Shu from the Nichiren Buddhist International Center website. The NBIC has a number of excellent books for all levels of practitioner.