In HBS, you can try a short-term intensive practice called Hyappon Kigan 百本祈願 (Hundred-fold Prayer Chanting). Hyappon 百本 means “one hundred numbers of incence sticks.” Kigan 祈願 means “a prayer.” Hyappon Kigan is the practice to keep praying (chanting the Odaimoku) consecutively until 100 stickes of Senko 線香 (incence stick) burns out on by one.
There are two ways of carrying out Hyappon Kigan practice. One is to hold it at a temple or home, shutting yourself up in the practice hall day and night and driving yourself into mentally and physically extreme conditions. Concentrate on chanting the Odaimoku while keeping other thoughts down and reducing time spent taking a rest, sleeping and eating as much as possible.
The other one is for a busy person being pressed with work. It is to hold the chanting whenever you have time other than time for working, sleeping, and eating. Adding the number of incence sticks burned day by day, chant the Odaimoku until you reach the 100th incence stick.
Do not forget to take notes of the numbers of incence stickes burned every time you finish one prayer chanting (one incense stick burned out). Sometimes you will forget where you are because you are stupefied with fatigue.
The most important thing common in those two ways is that you devote your everything for chanting. It also can be said that you offer your lifetime except working, eating and sleeping to the Gohonzon while chanting the Odaimoku. All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Guardian Kings of the Lotus Sutra will definitely feel your enthusiasm and be pleased at your determination. Your prayer must be answered when it’s finished.
Hyappon Kigan is effective when you have to pray for something urgent or when you feel like improving your faith to progress to the next step. HBS members in Japan sometimes do this practice voluntarily and receive various kinds of benefits: passing university exams, converting others, changing himself or herself, curing diseases, and so on.
In Japan, there is a lot of kinds of incence sticks different in burning time, length, diameter, color and smell. It is said that 30-minute or 60-minute incense sticks are usually suitable and preferable for households because everyday Buddhist services at home like the morning and evening service takes about 30 or 60 minutes on an average. 90-minute or 120-minute incense sticks are suitable for temples in a similar fashion. This means, if you are going to carry out Hyappon Kigan at home, you must accomplish at least 3,000-minute chanting (30-minute incense stick times 100) consecutively. It is 50 hours! If you are a full-time worker and going to carry out 5-hour prayer chanting a day, you will achieve it in 10 days. Imagine how long it will take if you do it at a temple (you can make it shorter if you brought in your own shorter incense sticks, though)! Now, I am sure that you realize how much patience and concentration Hyappon Kigan calls for!
There are a few things you should pay attention to on chanting. Let’s see Kaido Shonin’s instructions:
The initiation of single-minded chanting: An illness you think about other things unconsciously while listening to a sermon and a sin or an illness you make light of chanting the Odaimoku, looking at something else, yawning, being lost in thought, falling asleep while chanting, how do we cure these illnesses? There was an oral transmission about this. You should imagine you crossing a rustic log bridge or writing characters with a writing brush when you chant the Odaimoku. Sitting down to and facing a Gohonzon, try to be careful not to fail in chanting one phrase of the Odaimoku every time you look at each of the seven characters of Namumyohorengekyo (南無妙法蓮華経) on the Gohonzon one by one from top to bottom no matter how long you chant.
If your lifetime was the length of an incense stick which is equal to one thousand chantings, it is a great pity that you would waste even one chanting until the incense stick burns out.
100 chantings in a loud voice is more meritorious than 10,000 chantings in a low voice. 10,000 chantings in a loud voice is 9,900 more meritorious than 100 chantings in a loud voice.
Considering instructions above, it can be said a) concentration, b) enthusiasm, and c) a loud voice are the most important things on chanting regardless of the length of chanting, These are things I always pay attention to whenever I chant daily, by the way. It is also important your voice is not only loud but also beautiful.
Therefore, An ideal Hyappon Kigan practice is to chant the Odaimoku while being conscious of those 3 important points with a determination that you make your prayer definitely answered within 100 incense sticks burns out.
If you are worried that you won’t be able to accomplish a Hyappon Kigan practice to the end without giving up with 60-minute incense sticks or other long-lasted sticks, start with 30-minute incense sticks. The length of the incense stick is of secondary importance.
Hyappon Kigan is quite a difficult practice for us because it is just like a meditation practice which is unsuitable for ordinary people of Mappo period. However, it is worth a try because practice makes perfect. Even if your prayer would not be answered as you wished, the Buddha lead you where you should be and the fact remains that you accumulated a great deal of merit through the practice.