Should Odaimoku be pronounced Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō when I chant?
No, you do not have to chant it this particular way. When you chant Odaimoku, you can pronounce it Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. It will definitely be easier to pronounce this way. Whenever I chant with foreign members, I notice pronouncing and repeating Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō seems a little difficult for them. That might be the reason why followers outside Japan prefer to pronounce it Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. I myself pronounce Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō when I chant although I am a Japanese, and not only followers in foreign countries but also l, we all receive a lot of benefit by that. However, when you write Odaimoku down, it should always be spelled Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.
The second HBS head priest, the Reverend Nichimon Mimaki (who was one of Nissen Shonin’s direct disciples) said:
Since the teaching of the Lotus Sutra is called Engyō (the perfect teaching which embraces all other Buddhist teachings), the voice of chanting should be flowing and beautiful.
En literally means “perfect, round shape without flaws”. He also chanted slowly in order to make it sound beautiful every time.
Nissen Shonin, one of our Three Great Masters and the founder of HBS, stated it very emphatically in his writings,
The most important thing you have to consider whenever you chant Odaimoku is how awe-inspiring and touching your chanting is.
Since chanting is just like a “show” praising and respecting the power of Odaimoku, it should be beautiful so that the universe represented by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Good Deities and Guardian Kings in the Lotus Sutra can hear our voices and chant with us.
It should inspire people who just pass by or, who live near the place where chanting is taking place. The voice of Odaimoku awakens the Buddha nature of all those who have heard it, and plants and waters the seed of Buddhahood in their mind, forming a connection between them and Odaimoku (the power of Buddha, the power of the universe). Ordinary mortals do not realize that their Buddha nature is being awakened while listening to the voice of Odaimoku. Therefore, we have to try to make every session of chanting as beautiful as possible so that those people are moved enough to be willing to join the session themselves.
In short, chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō or Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō are both acceptable and blessed, as long as you keep in mind to chant beautifully every single time. The more moving and inspiring your chanting is, the more you can spread the teaching of Odaimoku and the more merit you accumulate.
Questioned by a non-HBS-member American man
Answered by Ryosetsu Ikemoto
Edited by Brandon Colbert (Member of Myōshōji Temple)