I know chanting Odaimoku is the most important part of the practice. Is there anything else you could suggest, such as an added prayer?
(Questioned by a non-HBS-member American man)
You can make prayers for anything you want before starting your chanting session. If your prayers are to help other people solve their worries, they’ll be answered faster. You can also pray for the repose of the dead souls of your ancestors.
According to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, there are two main practices that practitioners in the Mappo period are supposed to carry on. One is chanting, and the other is called Shakubuku, which is to make other people’s lives better by introducing them to the faith of Odaimoku. In order to convert and help others, you need to have real compassion. This is very difficult, even for members of HBS. When you lock yourself in a temple or a room and you just keep chanting for hours, praying for something; unless you try to do something to help those people beforehand, your compassion isn’t. We should always strive to help others as well as chant for their happiness and well-being.
For example, if a person were lying on the ground before your eyes (due to a car accident), you wouldn’t say, “Okay, you got injured. Stay here, I’ll go to the temple and lock myself in and chant Odaimoku as long as I can!” Similarly, if you want to pass some kind of exam, you’ll definitely study a lot, in addition to chanting Odaimoku. Suppose you want to convert someone who has a serious disease. You should go to the hospital to see him or her, bring some get-well presents, and give words of encouragement to them. Or, you can write a letter to them instead. Without doing what we can to care for the people whom you want to help, your prayers may not even come true, no matter how long you keep chanting because you haven’t taken positive action aside from chanting. Essentially, chanting Odaimoku requires us to act out our faith compassionately, then chanting. For if we do not, we are ultimately going against the Buddha’s intentions. Just locking yourself in a room and chanting is sometimes so easy, but it’s not the way.
You can practice cultivating real compassion by participating in volunteer work and talking to others about the faith of Odaimoku. These actions will make you more considerate of others, increasing your compassion. Your chanting will greatly improve and this will awaken your Buddha Nature, more and more.