What do Nichiren Buddhists practice?

Some Japanese Buddhists perform a ritual called gongyo, or “assiduous practice,” twice daily at home, usually in the morning and evening, and at official gatherings. For Nichiren Buddhists, this consists of chanting portions of two chapters from the Lotus Sutra in Japanese, followed by a series of silent prayers—for gratitude, for one’s ancestors, for the fulfillment of earthly desires, and for the peace and happiness of all beings throughout the world. This is followed by daimoku chanting.

As a ritual, gongyo is the reenactment of a portion of the Lotus Sutra called “The Ceremony in the Air.” As in many other Buddhist sutras, the setting for the Lotus Sutra is Vulture Peak, a mountain near the ancient city of Rajgir, in northern India. But eleven chapters into the sutra, the scene shifts to the heavens above that peak, as Shakyamuni Buddha and the assembled bodhisattvas rise high into the air, literally transcending the earthly plane. From that exalted position, Shakyamuni expounds the teachings of the rest of the sutra, after which the assembly returns to the ground.

Gongyo is a daily process whereby Nichiren Buddhists elevate their life condition, gaining both a transcendent perspective on their lives and the energy and inspiration to apply that perspective to the practical challenges they face day to day. Those who practice gongyo say it creates a dynamic rhythm in their lives: they begin each day with energy and enthusiasm and then reflect each evening on where they stand with their desires and goals, renewing the vow to attain the happiness of Buddhahood in this lifetime—no matter what the obstacles.


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