What is the daimoku (namu-myoho-renge-kyo)?

nichiren buddhist chanting the daimoku

A Nichiren Buddhist practitioner chants the daimoku. | Tom Levin

The daimoku, the title of the Lotus Sutra, is believed by Nichiren Buddhists to embody the all-pervading nature of the universe that subsumes all phenomena. The Japanese phrase Namu-myoho-renge-kyo literally means “I take refuge in the Lotus of the Wonderful Law.” Chanting daimoku is the principal practice of all Nichiren Buddhists. By reciting this mantra practitioners endeavor to change their karma, overcoming obstacles to success or happiness.

In Nichiren Buddhism, karma is fundamentally self-empowering—even so-called “bad” karma—because it motivates and energizes the practitioner to overcome hardships, break old patterns of thought and behavior, and surmount obstacles. The interaction of cause and effect is not a web that ensnares us but a net that connects us to everything else in the universe. Because of that net, whatever good we do here and now will affect everyone everywhere. By chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and taking constructive action in the present, Nichiren Buddhists send vibrations along the intersecting strings of the net until their influence is felt everywhere. As Nichiren wrote:

When one carries out the single practice of exercising faith in the Lotus Sutra, there are no blessings that fail to come to one, and no good karma that does not begin to work on one’s behalf. It is like the case of a fishing net: though the net is composed of innumerable small meshes, when one pulls on the main cord of the net, there are no meshes that do not move.

In Nichiren’s analogy, chanting the daimoku is that central cord. By taking positive action—creating good causes—now, Nichiren Buddhists establish the basis for an indestructible happiness throughout the ten worlds, and in every lifetime to come.


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