Can we chant daimoku in mandarin?

The question of whether we can chant the daimoku in mandarin or other language appear lately. Is it all right? Can we obtain benefit and transform our karma? Will this be constituted as slander in Buddhism? These are questions that Jack and Paul wanted to explore.

Paul: Recently, I find some people chanting the daimoku in mandarin. Is it right?

Jack: I don’t know. What do you think?

Paul: First of all, it sure sounds a little weird. I have been doing some digging (here) and found that Mr Ikeda actually said something regarding this matter. He said,

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an eternal and unchanging Law, the supreme invocation. It will never be chanted in translation… Daimoku will be the same wherever it is chanted. Daimoku is a universal language that is instantly understood by Buddhas. The Lotus Sutra is called Saddharmapundarika-sutra in Sanskrit, for example, but that doesn’t mean we should chant Namusaddharma-pundarika-sutra as the daimoku.

It’s a matter of sound and rhythm… Each musical composition has a unique rhythm. Beethoven’s works reflect his inner rhythm, which transcends the barriers of nationality, language, culture and affects all who hear it. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a sound that creates unity with the law of the cosmos. (New Human Revolution, vol.6, p.296)

So, you see, I am not sure daimoku can work if it’s in another language. After all, it’s Nichiren Daishonin who first chanted, and taught us, to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. So, I guess that’s the way it should stay.

Jack: You wanna give it a try, just out of curiosity? Maybe for a week and see what happen?

Paul: I don’t think so. Maybe you should try and let me know. But seriously, what’s your take on this issue? I have been getting many questions regarding this.

Jack: From what I learnt, the litmus test of the validity of a religion is based on the three proofs; scriptural, theoretical and actual proofs. So, rather than judging others and racking our minds on intellectual discussion like this, perhaps it is better to wait and see the actual proof. We are not sure whether they have scriptural and theoretical proofs about the practice of chanting in mandarin. And most important, of course, would be actual proof.

In actual proof, we can observe ourselves. This is the true test. It doesn’t really matter who is right or what is right. And no amount of chest thumping to claim superiority can make one more right or wrong. This is not in the realm of science, but in the realm of philosophy. There is no right or wrong. There are only good and not good, profound and shallow, work or not. We look and observe the changes in a person, in his behavior and his character. Is he becoming more hopeful, more compassionate, more loving and living his life with greater wisdom? If one is impoving in all these areas, then, I would say it’s a good practie, whatever language you are chanting in. The Law does not spread by itself, the person does.

Peter: I guess so.

Jack: There is another aspect besides the individual transformation. It is whether it can bring a positive impact to society. Is it a closed religion that serves only its own members, while keep claiming that they are the best in the world, or is it contributing positively and in a significant manner, making a real difference, putting the profound philosophy to use, benefiting society at large? This is exactly what Mr Makiguchi meant when he talks about humanitarian competition in the 21st century.

If others want to chant in mandarin, so be it. Is it wrong? I don’t know. We do our stuff and they do theirs. And see who can create more positive impact to oneself and to society.

I have witnessed many top leaders, all chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo for many decades and yet behave like gangsters and throwing their weights around and chopping upstanding leaders who ask legitimate questions about governance during the last few years. So, can we blame the daimoku when we see characters like these appearing in those who chanted nam-myoho-renge-kyo? I always remind myself of this Nichiren’s teaching –

The purpose of the appearance in this world of Sakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being. (The three kinds of treasure)

Peter: Yeah, you mention it many times before. You think people can gain enlightenment if chant the daimoku in mandarin? What about slander, creating evil karma, and betrayal to Nichiren Daishonin when one chants the daimoku in another language?

Jack: That’s nonsense. Fear mongering. Tell me which is worse, chanting daimoku with mandarin and performing good deeds and respecting each person’s Buddhahood, or chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo but act with cruelty, arrogance and cowardly, make all effort to protect oneself by sacrificing others? I would say the latter is far worse. These are the individuals who truly destroy Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism from within and bastardised the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

Peter: What about Sensei’s take on saying that the daimoku is unique because of the sound and rhythm? You agree?

Jack: I agree with Sensei. Though I can’t say there is much supporting arguments for it, other than emphasising a unique sound and rhythm, both subjective concepts. Look, I’m not chanting in English or mandarin. But that is not the most important thing. Like I said, there is no point claiming what is right, while one’s behavior and actions do otherwise. Actions speak louder than words.



2 thoughts on “Can we chant daimoku in mandarin?

  1. Was just doing some research… apparently, Nam is a sanskrit word but Myo-ho-renge-kyo is chinese words. You may wanna read the article below regarding the question above . It’s from world- tribune (SGI – USA published in 2016)
    Link below :

    Another question is , will it be the same when we practice the Lotus Sutra from the standpoint or interpretation from Nichiren Daishonin ( ie; Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism) and the Lotus Sutra from the interpretation of Siddhartha Guatama ??



    1. Once a chirstian ask a Buddhist monk whether he can be a good buddhist. The monk answer by asking, ‘Are you a good Christian?’ He answer yes. The monk continue, ‘Then, you already is a good buddhist.’
      It depends not on how we interpret or who we follow, but rather how it influence our behaviour and character. Anyone can claim to practice from the standpoint of Nichiren. Daishonin or Sakyamuni. But this on itself does not automatically make one worthy or correct.
      We just got to remember that we respect and treasure each person, even if they don’t practice what we practice.


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