What is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo? How does chanting work?

The primary practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. SGI President Ikeda says, "Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo aloud represents a determination and vow to dedicate one’s life to the realm of truth of Myoho-renge-kyo in thought, word and deed" (September–October 2006 Living Buddhism, p. 90).

As the title of the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching of Shakyamuni, the phrase Myoho-renge-kyo encompasses all of the concepts expressed in the sutra, including the idea that all of life holds the potential for both absolute happiness and fundamental darkness. In that sense, it conveys the overarching intent of the sutra, that all human beings possess the Buddha nature. Nichiren Daishonin, who lived and taught in 13th-century Japan, appended the word nam—meaning "to dedicate one's life"—to the beginning of Myoho-renge-kyo and established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to enable all people to overcome suffering and bring forth their inherent life-condition of Buddhahood in this existence, as they are.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we are not petitioning or beseeching an external being to act in our favor. Rather, we are repeatedly sending out an expression of our determined intention as we bring forth from within ourselves our highest life potential. Our elevated life-state, in turn, elicits the environment's—indeed the entire universe's—support for our aims, and causes to arise within us the wisdom to take the best course of action for achieving the objective of our chanting.