The acceptability of "Nam"

The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby nichirenista » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:56 am

I know there was a discussion earlier on this topic. I tried to find it, so as to not warrant a new thread. But I couldn't find it. So, here goes....

As I mentioned on a previous thread, I attend a Nichiren Shu temple. Therefore, as much as possible, I have attempted to chant "Namu" when chanting in private. Obviously, this is what I MUST chant when at the temple. I've heard people at the temple say that "Nam" ultimately means nothing. I have literally heard the phrase, "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo doesn't mean anything."

It's been a struggle for me to accept that I actually PREFER "Nam" over "namu." Now, I chant "Nam" in my private practice, almost exclusively. It just feels better.

So, I just wanted to thank everyone here who contributed to the discussion regarding the acceptability of "nam." I just find "nam" to be easier to chant, and I find the phrase more empowering, for some reason. I also appreciated the discussion I found somewhere on this forum about the need to create contractions in Japanese, and this is a normal thing to go from Namu to Nam. (The point made was that the fact that the second syllable starts with "m" makes for an easier transition.)

Not explaining myself well here. But I just wanted to say thank you, and if anyone has anything to contribute to the discussion of "the acceptability of Nam," please do. :)
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Queequeg » Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:41 pm

There really is not much to this whole "controversy".

"NamMyohoRengeKyo" is how the Fuji School of the Nichiren tradition chants the Daimoku. The Fuji School (Fujimonryu) is not one sect, but rather several groups including the Nichiren Shoshu sect with a head temple at Taisekiji, Honmon Shoshu sect with a head temple at Hota Myohonji, the Fuji Monryu faction of Nichiren Shu sect with a head temple at Kitayama Honmonji, and at least a couple other sects I can't remember the name of - one based at Nishiyama Honmonji, and another based in Kyoto, and of course Soka Gakkai and its various offshoots. Basically these are the schools belonging to the Nikko Shonin lineage.

More on Nikko and his lineage here:
Nichiren Shu News: 1, 2, 3
An excellent article on the Atsuhara Persecution in which Nikko played a pivotal role. This was one of the major events during Nichiren's life in which his disciples and followers played a lead role and which established the Nichiren paradigm for practice of the Lotus Sutra in Mappo.

There is a lot of factionalism among Nichiren Buddhists, and its an unfortunate fact that people have chosen to turn this into something to justify schism.
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:03 am

the U sound in standard Japanese is sometimes for lack of a better word "silent". the i sound as well. one of the first sentences in Japanese I learned was atama ga itai desu! (my head hurts/I have a headache). The reason it sounded to me like "atomic hepatitis" was that last U is silent, desu (dess, except in some music I think) basically meaning "is". I am not sure if the EXACT thing linguistically is happening here, but its possible that people who fuss about nam are doing the same thing though when they recite the sutra, I have seen different pronunciations of the same lines, following I think the same rules for why namu can sound like nam. but the su at the end of desu is still there, even if you hardly hear it. This would appear to be an old question, and one that makes the atama of Japanese speakers itai a crap ton when they hear about it.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.-The Sith Code
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby nichirenista » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:57 am

Thank you for the responses. I think some of it probably just goes back to how controversial SGI is. I think other sects, such as Nichiren Shu, simply want to make themselves distinct from SGI. I mean, that's one reason that I myself tried to stop chanting "Nam" -- because I wanted to make it clear that I am not a member of SGI. It's not that I have anything personally against SGI. It's that I wanted to do what my sect does: chant "Namu." It's one thing to want to make oneself distinct, but I think it's taking a little far to say that "Nam" doesn't mean anything…. And I have to accept that even though I belong to Nichiren Shu, I prefer "Nam."
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby nichirenista » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:05 pm

Queequeg wrote:An excellent article on the Atsuhara Persecution in which Nikko played a pivotal role. This was one of the major events during Nichiren's life .


Thank you for this article. I hadn't seen it before. Jacqueline Stone is simply indispensable for Nichiren Buddhists. I even sent her a message saying "thank you" a while back. She responded kindly, and said more work, such as this, was on its way….
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Masaru » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:39 am

No time for long posts, but as far as I know, the only difference between "Nam" and "Namu" is linguistic in that chanting the former will cause you to sprout up in the Avichi hell for an indeterminably long period of time - which is why Nichiren Shu righteously chants "Namu." The trip to hell could be due to rending the Buddha "Mu" apart by dropping the vowel since every character of the sutra is a Buddha.

:shrug:

Both paths, however, ultimately end in enlightenment. Eventually. Maybe. But there is no WiFi in hell.
A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure

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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:20 am

You are making humor of course, I know. But I will add a technicality. If you were to chant "NA myoho renge kyo then you would have dropped a syllable, nam and namu include the same syllables. for the same reason that (though this will probably give the people who are like Shi'a for namu unearned fuel for their argument) are written the same way in hiragana. Say what you want about the SGI or shoshu or any nam user, Japanese members will read namu myoho renge kyo in hiragana if it were written that way, and would still say nam myoho renge kyo.

I am more curious as to the importance on the effort we should put into the extended vowels, I think literally myoho and kyo could be written myouhou and kyou, an u sound indicating an extended vowel, not so much an actual U at the end. I wonder how many people are aware of that?

While we are on the topic of the Japanese language, during a full moon, and my current project of watching the pokemon anime in Japanese heres a song nyaa
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.-The Sith Code
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby reciproque » Sun Jun 15, 2014 4:11 pm

Hello everyone,

This is my first post on this forum. Hope I'm following correct proceedures.

The namu vs. nam argument, along with all other related issues on pronunciation etc. are , in my opinion, parochial and unhelpful.

To begin, anyone looking into Nichiren's writings will be hard pressed to find any passages revealing his concerns for "de rigeur" when chanting.
Although there is much attention focused on the "Original" Buddha, Dharma and practice, these may have more to do with complete vs. incomplete teachings and not the mechanics of verbal communication.
When Nichiren said that the mere mention of "plum" would make ones mouth water, surely he didn't think that only the japanese word for plum was the true and original expression for that fruit.

The only reason I can see for having an agreed upon pronunciation is the advantage in being able to do group practice with people of a different linguisric background, but its a small advantage at best.

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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Masaru » Sun Jun 15, 2014 7:01 pm

reciproque wrote:To begin, anyone looking into Nichiren's writings will be hard pressed to find any passages revealing his concerns for "de rigeur" when chanting.


Exactly. Yes. Because it was so obvious, you see...
A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure

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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby rory » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:17 am

Just to help clarify in case there is still some troubled soul: Nam and Namu are exactly the same case as English 'can't' and 'cannot' it's a contraction. And all the palaver over the difference is just sectarian bunk.

In Japanese Pure Land sects they chant Amitabha Buddha's name: Namu Amida Butsu. I have personally heard Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu and Tendai Shu chant and myself have chanted: Namu Amida Bu, Namandabu. They are just contractions to ease chanting nothing more.
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Masaru » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:27 am

rory wrote:Just to help clarify in case there is still some troubled soul: Nam and Namu are exactly the same case as English 'can't' and 'cannot' it's a contraction. And all the palaver over the difference is just sectarian bunk.

In Japanese Pure Land sects they chant Amitabha Buddha's name: Namu Amida Butsu. I have personally heard Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu and Tendai Shu chant and myself have chanted: Namu Amida Bu, Namandabu. They are just contractions to ease chanting nothing more.
gassho
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moi, j'aime les francophones:)


But Nichiren has little positive to say about Pure Land. Should the fact that they fail to enunciate the Nipponzed version of each Chinese character and lose even the force of the Pure Land mantra, (thus compounding their many errors,) influence the practitioner of the correct teaching? Should we add to our own practice the errors of all the erroneous sects and doctrines simply because we find it agreeable at present? This, we cannot rightfully abide.
A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure

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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby reciproque » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:36 am

Oui bien sur M. Rory, your example is clear enough. In fact, now that you mentioned the contractions, nearly all of the characters in the sutras are themselves contractions of two or more characters.
Language is fluid and alive. Languages which are locked up are dead. I believe that Nichiren was far more tolerant about this than his modern day followers will care to admit.
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Masaru » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:37 am

reciproque wrote:I believe that Nichiren was far more tolerant about this than his modern day followers will care to admit.


Interesting viewpoint. What are you basing this view on?
A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure

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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby nichirenista » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:51 am

Wonderful thoughts everyone. Thank you for all of the wonderful responses. You all make so much sense, and your comments really reveal how silly any controversy is regarding this topic. Thank you. :twothumbsup:
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby rory » Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:01 am

Masaru: chanting 'namu amida bu' isn't a mantra (which involves sanskrit syllables) it's the buddha's name. Neither is Daimoku a mantra, it's the title of the Lotus Sutra. If you want to be true fundamentalist chant Namu Saddharma Punndarika Sutra (with the suitable diacritics to get the pronunciation exact.)

In Japan, there are many esoteric mantras that come from the Sanskrit and chanted in a garbled Japanified version, just as they are chanted in a garbled Sinified version. If they work they work. I chant the Great Compassion Mantra and the Mantra of Amogapasa Kannon in Sanskrit (because i know better and have int'l friends who help me).

Mon cher reciproque quel plaisir à parler avec les gens en une langue civilisée:)
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:47 pm

I thought the sanskrit of namu was namas?

I'd say something French, I used to speak good French, but nowadays my French no es bueno.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.-The Sith Code
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby reciproque » Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:54 pm

Hi Masaru,

The opinion I have regarding Nichiren's leniency is based upon a lifetime of reading his writings and what has personally come across from that experience. To give an example, we have the letter "Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters". In this writing, Nichiren fails to mention anything negative regarding this woman's recitation of the phrase "Namu-ichijo-myoden" thousands of times per day, although he does say it amounts to the same thing as chanting Daimoku, which he then encourages her to do in place of the former. She also performs a number of other seemingly unrelated practices.

What is noticeable in this letter, and in so many others, is Nichiren's desire to carefully respond to a personal request from an individual who is not an erudite in the exegesis of Buddhist teachings. In addition, it reflects Nichiren's tendency not to pounce on issues of small consequences, a virtue many so-called Nichiren religionists fail to take into account these days. Their reluctance is based, in part, upon a misinterpretation of the often quoted slogan and rallying cry of Itai-Doshin. Such is the extent of the misunderstanding that it has become, ironically so, the source of disunity amongst Nichiren followers.

Hope this helps
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby nichirenista » Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:03 pm

What is Itai-Doshin?
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby reciproque » Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Hi Nichirenista,

Itai Doshin, 異体同心 (a single heart in different bodies). An expression often meant when speaking of a common goal of people with markedly different characters. Translated from http://www.nichiren-etudes.net

The nature of Itai Doshin is universal and well understood in its practical application, eg. all rowing together, on the same team, page etc. On a deeper level, it is the realization that the nature of Buddha exists in all things and that when we put faith in this principle we can accomplish any goal, even if it entails working together with individuals radically unlike ourselves - in mind and body.
Some contemporary schools use the term to discriminate between their special "in group" of believers, with a direct connection to the "true teaching", and those outside the group.
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Re: The acceptability of "Nam"

Postby Masaru » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:31 am

Masaru wrote:
reciproque wrote:I believe that Nichiren was far more tolerant about this than his modern day followers will care to admit.


Interesting viewpoint. What are you basing this view on?

reciproque wrote:Hi Masaru,

The opinion I have


I see.


reciproque wrote:Hi Masaru,

To give an example, we have the letter "Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters". In this writing, Nichiren fails to mention anything negative regarding this woman's recitation of the phrase "Namu-ichijo-myoden" thousands of times per day, although he does say it amounts to the same thing as chanting Daimoku, which he then encourages her to do in place of the former.


The translation of the text reads:
You ask if it is acceptable to recite the daimoku and the Namu-ichijo-myoden [without facing the object of worship] at such times.

Here, he is clearly distinguishing these two chants to the practitioner. They are completely different from one another. Later, he gently insists:
If unexpectedly you should feel yourself approaching death, then even if you are eating fish or fowl, if you are able to read the sutra, you should do so, and likewise chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Needless to say, the same principle applies during your period of menstruation.

Reciting the words Namu-ichijo-myoden amounts to the same thing. But it is better if you just chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, as Bodhisattva Vasubandhu and the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai did. There are specific reasons why I say this.

Respectfully,
Nichiren


Just as he distinguished the two chants previously in the letter, Nichiren again makes it clear that the daimoku must be read properly using the Nipponized Chinese, emphasizing that to do otherwise is not in the spirit of the Buddhist tradition of "Bodhisattva Vasubandhu and the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai" or of himself. Here we see that Nichiren is careful, but firm, in correcting a devout follower of some standing. He does not explicitly mention using a mangled form of the daimoku as it was not an issue at the time, but his strict stance of correct enunciation is evident.


rory wrote:Masaru: chanting 'namu amida bu' isn't a mantra (which involves sanskrit syllables) it's the buddha's name. Neither is Daimoku a mantra, it's the title of the Lotus Sutra. If you want to be true fundamentalist chant Namu Saddharma Punndarika Sutra (with the suitable diacritics to get the pronunciation exact.)


The fact that these "chants" have different technical designations does not mean that they should not be chanted properly. If doing things the right way is a crime, I guess I am a criminal. A criminal guilty of correctness.


rory wrote:In Japan, there are many esoteric mantras that come from the Sanskrit and chanted in a garbled Japanified version, just as they are chanted in a garbled Sinified version. If they work they work. I chant the Great Compassion Mantra and the Mantra of Amogapasa Kannon in Sanskrit (because i know better and have int'l friends who help me).


Nichiren refers to those esoteric schools as "traitors to the nation." Not a source we should draw from.


Myoho-Nameless wrote:French


I looked into it. Apparently it's some kind of Latin based pidgin which still has native speakers in Europe, and, like Basque, in other places where those people have emigrated. It's still a living language (?) and has some historical value.
A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure

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