The Meaning of Gongyo

What is Gongyo?

Gongyo is to recite the Lotus Sutra and chant Daimoku in front of the Gohonzon. The practitioners of Nichiren Shoshu have been carrying out the practice of Gongyo since the time of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. We recite the first part of the Hoben (“Expedient Means”-2nd) Chapter and the entire Juryo (“Life Span”- 16th) Chapter of the sutra and chant the Daimoku – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo – to the Gohonzon.

Practicing morning and evening Gongyo allows us to purify our lives, establish a happy life condition, and create our own desirable futures. Performing Gongyo every day without fail is a critical aspect of our practice.

We perform all five silent prayers in the morning and three silent prayers (the second, the third and the fifth silent prayers) in the evening.

The Silent Prayers

The First Silent Prayer

In this prayer, we offer the essence of the Mystic Law (Myoho) to the Shoten zenjin who protect the True Buddha and the Law at all times.

The Shoten zenjin gain their power to protect living beings from the essence of the True Law. This protection is included in the beneficial effects of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, hidden in the depths of the Juryo Chapter. Therefore, we offer the Shoten zenjin the essence of the Law and pray so that they may have increased power to protect the Mystic Law

The Second Silent Prayer

In the Second Silent Prayer, we express gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which is the essence of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, and give the highest praise to its great, beneficial effects.

Next, we offer appreciation to Nichimoku Shonin, who inherited the True Law from Nikko Shonin. Then, we express gratitude for all the successive High Priests.

The Third Silent Prayer

In the Third Silent Prayer, we acknowledge the virtues of Nichiren Daishonin: sovereign, teacher and parent to all people. We offer Him our thanks and repay our debt of gratitude. Following this, we praise the merits of the Second High Priest, Nikko Shonin, who received the Law of the Daishonin and directly passed it down. Nikko Shonin protected the Dai-Gohonzon and founded the head Temple, Taisekiji.

Next, we offer appreciation to Nichimoku Shonin, who inherited the True Law from Nikko Shonin. Then, we express gratitude for all the successive High Priests.

The Fourth Silent Prayer

In the Fourth Silent Prayer, we pray for the extensive propagation of the True Law. This prayer is entitled “Prayer for Worldwide Propagation.” When all the nations of the world become devout believers in the Mystic Law, global peace is certain. Kosen-rufu is possible through the efforts toward extensive propagation. Practicing shakubuku in order to accomplish wide-spread dissemination of the Law means that we devote ourselves to the Daishonin’s teachings because we are His faithful disciples.

With this spirit, the successive High Priests have been continuously conducting Ushitora Gongyo at the Head Temple every single day since it was initiated by Nikko Shonin. The High Priests have been praying for world-wide peace based on the expansive propagation of the True Law. In the same way, we, the members of Hokkeko, pray for propagation in this prayer and pledge our utmost efforts towards shakubuku.

In the second half of the fourth prayer, we pray to expiate karmic hindrances due to past slander and determine to deepen our faith. Additionally, we pray for our families’ harmony and comfort, and to achieve our individual goals.

The Fifth Silent Prayer

In the Fifth Silent Prayer, we perform a memorial prayer for the deceased. In this memorial prayer, we offer deceased individuals the benefits produced by reciting the sutra and chanting Daimoku. There is no other way for a deceased individual to attain Buddhahood. A prayer offered to the Gohonzon is the highest cause. That is why we make this supreme memorial prayer for the deceased.

Lastly, we recite “May the impartial benefits of Myoho-Renge-Kyo spread equally to the farthest reaches of the universe so that I, together with all other existence, may attain the tranquil state of enlightened life.” This means that all life in the universe is to be embraced by the merits of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and all can attain Buddhahood, equally. We pray that the land in which we live is filled with the merits of the Gohonzon. Then, we chant three Daimoku, and end Gongyo.

Hiki-Oaimoku is pronounced Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. By chanting these prolonged Daimoku after each recitation of the sutra we can express the meaning of the Mystic Law hidden in the depths of the Juryo Chapter.

In the evening, we offer the second, the third and the fifth prayers of Gongyo

Reciting the Hoben and Juryo Chapters

The reason for reciting the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter during Gongyo can be found in the Gosho, “Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters,” which states:

All chapters of the Lotus Sutra are excellent, but there are none better than the Hoben Chapter and Juryo Chapter. The others are, as it were, branches and leaves grown from the trunk of a tree. You should acknowledge this whenever you recite the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter. (Gosho, p. 303)

Accordingly, the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter are the core of both the Theoretical (Shakumon) and Essential’ (Honmon) Teachings of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin, of course, always read both chapters. It is important to keep in mind that this practice is to show the meaning and benefit of Daimoku – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Gongyo is called the supporting practice (Jo gyo), while chanting the Daimoku is called the primary practice (Sho gyo)

The Correct Attitude Towards Gongyo

It is important that we devotedly perform both morning and evening Gongyo in our daily practice of True Buddhism. Nevertheless, each individual’s situation varies. For example, different occupations require different work hours. Therefore, we perform morning and evening Gongyo according to our schedules.

During morning Gongyo, we pray that we may spend a meaningful day as children of the Buddha, and that we may realize the merit of Myoho in our lives. In order to make a fresh start daily, we recite the five prayers in the morning. During evening Gongyo, we extend sincere gratitude to the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood) for protecting us throughout the day.

Because the practice of Gongyo is so important, we must sit up straight and pay attention while facing the altar. During Gongyo, hold the Juzu beads in your hands, look at the sutra and read each word precisely.

When chanting Daimoku during Gongyo, put your hands together and hold them at the chest naturally. Look at the character “Myo” on the Gohonzon as much as possible. Again, there is no restriction as to how much or how long you must chant Daimoku. You may chant as long as you like. The Fifty-ninth High Priest, Nichiko Shonin, said:

To properly offer Daimoku, we should be careful to recite the words without negligence and put everything else out of our mind. Don’t chant with your voice too loud or too fast. (Koyo, 134)

We should face the Gohonzon solemnly and chant Daimoku calmly.

Taking the initiative to visit the Temples or the propagation centers where they are available, and doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku under the leadership of priests are essential to learn how to properly conduct Gongyo and to chant Daimoku correctly. Until new believers learn the daily practice, those who introduced them should demonstrate a good example by performing Gongyo with them.

The Benefits of Performing Gongyo and Chanting Daimoku

The Daishonin said, in “Conversation Between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man”:

If only you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come? This is the truth, and it is extremely profound. You should believe and accept it. (Gosho, p. 406; d. MW, vol. 5, p. 110-111)

As we are common mortals suffering from numerous difficulties, we will never be able to comprehend the Mystic Law or manifest the Buddha nature in our lives by ourselves. Therefore, we must perform Gongyo and chant Daimoku faithfully towards the Gohonzon, which is the manifestation of the True Buddha’s enlightened realization of Myoho. The Gohonzon embodies the ultimate merit, great benevolence, and will free us of suffering. During Gongyo, the Daishonin’s powers-the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law unite with the power of our faith and the power of our practice. Performing Gongyo is the only way to cause Buddhahood to manifest in our minds and inspire us to make great efforts. As the result of this, we can lead joyful and powerful lives.

The Twenty-sixth High Priest of the Head Temple, Nichikan Shonin, said:

The Gohonzon is endowed with power that is vast and deep, and works marvels. By chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to this Gohonzon we are able to realize our wishes, eradicate our negative karma, accumulate fortune, and carry out truth in our lives. (Mandan p. 189)

Believers have experiences of recovering from illness and overcoming poverty. This is proof of the Gohonzon’s beneficial effects. Whatever difficulties they may have overcome, these are only partial revelations of the Gohonzon’s power. These are superficial and temporary benefits, and are not all of the Gohonzon’s merits. We must apply ourselves and perform Gongyo and chant Daimoku every morning and evening. We must also devote ourselves to carry out shakubuku. Moreover, we must continue to maintain faith for three years, five years, ten years and more to open the door to and become closer to Buddhahood, which exists in our lives.

The purpose of faith is to attain Buddhahood, which is the highest realm. We must believe in the Gohonzon with our hearts, always perform Gongyo, and faithfully chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon. This is the only way to attain Buddhahood.