Question: Why does the chant have to be in a foreign language? Why do the
terms have to be in a foreign language?

Answer: The sutra is in Chinese. Kumarajiva (344-413C.E.), an Indian Buddhist
scholar, traveled from India to China where he was invited to study Chinese. He
eventually translated the
Lotus Sutra into Chinese. It is his translation that we
recite. Nevertheless, the way we pronounce the sutra is not Chinese, but
Japanese.

In China,
kanji characters are used, and each kanji character has many
meanings. For example
kokoro means mind, spirit, heart, feeling. Namu from
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo means I devote my life to belief. If you were to
translate Namu-myoho-renge-kyo into English it would be a very long
Daimoku.
But in fact, it could not be Daimoku because it would be too long. If the writing
on the
Gohonzon were translated into the language of every country it would
never fit on the Gohonzon. Even among Japanese there is not one person who
understands the meaning of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and Daimoku. Japanese
know there is some writing on the Gohonzon. But to them Gohonzon and the
Lotus Sutra are a foreign language too. If the sutra was translated so that all
people could understand it, it would be like a dictionary, and morning and
evening Gongyo would take 20 to 30 hours to complete.

Within each
kanji there is very deep meaning. Our practice of reciting the Lotus
Sutra and studying this Buddhism deepens our faith. Don't think of
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and the sutra as Japanese, it does not belong to any one
country. Just accept this as the universal language of the Daishonin.
Kokoro
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
ON CHANTING IN A
FOREIGN LANGUAGE
With Reverend Raido Hirota
This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai
Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation volunteers