The words “nam-myoho-renge-kyo” pass their lips more often perhaps than any other words during the course of a day.
Jamie Silver and Kathy Fisher, both of Downers Grove, are part of the faithful followers of Nichiren Buddhism. In addition to their own chanting, which they both do individually for hours every day, they lead a local group or district, the members of which meet weekly at Silver’s house.
Chanting the words “nam-myoho-renge-kyo"—which translates to the title of the Lotus Sutra—“taps your highest life’s potential," Silver said. "That’s the key to this practice. Everyone has this potential. There’s not anyone who doesn’t.”
Both self-proclaimed seekers, Silver and Fisher discovered Nichiren Buddhism during the 1970s. Silver said she always “knew that there had to be something out there. That if I put my energy into something, it would come back channeled in the direction I wanted it to.”
She researched different types of Buddhism. “But they all said essentially that you had to let go of your attachment to your desires. Most forms of Buddhism say that," Silver said. "I thought to myself, ‘maybe next lifetime I’d like to give up my desires, but this lifetime, I want to keep them.”
Eventually, she found Nichiren Buddhism. “It says that your desires are enlightenment and will lead you to happiness. It will lead you to chant which changes your karma and makes you happy,” she said.
Chanting is “vibrational,” Silver said. “It’s as if you knew the name of the rhythm of life itself. Some people call that God. We call it nam-myoho-renge-kyo. We say it over and over again. It’s like hooking your life up to an electric current. And the interesting thing is that it doesn’t matter if you believe that it’s going to work or not. It’s the law of cause and effect. Chanting is making the cause and you will get the affect. It’s an extremely powerful cause that you make for your life.”
When chanting, Silver sits in front of the altar that she’s erected off of the living room in her home. “Every Buddhist has an altar in their home," she said. "It’s the place where we go every day to bring out our truest and best self. There’s a box with a scroll inside of it. The scroll is the depiction of the highest possible life condition. We keep candles, fruit and incense there.”
There are no rules to dictate how long people chant. Silver said that she typically does so twice daily for an hour or so at a time. “Some chant fifteen minutes a day, some chant hours. When I first started it was for five minutes and I saw huge changes in my life. I had been very depressed, and the minute I started, I started feeling more like myself,” she said.
Fisher said that people chant for changes, direction and wisdom. “The most incredible things happen when you chant. Everyone has things that they want to change. That becomes the focal point for you.
"I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have something that they’d like to change,” she said. “Chanting about a problem or situation that you want to change helps you to know which direction to go. In chanting, you’re fusing with the universe and you develop the wisdom to know what action to take. Prayer and action. It’s important that they go hand in hand.”
“I chant for wisdom to know how to tackle my situations. And I also chant for other peoples’ happiness," Fisher said. "This is a practice for oneself and for other people. I want to see everyone the happiest that they can become in their lives."
About three years ago, Fisher started the district that meets at Silver’s home. “We had a district in Naperville and it became so large that we split. That’s what happens, “she said. Weekly district meetings include sharing stories and support, and group chanting. Each meeting draws approximately a dozen people, of all ages, faiths and ethnicities.
“We have people from all over the world too—from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, and then people who are from around here. It’s a very multicultural group,” said Silver.
Chanting together in a group multiplies the amount of energy, she said. “The rhythm is so strong and you’re so focused.” Congregating gives them the “opportunity to chant for each other," Silver said. "We celebrate each others’ successes and chant for each other in times of need. And we’re an open family. We love more than anything to welcome new members.”
Editor's note: Nichiren Buddhism is sometimes associated with Soka Gakkai International, a controversial Buddhist organization based in Japan that has been characterized as a sect or cult. "It's just absolutely wrong," said Jamie Silver. "Cults are something that close you in; this isn't a closed environment. It's more a meditation. We don't fundraise at all. There are no dues and no money is ever collected."