35 Day Practice Day 5

35 Day Practice Day 5

Today we begin to tackle the reading of Chapter 16 in Shindoku. Here is a link to a PDF file of the Romanized text the portion of Chapter 16 which is read during services in Nichiren Shu. This important portion of the Lotus Sutra is read in all denominations of Nichiren Buddhism.

Let me explain a little about Shindoku so you will have an idea of what it is. Shindoku could be considered a liturgical language. Though it wasn’t originally considered as such in this modern time it has taken on the aspect of such. By liturgical language I mean it is a special language that really isn’t spoken by anyone as a matter of course. It is kind of like the position of Latin is today. It really isn’t a living language, and many people who might otherwise be familiar with it do not actually know what it means without special training.

The pronunciation of Shindoku is based upon the Chinese characters, which I have omitted from the PDF file for ease of reading. I will note here that the omission of the Chinese characters is not considered the best thing to do and is discouraged normally. I am however breaking with this convention in this instance simply as an expedient to make the reading easier, perhaps or hopefully so.

Back to Shindoku, as I mentioned it is a Japanese reading of the Chinese characters that has its origins way back to the 8th century or so when Chinese writing and culture was brought to Japan. Without going into a lot of detail you could say it is archaic. It is not easily recognizable to either the Chinese or to the Japanese when spoken, though it is readable if one is trained, and more easily read by Chinese.

There is some debate as to whether or not we need to continue the practice of reading in Shindoku as non Japanese or non Chinese. Some people say it isn’t necessary and we shouldn’t emphasize the practice, other disagree. I myself fall on the side of continuing the practice of using Shindoku and do so at the temple here for all of our services.

My reasons for doing this is to assist in creating a transcendent experience as we do our Sutra practice. It may not have been the original intent when Shindoku reading was begun, but it wasn’t too long after it started when it was not easily intelligible to most people. When we read this section in our native language I feel there is too much of a tendency to focus on the meanings of the words. While knowing what it says is important since this is the most important part of the Lotus Sutra, I feel that when doing service it is potentially more beneficial to open ourselves up to a transcendent experience. This is just my opinion and so it may not be more valuable than other differing opinions.

Today for your practice, especially if you are new to the practice, I would like for you to print out the portion of Chapter 16 and begin to try to read it. This may be slow and very tedious. Please do not try to read the entire portion, I don’t want you to become frustrated. I do not know of anyone who when they began could easily get through the entire thing easily, even Japanese people struggle.

Today just read as much as you are able to read in your goal time minus 5 minutes. Leave 5 minutes to yourself to chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Be at peace with however much of the chapter you are able to read. Later on we will be reading the English so for right now just open yourself up to the mystery of the passage.

A short note on pronunciation standards. For those familiar with Spanish vowels they are the exact same. In English there is a slight difference. ‘A’ is pronounced as a short ‘a’ sound like ‘ah’. ‘I’ is pronounced as a long ‘e’ sound like ‘ee’. ‘U’ is pronounced like ‘oo’ in hoot. ‘E’ is pronounced like a long ‘a’ sound as in eh. ‘O’ is pronounced like a long ‘o’ sound as in row. ‘EI’ is pronounced like the long ‘a’ sound in hay. ‘AI’ is pronounced like the long ‘i’ sound in I. This is a rough guide to get you started.

The key today is to just get started doing this important practice. Again, this is a meditative practice so to the extent you are able keep your mind focused on the sounds. Be tuned in to all of your feelings, they are neither good nor bad, they just are.

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About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to http://www.myoshoji.org. I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.