How to Begin Your Practice of Buddhism

1. Chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as much as you can every day.

First read about Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to learn the meaning and hear how to pronounce the chant. Then, we recommend taking the "90 day challenge." Chant 30 to 60 minutes every day for 90 days and then look back and see how you have changed. The more you chant, the more results you're going to see. Chanting is a lot like exercise. Exercising works out your physical condition. Chanting works out your life condition. With exercise, if you work out one day, you won't see much of any results, even though it's already working. However, if you work out every day, you're going to notice yourself getting stronger. If you chant every day for 90 days, you'll begin to notice your life condition getting stronger. You'll feel happier, enjoy external pleasures more, be more sensitive to other people, be more aware of your environment in general (both the good and the bad), and many other things. It probably won't take all 90 days before you begin to notice yourself changing. It may only take a couple of days, or, for some people, just one session. The first thing that usually happens, even before you see yourself changing, is that other people see you changing. People may say things to you like, "There's something different about you. Did you get your hair cut?" Or they may just treat you differently. We don't always see ourselves very clearly.

2. You don't have to do all of your chanting at once.

You can chant 15 minutes here and 10 minutes there. Some people chant 15 minutes before they begin their day, then 15 minutes before bed. Or an hour at the beginning and ending of the day. Just remember, the more you chant, the more you're going to change.

3. Chant out loud.

It's preferable to chant out loud if at all possible. This isn't considered a prayer to some god that can hear all of your thoughts. It's really a determination to yourself and to living beings everywhere that you will attain enlightenment and help them attain enlightenment as well. Any determination has more power when you make it out loud. Also, when you chant out loud, you are not only saying it, but you're also hearing it. Including more of your senses in the process has more of an effect on you. It's okay to chant in your head if your circumstances don't allow you to chant audibly. Just be sure that it's really your circumstance preventing it and not your embarrassment. After all, it is your determination.

4. Find a quiet place with few distractions to chant.

You want to be able to focus as much as you can on your chanting - on the Buddha nature within you. This is, after all, Buddhist meditation. Try to find somewhere to chant that allows you to do this. If you don't have access to such a place, it's okay to chant wherever you can.

butsudan 5.If you can, set up an altar area.

This is not an altar to a deity or an idol. It's a place for yourself. It's a place you can relax and think. So you can legitimately think of it as an altar to and for yourself - an altar to your Buddha nature. That's really what it is. Additionally, the contents of the altar (to be listed in a minute) help further involve our senses in the experience of chanting. The altar can include some or all of the following: Candles; incense and incense burner; a bell or gong; green plants or clippings of plants in a vase; fruit or a bowl of rice; a table (to place these thing on). Keep your altar area clean, and try not to keep things like work assignments or lists of things to do there. Try to keep things there that help improve the ambience and experience of chanting. And please, no voodoo dolls of your enemies or sacrificial sheep!

juzu beads 6. Use beads on your hands.

Called juzu (prayer beads), they are generally worn by Buddhists while chanting. If you don't have any beads, it's okay to chant without them. The beads attune you to your sense of touch. Different Buddhist sects use different types of beads. Nichiren Buddhists use the beads shown in the picture. There are 108 beads around the middle, two tassels on the left and three tassels on the right. Holding them with your palms together and your fingertips touching symbolizes a Buddhist concept known as the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds and reminds us that it doesn't matter what mood or condition we're in, we can always directly tap our Buddha nature through chanting.

7. Don't quit chanting until you accomplish your determination.

It's easy to start chanting. And it's easy to stop. If you can discipline yourself to chant consistently for the full 90 day challenge, you're going to see undeniable signs of the Buddha within yourself. The effort required is definitely worth it.