I have been chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (daimoku - Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism) for about 4.5 years. I also regularly attend Soka Gakkai International (SGI) meetings. I have experienced a lot of benefits from the practice.

But, I have been unable to understand what technically happens when we chant. I have read in some of the texts that we create a good karma when we chant or some of the questions here answered that the "act" of chanting leads us to the path of enlightenment.

But, being a Physics student, I am interested in knowing what exactly happens when we chant. For example- when I chant, I generate sound energy. Now that energy would have some temporal variation as the words "Nam" , "Myoho" etc. would have different sounds but the ratio of amplitudes and frequencies would be almost equal for each person.

I would be happy if someone can give a technical explanation of what exactly happens when we chant.


11 Answers 11


The simple explanation is that you are practicing mindful concentration. The latter threefold division of concentration required in the Noble Eightfold Path. Whether you are doing sitting meditation, chanting sutras, calling the name of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or chanting mantras, or even following the monastic discipline Vinaya as a monk. You can't simply concentrate on anything though, importantly it must be Right Mindfulness that is skillful.

Abandoning the wrong factors of the path "One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness...

"One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one's right mindfulness...

"One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one's right mindfulness...

"One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one's right mindfulness...

"One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one's right mindfulness..."

— MN 117

Chanting holy names is within this criteria, as with Myoho Renge Kyo -the Sublime Dharma of Lotus Sutra, as they do not promote bad unskillful thoughts and encourage positive reverential emotions. (With the added possibility of divine intervention..) The practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is said to lead to liberation from mental afflictions by the purification of mind, speech and action.

As exactly how the exact mechanics of this works, I can't say for certain, but it does work. Abandoning negative thoughts does wonder for the mind and body. At certain level of concentration you enter what is called the Jhana/Chan/Zen where feelings of bliss and peace arise, and is also a state where you can make many realizations. This is certainly possible through chanting.

  • 1
    Excellent answer, as for the mechanics have a look at this video from Gary Weber where he goes into scientific details about it, including the Default Mode Network and the effect of mindfulness on it: What "no thoughts" means - 3 different kinds of thoughts
    – Luis
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 13:16

On the physics side of things, yes, the vibrations do resonate with a frequency necessary to make the connection.

I am also a NMRK practitioner and the way that I see it:

  1. The gohonzon is a representation of various deities who will help and protect you as the Lotus Sutra professes
  2. opening up your altar and closing it acts as a gateway to summon them into your daily life. This is why we do not keep the altar open always but only open when doing gongyo for the day/evening.
  3. sincerity and a lack of self-sabotage are all that is necessary for the deitys' help to reach us.

Going back to the physics side of things, I would suggest that you also add another mantra to your practice, paricularly one with the "A" vowel in it because there is no "A" vowel in the NMRK mantra.

I have been practicing various mantras in conjunction with NMRK and have not had any conflicts but I would suggest to choose Buddhist mantras such as om mane padme hum or the great zhunti mantra.

Also practicing anapana (samatha) and vipassana meditation both are conducive to better spiritual practice and the NMRK practice is no exception.

  • Funny you should mention doing samatha as supplement to mantra practice. Chan teacher Sheng Yen recommended the same, but in reverse. He recommended daily mantra work to supplement meditation! youtu.be/QO7E48Pg2rQ
    – user698
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 15:55
  • Nice. That is the truth but in my NMRK circles many people are very opposed to anything other than NMRK because of laziness or because the sutra states that one needs nothing other than chanting this Lotus sutra for full awakening. Whicb is my many do not believe the validity of the said sutra.
    – Ahmed
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 16:26
  • Well, thanks for the answer but this was not particularly what I was looking for. I was looking for a more scientific explanation for the working of daimoku (and gongyo).
    – user7277
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 8:45
  • It has the same science as all mantras. Various deities swore to Buddha to help those who uphold this mantra etc.
    – Ahmed
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 14:42

Chanting raises your personal vibration. Chanting vibrates on a high frequency so when you chant consistently, you vibrate on a higher frequency therefore the universe must mirror back to you what you are signaling out because we live in a attraction base vibrational universe.

-Also listen to the teachings of Abraham Hicks she really breaks down vibration, frequency etc.

We live in a field of Vibration We Physical beings are also vibration Our dominate thoughts, feelings and action is what the universe is mirroring

We experience High Vibration/Frequency when we are Feeling Good. (releasing Resistance)

Everything we desire is because we feel our desire will make us feel good

So Chanting and Meditating are perfect examples that help raise the personal vibration. But it has to be done consistently and you must be patient.

The teachings of the Buddhist practice is to live with absolute happiness, meaning Unconditional Happiness.

Happy feelings= high vibration Everything you want= high vibration Who we are naturally= high vibration

Living with unconditional Happiness, meaning feeling good no matter what and being positive attracts what you want.

But understand EMOTION/FEELING is truly the important manifestation. The actual manifestation is just the proof of your alignment.

the feeling is the real manifestation,whatever feels good... continue to do it

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    What is personal vibration? What does than mean in relation to the Buddha's teaching? What is vibrating?
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 12:34
  • What is Emotion/Feeling in relation to the Buddha's Teachings. How can you relate High Vibration to Uddhacca-Kukkucca? Restlessness (uddhacca) is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought to thought with speed and frenzy; worry (kukkucca) is remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible undesired consequences. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 14:02
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    This term 'personal vibration' and others like it are thrown around a lot. What exactly does it even mean? It sounds like a quote from some new age book.
    – Arturia
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 21:50

I'm French and have been practicing 29 years. I apologize for my English writing.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo makes a high vibration, 7.5hz, the same as the earth's. Inside our body all cells will activate emotions and feeling registered in Alaya consciousness. At the same time, our life is connected To the Universe. Following our desires High mains convictions, the Universe sends the results back like a mirror. So your goal and desire need to be clear and to be useful to our life and kosen rufu.

I got achieved many good results and some of them have been very wonderful.

  • Evidence of these vibrations and alaya consciousness please. It all sounds a bit new agey.
    – Arturia
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 21:46

This is not necessarily an answer, just adding to the questions, as I seek the answer myself.

For a testable hypothesis, we must clearly define what we intend to test for. I tend to find SGI members' explanation of chanting or its powers to be insufficient, superstitious or dissatisfying. To develop a hypothesis on what chanting does, we can source from Nichiren's writings. We could also ask a sample of practitioners what the effects are and perhaps test the 3 most common responses.

I would also be interested in testing "prayer" and determining where chanting ends and prayer begins. We could possibly need an alternate word for prayer in the Buddhist sense, as prayer to a Buddhist is not necessarily equal to prayer for a theist.

Then, we must construct a test. We would test the hypotheses. This is partly where I get hung up and would be interested in actual scientists conducting research.

One thing I think makes testing the realities of chanting difficult is this concept in Buddhism of manifest and latent effects. Say you want to test how fast someone can achieve a goal, by chanting or not chanting. At least if I test this as myself only, there's this problem: If tasked with the same goal, once while chanting and once while not, some things to consider. Either way, the second time would likely be faster, as I would have a previous exposure to the task, although some alteration (like making through a maze with the same distance and number of turns, but different arrangement each time) could reduce the effect of this. Also, there's this chance that the chanting wouldn't manifest in an immediate effect, remaining latent until some other time, possibly during a chant-free test.

So, I have this experiential issue. I really wish I could split my life in two, like a multiverse theory (which I don't really believe in), where one instance of me goes through life chanting and another instance goes through life not chanting. Then, examine each life at the end. Which is preferable? This isn't going to happen, so we have to test some other way, like having some kind of task performed, measuring the quality, speed with which the task is done. There are almost an infinite number of tests that could be performed.

One other problem I can see in testing is a "spooky action at a distance" concept. Like my desire to split my life, we could try to use perhaps twins who had been separated at birth (let's try to stay ethical?). However, like a split atom showing responses to stimulation of its distant counterpart, my chanting self or the chanting twin could affect the distant/separate counterpart. Can we account for this kind of effect in the test?

I'll outline a few variables that we could test: - Short term task - Long term task - Neuro imaging (before, during, after chanting) [this is one of the more objective angles I'm curious to see actual tests on] - Chanting "Nam myoho renge kyo" - Chanting other Buddhist chants/mantras - Chanting nonsense - Chanting "negative" words/phrases - Silently chanting any of the above - Not chanting at all - Chanting in front of a gohonzon - Chanting without a gohonzon - You could use other "objects of devotion" or focal points as well - Frequency of chanting (once, twice, 3x daily, or more?) - Duration of chanting (single daimoku? 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1hr, 2hr, as long as possible?)

Not seeming a concept of Nichiren Daishonin; apparently originating with Lynda Johnson, is this idea of "making the impossible possible" (by chanting). So, we could test something seemingly impossible, like putting test subjects into a room, between two rooms. The room on the left has a candle. the room on the right has a matchbook. Both the rooms with objects are locked and generally inaccessible to test subjects. The test subject is tasked with lighting the candle in one room and they are made aware of the matches in the other room. I would consider this rather seemingly impossible. Then, how much time is given any subject? It could take months or years to develop the karmic energy required to achieve such an "impossible" feat, solely through the power of chanting.

My personal hypothesis at this time is along these lines. Buddhists are often said to be "practitioners". What exactly are they practicing? I would argue that chanting [anything] has the effect of "distraction". It might also be called "centering". Typically, the place we set to chant is a place of peace and security. Chanting, somewhat unlike meditation, helps "clear the mind" as you generally are focused on the chant, although chanting can become like second nature and we can chant without thinking about it and our minds may wander. But, I think that that is what the chanting "does", after some time we will likely realize that our minds are drifting and you can bring it back the centeredness, focusing again on the chant.

So, what does that translate to, what is being practiced? I think that the chanter practices centeredness or self-distraction morning and night (as recommended by SGI/Nichiren). When you encounter a frustrating situation in your daily life, you can basically stop yourself before reacting, chant in your head or out loud, essentially distracting yourself from the frustration, or simply centering/grounding yourself. It "snaps you back" to your Buddha place, gives you a brief moment to rethink your response, and allows you to approach the frustration from a more rational place.

I theorize that chanting any phrase can achieve this same result. I also theorize the presence of a gohonzon or any other object would not have a noticeable effect on the results (although it could depend slightly on the task at hand and also if objects that cause test subjects anxiety could produce some negative result in the testing as well), but having subjects "focus" on anything will help them to recollect their Buddha place and increase their focus rate.

I'm not exactly sure how to test that.

A few fields of science may be needed to make strong determinations. - Physics - Neuroscience - Psychology - Anthropology

Here's hoping a few scientists might actually be able to shed some light on the realities of chanting. It's good to see I'm not alone in these thoughts.


Disclaimer: I have had involvement with SGI since 2002.


Yes. It would be exciting to find out the scientific aspect/explanation on the mechanisms of the act of of chanting daimoku. Arnold Toynbee had any explanation?

From personal experience I notice metabolism increase in accordance with using my voice and breathing; thus blood circulation is promoted. On a cellular level (I am a beauty therapist and masseuse and assistant nurse btw) I notice a clearer vibrant skin as a result.

From an energy perspective I feel "charged". I think this energy is what attracts others to us when newly-chanted. But energy is really in constant motion and can just as easily be lost. That's why new energy has to be produced morning/evening. The energy achieved puts us in a higher frequency (a bit like a "kick-in") and that's when we produce new happy thoughts and see solutions. Like consuming quality food! There can be not a single defect in chanting. But watch out for using chanting as an excuse to avoid doing some action needed - "escapism". I have seen and experienced this type of hide-away chanting.

The time spent on chanting according to Mrs Asano in Japan (world leader) if you have short of time to chant, your body/mind is SO smart that it can actually give you same effect in 10 minutes of chant as if you would have had in one hour. Here comes the physical law of Determination/Focus. And time is transformed into energy!

The explanation to this phenomenon is your attitude (you would so much like to chant longer but only have this amount of time etc)! What I must admit, however, is I lack physical motion as moving your body in motion at the same time. As I jog, do yoga, and tennis a lot. It would really be that extra complete thing in our act of chanting... Maybe in the future it will be so?


It's called placebo effect. You believe good things will happen and you focus on it so much that it ends up happening. It's not magic, just the power of belief/faith. On the other hand you could just be noticing the good things and then putting it down to the chanting whereas the good things were going to occur anyway. If it works for you then keep doing it but it's like prayer, what happens when good things don't occur but instead bad things happen? Is it because you're not praying or chanting hard enough?


I have been chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for 2 years. I do attend meetings (enjoy chanting in a group) for the social aspect. I was told to set a goal and then chant for that goal which I have been doing. To date I can honestly say I have not received benefits. When I reported this to the group initially I was told to keep chanting; so I did. I still have not obtained my goal. When I reported very recently to the group that I still had not obtained my goal, I was asked if I had taken action. Truth be known there is no action I personally can take to fulfill my goal. My thought is that if one can take action to fulfill a goal why in the world would you waste time chanting. Just go and do what you need to do to obtain your goal. I have concluded that it is most likely placebo effect and the benefits would have occurred without chanting. We can make ourselves believe anything!


Hello the Ah wovel is included in NAM (N-Ah-M) soundwise! No other practice is needed besides the chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Do not try to fix what is not broken. And any putting other practice besides chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is likely to become an obstruction.


By chanting at a nice low note, vibrating the mantra low in your body, it may stimulate your Vagus Nerve, and experience pleasant physical and psychological benefits.


Ihave beeen chanting for a goal over a year now ,hours a day attending meetings and doing activities i sometimes get exhausted hopeing tomorrow will be the day i am tired

  • This does not attempt to answer the question, which is; "What “technically” happens when we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo?". Please address the question.
    – user2424
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 17:09

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