Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate Law or true entity of life permeating all phenomena in the universe. Also, it is the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or daimoku of true Buddhism, one of the Three Great Secret Laws. The invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was established by Nichiren Daishonin, who first chanted it outloud on April 28, 1253, at Seicho-ji temple in the province of Awa. Its meaning is explained in the opening section of the "Ongi Kuden" (Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings) and elsewhere. Namu or nam derives from the Sanskrit word namas and is translated as devotion (Japanese, kimyo, literally, "to dedicate one's life"). This includes devotion of both the physical and spiritual aspects of one's life. The object of this devotion has two aspects, the Person and the Law. The Person signifies the original Buddha and the Law is the ultimate truth or Myoho-renge-kyo. These two are fundamentally one, and their oneness is manifested both in the person of Nichiren Daishonin who realized and manifested the ultimate Law, and in the Gohonzon in which he embodied his enlightenment. According to the "Ongi Kuden," the act of devotion (Japanese, namu) has two implications: One is to devote oneself to, or fuse one's life with, the eternal and unchanging truth (Japanese, fuhen shinnyo no ri); the other is that, through this fusion of one's life with the ultimate truth, one simultaneously draws forth inexhaustible wisdom which functions in accordance with changing circumstances (Japanese, zuien shinnyo no chi).
While namu derives from Sanskrit, Myoho-renge-kyo comes from Chinese. The inclusion in the invocation of both a Western (Indo-European) language and an Eastern language signifies the universality of this teaching. Myoho is the Mystic Law. From another viewpoint, myo, meaning unfathomable or beyond conception, indicates the true entity of life, and ho or law, its phenomenal manifestations. In terms of ichinen sanzen, myo indicates the life-essence (Japanese, ichinen), and ho, three thousand (Japanese, sanzen) different realms, which consist of the Ten Worlds, their mutual possession, the ten factors and the three realms--the laws according to which the life-essence manifests itself as phenomena. Since myo indicates the true entity of life, it is also interpreted as the fundamental enlightenment or the essential nature or the essential nature of the Law (Japanese, hossho), while ho, which corresponds to the phenomenal realm, indicates darkness or delusion (Japanese, mumyo). Renge means the lotus flower. The lotus blooms and seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect, which is one expression of the Mystic Law. In addition, the lotus grows and blooms in a muddy pond, which symbolizes the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of a common mortal. Kyo literally means sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha. The character for kyo originally meant the warp of cloth, and later came to have additional meanings of thread of logic, reason, way or law. It was therefore also used in the sense of a teaching to be preserved. The kyo of Myoho-renge-kyo indicates that Myoho-renge-kyo itself is the eternal and unchanging truth.
Sat or sad, the original Sanskrit for myo or mystic, is interpreted as perfect endowment. Therefore, Nichiren Daishonin teaches that the Mystic Law encompasses all laws and teachings within itself, and that the benefit of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo includes the benefit of conducting all virtuous practices.