The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon
- Nichinyo Gozen Gohenji -
I have received your offerings to the Gohonzon of five kan of coins, one horse-load of rice, and fruit.
Of the fifty years of teachings in the Buddha's lifetime, only during his last eight was this teaching revealed. The Lotus
Sutra, which was expounded during that period, explains the Gohonzon in the eight chapters from the Yujutsu through the Zokurui
chapter. After the Buddha's death, in the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, not even the term "object
of worship of the essential teaching" was mentioned, let alone the object itself being inscribed. Nor was there anyone capable
of inscribing it. T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo perceived it in their hearts but for some reason never expounded it, just
as Yen Hui realized the true meaning of Confucius' teaching but kept it secret. Yet the sutra itself as well as T'ien-t'ai
and Miao-lo's annotations explicitly state that the Gohonzon will appear in the first five hundred years of the Latter Day
of the Law, a little more than two thousand years after the Buddha's death.
Now, over two hundred years have passed since the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. How awesome
that Nichiren was the first to inscribe this great mandala as the banner of propagation of the Lotus Sutra, when even such
great masters as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo were unable to do so! This mandala is in no way Nichiren's
invention. It is the object of worship which perfectly depicts Lord Shakyamuni in the Treasure Tower and all the other Buddhas
who were present, as accurately as the print matches the woodblock. The five characters of the Lotus Sutra's title are inscribed
in the center of the Treasure Tower, while the Four Heavenly Kings are seated at the four corners. Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas,
as well as the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, are lined across the top. Seated below them are the Bodhisattvas
Fugen and Monju, and men of Learning, including Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. Beside them are posted the gods of the sun and
the moon, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, the Dragon King and ashura; Fudo and Aizen take up their stations to the south and
north, respectively. The devilishly treacherous Devadatta and the Dragon King's ignorant daughter attend, too. The demon Kishimojin
appears with her ten daughters, who sap the lives of people throughout the universe. Also present are the guardian deities
of Japan: Tensho Daijin and Bodhisattva Hachiman, representing the seven ranks of heavenly gods, the five ranks of earthly
gods, and all other major and minor gods in general. As all the gods appear in their essence, so must they appear in their
manifestations. The Hoto chapter states, "All the assembly were lifted and present in the air." Dwelling in the Gohonzon are
all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and great saints, as well as the eight groups of sentient beings of the two realms who appear
in the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Illuminated by the five characters of the Mystic Law, they display the enlightened
nature they inherently possess. This is the true object of worship.
This manifestation is what the sutra means by "all phenomena reveal the true entity." Miao-lo states,
"The true entity is invariably revealed in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the Ten Factors. The Ten Factors
invariably function within the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both life and its environment." T'ien-t'ai
states, "The profound principle of 'true entity' is the original Law of Myoho-renge-kyo." The Great Teacher Dengyo wrote,
"The entity of ichinen sanzen is the Buddha who obtained enlightenment for himself, and that Buddha assumes no august attributes."
Therefore this Gohonzon is the supreme mandala never before known, for it has not appeared until more than twenty-two hundred
and twenty years after the Buddha's death.
A woman who devotes herself to the Gohonzon invites happiness in this life; and in the next, the Gohonzon
will be with her and protect her always. Like a lantern in the dark, like a strong supporting arm on a treacherous path, the
Gohonzon will protect you, Lady Nichinyo, wherever you go. Therefore you should ward off slanderers as you would prevent a
courtesan from entering your house. That is the meaning of "Part with bad friends and seek out good ones."
Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary
people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The body is the palace of the ninth consciousness, the unchanging
reality which reigns over all life's functions. To be "endowed with the Ten Worlds" means that all the Ten Worlds without
exception are contained in the one world of Buddhahood. That is why the Gohonzon is called a mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit
word meaning "perfectly endowed" or "cluster of blessings." The Gohonzon is found in faith alone. As the sutra states, "Only
with faith can one enter Buddhahood."
Since Nichiren's disciples, both priests and laymen, believe in the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra, which
states, "...honestly discarding the provisional teachings" and "Never accept even a single phrase from other sutras," they
can enter the Treasure Tower of the Gohonzon. How reassuring! Make every possible effort for the sake of your next life. The
most important thing is to chant only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and attain enlightenment. All depends on the strength of your faith.
To have faith is the basis of Buddhism. That is why the fourth volume of the Maka Shikan states, "Buddhism is a vast ocean,
but only those with faith can enter." In interpreting this passage, Miao-lo writes in the fourth volume of his Guketsu, "Even
Confucius teaches that faith is first and foremost. This is all the more true with the profound doctrines of Buddhism! Without
faith, how can one possibly approach them? That is why the Kegon Sutra defines faith as the basis of practice and the mother
of blessings." The first volume of the Maka Shikan further states, "How does one hear, believe in and practice the perfect
teaching to attain perfect enlightenment?" Volume One of the Guketsu interprets this: "To 'believe in the perfect teaching'
means to awaken faith through doctrine and make faith the basis of practice." A classical document tells of the Emperor of
Han, who so implicitly believed his aide's report that he found the river actually frozen. Another relates how Li Kuang, eager
to revenge his father, pierced with his arrow a boulder hidden in the grass. T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo's annotations make it
absolutely clear that faith is the cornerstone. Because the Han emperor believed without doubt in his retainer's words, the
river froze over. And Li Kuang was able to pierce a rock with his arrow because he fully believed it to be the tiger which
had killed his father. Faith is still more powerful in the world of Buddhism.
Embracing the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo encompass all five practices which the Great
Teacher Dengyo personally inherited from Priest Tao-sui when he journeyed to China. This is the primary teaching for Nichiren's
disciples and believers. It is the practice which appears in the Jinriki chapter. I will give you more details later.
The twenty-third day of the eighth month in the third year of Kenji (1277)