Dai Gohonzon

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Early photo of the Daigohonzon at Taiseki-ji

The Dai-Gohonzon, a mandala inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood, is the supreme object of veneration for the Nichiren Shōshū school of Nichiren Buddhism. Dai means "great" or "supreme" while gohonzon means "object of devotion."[1] The Dai-Gohonzon is housed at Nichiren Shoshu's Head Temple, Taiseki-ji.

Nichiren inscribed the first Gohonzon during his exile to Sado. Gohonzons chiefly comprise the names of numerous buddhas, bodhisattvas, Buddhist deities, and Buddhist teachers around the characters Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō Nichiren written down the middle.

Overview[edit]

Origins and attribution[edit]

Kaidan of the Dai Gohonzon, at Taiseki-ji, early 20th century

Nichiren Shōshū, and also Soka Gakkai, believe that Nichiren Daishōnin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon on the twelfth day of the tenth month, 1279.[2] Nichiren Shōshū and Soka Gakkai believe a passage in Nichiren's 'On Persecutions Befalling the Sage' proves the authenticity of the Dai-Gohonzon. The passage reads:[3][4]

The Buddha fulfilled the purpose of his advent in a little over forty years, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai took about thirty years, and the Great Teacher Dengyo, some twenty years. I have spoken repeatedly of the indescribable persecutions they suffered during those years. For me it took twenty-seven years, and the great persecutions I faced during this period are well known to you all.

Among non-Nichiren Shōshū Buddhists, there are two perspectives for viewing the authenticity of the Dai-Gohonzon. The main doubt about the authenticity of the Dai-Gohonzon centers on the argument that there is no available letter from Nichiren Daishōnin, in which he declared that he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon. It is notable also to mention that there is no disputed or forged letter either, which would have falsely attributed the inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon to Nichiren.

In addition to the argument about a letter for confirming the validity of the Dai-Gohonzon – there are other issues and arguments about the authenticity and attribution to Nichiren.[5][6]

Most branches of non-Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism dispute this history as well as the legitimacy of the Dai-Gohonzon, asserting that its inscription by Nichiren Daishōnin is not substantiated by documentary evidence which can be attributed to him.[7] Another issue brought forward by non - Nichiren Shoshu believers is that the first historical evidence to the Dai-Gonzon was not made before the 15th century during the tenure of 9th High Priest Nichiu. [8]

Role of the Dai Gohonzon[edit]

Aside from Nichiren Shoshu, the non-Nichiren Shōshū Buddhist schools — including the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shū and Kempon Hokke — do not believe that the Daigohonzon is superior to other Gohonzons.

According to SGI teachings, a home-enshrined Gohonzon is equal in its significance and spiritual value as the Daigohonzon. SGI state:

The Gohonzon we pray to each day in our homes or at our SGI community centers is endowed with exactly the same power of the Law inherent in the Dai-Gohonzon, both reflecting our inherent Buddha nature. Those who assert that one must visit a particular place to receive benefit are in effect turning on its head the very spirit of Nichiren Buddhism. The Daishonin’s teachings exist to relieve the suffering of, and bring happiness to, all people throughout the world.[9]

According to SGI teachings, the power of the gohonzon is not found in an external mandala, but through one's inner faith: "It is one’s faith in the Lotus Sutra, the Gohonzon, that brings forth Buddhahood in our lives."[10]

Account of the Fuji Branch[edit]

Main article: Nichiren

Fuji Branch refers to the denominations (particularly Nichiren Shoshu) stemming from his disciple Nikkō. These schools believe that Nichiren inscribed the Dai Gohonzon, a Gohonzon unique to the Fuji Branch schools.

The Fuji Branch believes that in the autumn of 1279, a number of Nichiren's laypeople in the Fuji District were targeted by Gyōchi[11] (行智), the chief priest of a temple where Nisshū (日秀), one of Nichiren's disciples, lived. The believers, uneducated peasant farmers from the village of Atsuhara, had come to help Nisshū with the harvest of his private rice crop. Gyōchi calls some local warriors to arrest the peasants, accusing them of illegally harvesting the rice. The peasants decide to defend themselves when the warriors arrive but were no match, and several were wounded; twenty were arrested and hauled off to Kamakura for trial. When they arrive, Hei no Saemon[who?] is waiting for them, and he attempts to intimidate the peasants into renouncing their faith — on pain of death if they do not, but in exchange for their freedom if they do. Despite repeated threats and even torture, they remain steadfast. Hei no Saemon has three beheaded, but the other 17 refuse to back down and he eventually frees them. The Fuji Branch believes that these events took place on October 15, 1279.[citation needed]

The Fuji Branch believes that Nichiren Daishōnin, observing from his disciples' reports, reveals the Gohonzon that he intended to fulfill the purpose of his advent in this world (出世の本懐: shusse no honkai). On October 12, 1279, he inscribes the Gohonzon known as the "Dai-Gohonzon," which – in contrast to other Gohonzon inscribed in this period – is intended for worship by all his disciples and believers, contemporary and future, rather than just the specific individual named on it.

See also: The Fuji-lineage

Other "Dai Gohonzons"[edit]

In addition to Nichiren Shoshu school, the Fujisan Honmon Shoshu school also claim possession of a Nichiren-inscribed Dai Gohonzon called The "Dai Honzon". The Dai Honzon is the Object of Devotion of Fujisan school and it is enshrined at Hota Myohonji Temple.[12] This dai mandala carries the description of “The Great Object of Worship to Save and Protect for Ten Thousand Years." and carries a signature of “Jogyo Nichiren “.[13]

As for the authenticity of this Dai Honzon, there is no mention of arguments among any of Nichiren schools which would question its validity. Both the Dai Gohonzon at Taisekiji and the Dai Honzon at Hota Myohonji were not mentioned in available Nichiren letters.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Soka Gakkai, 1999 (available online here.)
  • The Life of Nichiren Daishonin. Kirimura, Yasuji. NSIC, 1980
    Note: NSIC, publisher of the foregoing the above work, is no longer connected with Nichiren Shoshu.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.sgi-usa.org/memberresources/resources/gohonzon/gohonzon.php
  2. ^ Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka gakkai, "Dai-Gohonzon":"The object of devotion that Nichiren Daishōnin inscribed at Minobu, Japan, on the twelfth day of the tenth month in 1279."
  3. ^ Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka gakkai, "Dai-Gohonzon"
  4. ^ Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Soka Gakkai, Volume 1, p. 996
  5. ^ "Questions and Answers about the Dai-Gohonzon". 
  6. ^ "The Taisekiji Dai-Gohonzon Myth". 
  7. ^ "Where is Nichiren’s Reference to the Dai Gohonzon?" Evers, Hope. December 9, 2005. Retrieved July 11, 2007
  8. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (1991). Fire in the Lotus, The Dynamic Religion of Nichiren, London: Mandala, ISBN 1852740914, page 171
  9. ^ "FAQ". Soka Spirit. Soka Gakkai. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  10. ^ http://www.sokaspirit.org/resource/world-tribune/about-the-dai-gohonzon
  11. ^ Stone, Jacqueline I. (2014). The Atsuhara Affair: The Lotus Sutra, Persecution, and Religious Identity in the Early Nichiren Tradition, Japanese Journal of religious Studies 41 (1), 160-162
  12. ^ Honmon Shoshu, The Hon-in-myou Daihonzon
  13. ^ http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/GohonzonShu/016.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)