Dai Gohonzon

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The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings
Japanese: 大御本尊, English: Dai-Gohonzon
Early alleged photograph of the Dai-Gohonzon at Taiseki-ji, printed in historian Kumada Ijō's book Nichiren Shōnin, 8th edition, page 375, published in 1913.
Artist Nichiren Daishonin (ink scribed)
Nippo Shonin (carved to)
Year 12 October 1279
Type Woodcarving plaque
Medium Japanese Camphorwood
Subject The Treasure Tower of the Lotus Sutra
Dimensions 143.5 cm × 65.02 cm (56.5 in × 25.60 in)
Location Taiseki-ji Head Temple complex, Hoando storage house, base of Mount Fuji, Japan.

The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings, commonly known as the Dai-Gohonzon (Japanese: 大御本尊 The Supreme (Great) Gohonzon or Honmon Kaidan Dai Gohonzon, Japanese: 本門戒壇の大御本尊) is a venerated calligraphic mandala image inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood. The image is the main object of worship in Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism, which claims that the image was painted by Nichiren on wood, then carved by his artisan disciple Izumi Ajari Nippo as the supreme object of worship and veneration by the Nichiren Shoshu faithful. The image was first explicitly mentioned in an official document issued by the ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin (1409–1482).[1]

The image is neither enshrined with Japanese Shikimi branches nor with Taiko drums. Furthermore, the image is not exposed for ordinary public viewing except on major events deemed such by Nichiren Shoshu. Due to beliefs of its sacred nature, its "audience" is restricted to only believing Hokkeko pilgrims.[citation needed] The recitation of gongyo ritual is not directly performed to the mandala, rather the ritual of Gokaihi is directly offered instead.

Prior to its expulsion, the image was widely venerated among Soka Gakkai historical founding leaders and its members. After the expulsion of the Soka Gakkai International by Nichiren Shoshu on 28 November 1991, its former building Shohondo in 1998 was demolished and reconstructed into the new Hoando in 2002. [2] Ultimately, on 7 November 2014, the president of Soka Gakkai, Minoru Harada, declared in SGI publication Seikyo Shimbun that the Dai-Gohonzon enshrined in Taiseki-ji Temple is no longer their main object of worship.[3] Nevertheless, a 1720 and 1951 rendition copy of the image is currently utilized by its members.

The High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, or at times his proxy, offers the daylight prayers called Ushi-Tora Gongyo to the image daily at 2:30 AM via a specialized window inside the Dai-Kyakuden from a distance area facing the Hoando building. The encounter between a believer and the image is highly discouraged as a tourist sightseeing event, but rather the ultimate fusion of a believer and his or her own Enlightenment. Among Gongyo prayers, the second recitation of the Lotus Sutra is offered and dedicated in honor of the Dai-Gohonzon.

Etymology[edit]

The Japanese word Dai means "great" or "supreme" while Go-honzon means "sacred object of worship."[4]

Description[edit]

The Dai Gohonzon is a wooden plank, composed of fragrant Japanese camphorwood believed to be inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin and rendered into wood by Nippo Shonin. The image approximately measures 56.6" inches by 25.6" inches wide. It is coated in black urushi with gilded characters composed of grounded 24k karat gold dust. On the bottom portion features the great Zo-han personal signature seal of Nichiren. It features a semi-rounded backing cage and rippled textured surface coated with urushi lacquer.

The image is notable for having two inscriptions, the words "Ya-Shiro-Kunishige-Hon-Mon-Kai-Dan-no-Hokke-shu" (Translation: Yashiro Kunishige, for the High Sanctuary of Essential Teachings of Image of Worship of the Lotus believers) and "Ichien-Bodai-So-Yo" which refers to the bestowal of this particular Gohonzon for the entire world and its benefit. The Soka Gakkai disputes the Ichien-bodai-Soyo inscription as either non-existent or forged by the Shoshu school.[citation needed]

The High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, or at times his proxy, offers the daylight prayers called Ushi-Tora Gongyo to the image in a distanced area at the Grand Reception Hall (Dai-kyakuden) daily at 2:30AM. At the Ushitora Gongyo conducted each midnight, the large bell are exactingly rung 68 times for each passed High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. The encounter between a believer and the image is highly discouraged as a tourist sightseeing event, but rather the ultimate fusion of a believer and his or her own Enlightenment.[citation needed]

Every year on April 6 or 7 at the O-Mushibarai ceremony, the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu takes on the formal task of cleaning the accumulated dust on the surface of the Dai-Gohonzon.[5][6] Sometime in the 1970s, the Ushitora Gongyo was performed around 12:00PM midnight at the request of Soka Gakkai, which was then restored to its traditional 2:30AM time slot by High Priest Nikken Shonin in 1992. Customarily, believers optionally dress in black formal garments in honor of the Dai-Gohonzon's audience, or at times in their national costume from respective countries.

History[edit]

The Gohozo treasury building, where the Dai-Gohonzon was stored after its removal from the Shohondo.

According to the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu basing on the disputed apocryphal Gosho writing Jogyo-Shou-den-Sho, the image was from the original Gohonzon made by Nichiren himself and transferred into wood by Nippo Shonin, one of his disciples. Nippo underwent through immense fasting and prayer to the dragon goddess Shichimen, the patroness of Yamanashi prefecture. The goddess answered his prayer by sending a log in a nearby river. Once stored in the Kuon-ji temple in Yamanashi Prefecture, the image was later carried by Nikko Shonin's disciple, Hyakken-bo to Taisekiji complex, where it remains today.

"Nippo (disciple) wanted to carve a statue of Nichiren. He then prayed to (Goddess) Shichimen Dai-myo-jiu. Was it an answer (Kannu) to his prayers? He found a log floating in the (river).[7]

The priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu claims that due to the alleged superiority of the Dai-Gohonzon as its main object of veneration, it is not enshrined with Japanese Shikimi evergreen plants. In addition to this pious belief, the hierarchy believes that the Dai-Gohonzon will not be exposed for complete open public view until kosen-rufu is achieved in the entire world, primarily referring to the beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu being the main dominant religion in the planet.[citation needed]

The twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, declared in his treatise Kan-jin-no-Honzon-Sho (The Verified Object of Worship) the following regarding the image:

The Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, inscribed in the second year of Koan (1279), is the ultimate, the absolute, and the final cause of the Daishonin's advent. It is the greatest among the Three Great Secret Laws and the supreme object of worship in the entire world. (Mondan-shu, pp. 197) [8]

The Nichiren Shōshū school and for a while the Soka Gakkai organization before its 1991 excommunication, have supported the theory that Nichiren inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon on the twelfth day of the tenth month, 1279 (Japanese: Ko-an).[9] Nichiren Shōshū adherents cite a passage in Nichiren's 'On Persecutions Befalling the Sage' that they assert supports the authenticity of the Dai-Gohonzon. The passage reads:[10][11]

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.

Account of the Fuji Branch[edit]

The Hoando storagehouse building in Taisekiji, where the Dai-Gohonzon is currently enshrined.

The Fuji Branch, sometimes referred to as the Fuji School, refers to the Nichiren Buddhist denominations stemming from Nichiren's disciple Nikkō. These schools believe that Nichiren inscribed the Dai Gohonzon, a Gohonzon unique to the Fuji Branch schools.[citation needed]

The Fuji Branch believes that in the autumn of 1279, a number of Nichiren's laypeople in the Fuji District were targeted by Gyōchi[12] (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. A peasant named Gyōchi called some local warriors to arrest the peasants, accusing them of illegally harvesting the rice. The peasants decided to defend themselves when the warriors arrived but were no match, and several were wounded; twenty were arrested and hauled off to Kamakura for trial. When they arrived, a local mercenary Hei no Saemon attempted to intimidate the peasants into renouncing their faith — on pain of death if they did not, but in exchange for their freedom if they did. Despite repeated threats and even torture, they remained steadfast. Hei no Saemon had three beheaded, but the other 17 refused to back down and he eventually freed them. The Fuji Branch believes that these events took place on 15 October 1279.[citation needed]

The Fuji Branch believes that Nichiren, 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 12 October 1279, he inscribed 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.[citation needed]

The Second Silent Prayer[edit]

The second recitation of the Lotus Sutra is offered and dedicated in honor of the Dai-Gohonzon. Out of the five authorised gongyo prayers by Nichiren Shoshu, the second silent prayer is considered the most auspicious and most significant, as stated by the following:

I express my sincere devotion to:

  • The Dai Gohonzon (of the High Sanctuary),
  • The Soul of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings,
  • The Supreme Law concealed within its depths,
  • The fusion of the Realm of Original Infinite Law,
  • The inherent Wisdom within the Buddha of Kuon Ganjo (English: Time Without Beginning),
  • The manifestation of the Buddha of Intrinsic Perfect Wisdom,
  • The Eternal Co–existence of the Ten Worlds, the entity of Ichi-nen-San-Zen,
  • The Oneness of the Person and the Mystic Law and,
  • The Supreme Object of Worship of the Most High Sanctuary.
  • I also express my deep and heartfelt gratitude for its Beneficence, and pray that its profound Benevolent Power may ever more widely prevail.[13]

Claims of forgery[edit]

Skeptics argue the lack of any letter endorsing or confirming the validity of the Dai-Gohonzon, along with issues of authenticity and attribution to Nichiren.[14][15]

Most branches of non-Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism dispute this history by asserting that its inscription by Nichiren is not substantiated by any documentary evidence that can be attributed to Nichiren.[16] Another issue brought forward by skeptics is that the image was not explicitly mentioned in any official documents until the Ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin (1409-1482)[17]. Ultimately, neither the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shū and Kempon Hokke today do not believe that the Dai-Gohonzon is superior to any other Gohonzons.

Former position of Soka Gakkai[edit]

Prior to its own expulsion, the Soka Gakkai upheld the supremacy of the Dai-Gohonzon.[citation needed] Accordingly, one of its 1958 publication titled Shakubuku-Kyo-Ten (折伏教典) manual previously stated the following:

There is no doubt that the true intention of Nichiren was to establish the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching of the second year of Ko’an (1279). This Gohonzon is the Gohonzon of the entire world. Nichiren Shoshu is the supreme and sole religion in the entire world.[18]

Accordingly, former So-koto (English: Highest lay leader) Daisaku Ikeda authored the following in his introductory book Buddhism in Action — Volume One in 1984:

The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism at the Nichiren Shoshu Taiseki-ji Head Temple, is the basis of all Gohonzons. The Gohonzon which we are allowed to receive so that we may pray in our own homes, can be inscribed only by one of the successive High Priests who inherit the true lineage of Nichiren Shoshu.[19]

"The foundation of Nichiren Shoshu as you know, is the “Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching”. That Dai-Gohonzon and the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law have been successively inherited by the High Priests since the time of Nichiren Daishonin. The traditions and doctrines have solemnly existed for 700 years. Faith based on this fundamental track of Nichiren Shoshu is correct faith, and possesses boundless benefits. We must never lose sight of this fundamental track because of our own faith becoming impure or arrogant." — Daisaku Ikeda.[20]

Current position of Soka Gakkai[edit]

Since November 2014, the Soka Gakkai disputes that a home-enshrined Gohonzon is equal in both its significance and spiritual value as the Dai-Gohonzon enshrined in Taisekiji.[citation needed] As quoted by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda in 18 September 1993 for the September issue of Seikyo Shimbun Magazine:

"At the present time, the Soka Gakkai itself is the one and only group of united priests which receives and inherits the lifeblood (bloodline heritage) of faith." — Daisaku Ikeda, Seikyo Shimbun newspaper, 18 September 1993.

Though the organization vehemently states that it no longer upholds the image to be their object of worship in religious practice, the Soka Gakkai continues to use and disseminate a 13 July 1720 rendition of the Dai Gohonzon once transcribed by 18th century Taisekiji abbot, Daini Ajari Kenjuin Nichikan Shonin, the 26th High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. In addition, a wooden mandala transcribed in rendition of the Dai Gohonzon image by Settsu Mizutani Nissho Shonin (The 64th High Priest) on 1 May 1951 is also enshrined and venerated within the General Headquarters of Soka Gakkai in Shinjuku ward in Tokyo.

Formerly, an entry of the Dai-Gohonzon previously appeared in the SGI Dictionary of Buddhism no longer exists. In an effort to move away from traditionalist Buddhist piety and religiosity that mixes Japanese folk traditions, the current SGI stance states:

"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 (i.e. High Sanctuary of Essential Teachings) 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."[21]

On 8 November 2014, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada stated in the Soka Gakkai's daily newspaper, the Seikyo Shimbun, re-printed in the December issue of World Tribune magazine in December 2014 for English readers:

"With this awareness and the responsibility that comes with it, the Soka Gakkai will designate the Gohonzon for realizing kosen-rufu.

The Soka Gakkai does not regard the (Dai) Gohonzon that was inscribed in the second year of the Koan era (1279) and is located at Taiseki-ji, now a center of slander of the Law, as the object to be accepted and upheld in terms of actual practice. At this time, as we enter the new era of worldwide kosen-rufu, I (SGI President Harada) wish to clarify this for the sake of the future."[22]

The current SGI stance is that the power of the Gohonzon is not found in any external image, but through one's inner faith: "It is one’s faith in the Lotus Sutra, the Gohonzon, that brings forth Buddhahood in our lives."[23] The same sentiment is echoed by using Nichiren's words: "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself." from one of his significant writings, "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon".

Places of former storage and enshrinement[edit]

The image is under the ownership and custody of the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood. In the past, the Dai-Gohonzon image was stored at the Shimonobo temple in Fujinomiya. Later it was enshrined in the Great Kaidan hall as well as the Gohozo treasury building of Taisekiji. In October 1972, the image was enshrined in the Shohondo building funded by Nichiren Shoshu members, Soka Gakkai members, Kempon Hokke Shu believers, and family relatives of Nichiren Shoshu temple priests. The building was demolished in 1998.

The image was removed from the Sho-Hondo in April 1998 and was temporarily stored in the Go-Hozo treasure house. The image is presently located in the Shumidan (Japanese: Mount Sumeru) high altar within the Hoando building of Taisekiji, which contains 5,004 reserved seats for Nichiren Shoshu members, 236 Tatami mats for priests, and a center chair for the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu.[citation needed]

The Hoando building also boasts an advanced automatic metal door similar to an awning, while the Butsudan is manually opened but locked with a specialized toolbar preventing it from possible seismic, fire damage or criminal theft. Lay members are only permitted to enter the Hoando building in formal attire, with a validated ticket reservation obtained by a Koto leader, as each seat is always strictly accounted for.[citation needed]

Gallery[edit]

In the Honmon Shoshu sect[edit]

In addition to the Nichiren Shoshu school, the Fujisan Honmon Shoshu school also claims 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.[24] This dai mandala carries the description of "The Great Object of Worship to Save and Protect for Ten Thousand Years" and carries the signature of Jogyo Nichiren.[25]

As for the authenticity of the Dai-Honzon, there is no mention of arguments among any of Nichiren schools questioning its validity. Neither the Dai-Gohonzon at Taisekiji temple and the Dai-Honzon at Hota Myohonji temple were mentioned in available Nichiren letters that are in existence.

Accordingly, the Nichiren Honshu school concedes that the Dai Gohonzon of Taisekiji Temple is itself an important Gohonzon, though not the most superior as intended by Nichiren, rather a memorial Gohonzon carved for Yashiro Kunishige, whom they believe to be the martyr included in the Ryusenji Moshi-Jo Petition written by Nikko Shonin in proxy of Nichiren Daishonin for the arrest warrants issued in 1279.[citation needed]

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.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel B. Montgomery: Fire in The Lotus. Mandala 1991, page. 171.
  2. ^ "Nichiren Buddhism Is for All People - World Tribune". 11 July 2016.
  3. ^ 聖教新聞の平成26年11月8日号の「創価学会の原田会長が大石寺の弘安2年御本尊受持対象否定を宣言」全文英訳 , (Seikyo Shimbun, 8 November 2014. page no.3)
  4. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
  5. ^ Nichiren Shoshu Monthly: April 2016 edition. Pp. 18-21. "Why seeing the Dai-Gohonzon is important to our faith. "
  6. ^ http://www.nichirenshoshumyoshinji.org/ceremonies/mushibarai.php
  7. ^ Nippo Den (English: The Biography of Nippo), Fuji Seiten Press, pps. 731-732
  8. ^ http://www.nichirenshoshumyoshinji.org/sermons/2008/12_08_okyobi.php
  9. ^ Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka gakkai, "Dai-Gohonzon":"The object of devotion that Nichiren inscribed at Minobu, Japan, on the twelfth day of the tenth month in 1279."
  10. ^ Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka gakkai, "Dai-Gohonzon"
  11. ^ Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Soka Gakkai, Volume 1, p. 996
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ The Liturgy of Nichiren Shoshu - http://www.bahaistudies.net/asma/nichirenshoshu.pdf
  14. ^ "Questions and Answers about the Dai-Gohonzon". Archived from the original on 2012-03-23.
  15. ^ "The Taisekiji Dai-Gohonzon Myth".
  16. ^ "Where is Nichiren’s Reference to the Dai Gohonzon?" Archived 2007-11-02 at Archive.is Evers, Hope. December 9, 2005. Retrieved July 11, 2007
  17. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (1991). Fire in the Lotus, The Dynamic Religion of Nichiren, London: Mandala, ISBN 1852740914, page 171
  18. ^ http://www.worldcat.org/title/shakubuku-kyoten/oclc/42774278 - Pages 218-219
  19. ^ Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhism in Action, Nichiren Shoshu International Centre, Volume One, 1984, pps. 20-21 https://books.google.com/books?id=DGQjmAO6yP4C&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=buddhism+in+action+volume+1&source=bl&ots=kRj99qoCoU&sig=WD0ZJpwSQNa9pYMMOLNnNR8xn3M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjE-ejkqrDYAhXI31QKHZ4RB_QQ6AEIYDAG#v=onepage&q=buddhism%20in%20action%20volume%201&f=false
  20. ^ Daisaku Ikeda, 1984, (Kofu-to Jinsei o Kataru, Volume # 6, pages 41-42)
  21. ^ "FAQ". Soka Spirit. Soka Gakkai. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  22. ^ The World Tribune Magazine, December edition. 12 December 2014. (Anglicized reprint) https://www.worldtribune.org/2016/07/nichiren-buddhism-people/
  23. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  24. ^ Honmon Shoshu, The Hon-in-myou Daihonzon
  25. ^ http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/GohonzonShu/016.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)