Nichiren Shonin
Gohonzon Shu

O'Mandalas by St. Nichiren
[1222-1282]




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Early Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren, abbreviated style.

Chanting the August Title of the Lotus Sutra

Unlike the invocational nembutsu, the chanting of the daimoku seems to have had few, if any Chinese precedents. In Japan, as is well known, chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra in the formula "Namu-myoho-renge-kyo" was advocated by Nichiren (1222-1282), one of the leading figures in Kamakura Buddhist movements. Myoho-renge-kyo is the Japanese pronunciation of Miao-fa lien-hua ching (Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Wondrous Dharma, T.262.9:1-62), Kumarajiva's superb translation of the Lotus Sutra done in 406 and revered as authoritative throughout East Asia. Namu is a transliteration of of the Sanskrit namo- (from namas) and expresses devotion, verneration, praise, or the taking of refuge--in this case, with respect to the Lotus Sutra. Today, the daimoku is chanted almost exclusively by adherents of the various denominations of Nichiren Buddhism or by members of those new religions that claim some link with Nichiren's teaching. So closely is this practice associated with Nichiren's name that he is often assumed to have initiated it. This assumption may have been strengthened by traditional Nichiren hagiography, which relates how, on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth lunar month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), on the morning of his first public sermon, Nichiren rose before dawn, climbed Mt. Kasagamori in Awa province and, facing eastward over the Pacific Ocean toward the rising sun, chanted "Namu-myoho-renge-kyo!" for the first time. Many people, both Nichiren Buddhists and others as well, have evidently understood this as meaning not only the "first time" Nichiren himself chanted the daimoku but the "first time" it was ever voiced by anyone. However, as we shall see, Nichiren himself did not claim to have originated the practice of chanting the Lotus Sutra's title, and in fact insisted that Buddhist masters of the past had chanted it before him. Although Nichiren's specific claims about his predecessors may be open to qualification, Japanese scholarship in recent decades has established that Nichiren's practice of chanting the daimoku did indeed have antecedents. Moreover, within the early Nichiren community, this practice was understood variously, and not always in ways that accorded with what is considered orthodox doctrine by the major Nichiren denominations today.

Essay: "Chanting the August Title of the Lotus Sutra: Daimoku Practices in Classical and Medieval Japan," by Jacqueline I. Stone, from Re-Visioning 'Kamakura' Buddhism, Studies in East Asian Buddhism 11, edited by Richard K. Payne. Kuroda Institute: Univ. of HI: Honolulu. 1998. pp. 117-118.

Cosmic O'Mandala gif designed by Joseph David Price
Explanation below refers to halographs #007 and #025.

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Gohonzonsh»u (129 halographs)
Published by Rissho Ankokukai. 1947, 1999.
1 | 2 | 3A | 3B | 3C | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32A | 32B | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68A | 68B | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99 | 100 | 101 | 102 | 103 | 104 | 105 | 106 | 107 | 108 | 109 | 110 | 111 | 112 | 113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125

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