Nichiren Shonin
Gohonzon Shu

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




Early Mandala inscribed by Nichiren Shonin



Early Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren, formal style.


Dr. Jacquie Stone on the Object of Worship, cont.

[Previous text]

Second, the object of worship not only is held physically to embody the three thousand realms in one thought-moment but also represents an attempt to depict this reality visually. In the case of configurations of statues, this enlightened reality of the eternal Buddha, described in the Lotus Sutra as the assembly in open space above Eagle Peak, is only suggested by the presence of the Buddha's original disciples, the four bodhisattvas, or by the two Buddhas, Sakyamuni and Many Jewels (Prabhutaratna, Taho), seated side by side in the jeweled stupa. Nichiren's mandala, however, is much more detailed. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is written vertically in large characters down the center. At the top, this central inscription is flanked by the two Buddhas, Sakyamuni and Many Jewels, who are in turn flanked by the four bodhisattvas. Below them, in the next row, are representatives of the bodhisattvas who are followers of the Buddha of the provisional and trace teachings, such as Fugen (Samantabhadra) and Monju (Manjusri), and the great voice hearers, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, flanked by the Buddhist tutelary deities Brahma and Indra, and King Mara of the deva realm. In lower rows still are representatives of the six realms: the devas of the sun, moon, and stars, King Ajatasatru, the wheel turning king, the asura king, the dragon king, the raksasa Kishimojin (Hariti) and her ten daughters, and the Buddha's cousin and traitorous disciple Devadatta. Also represented in the assembly are the sun goddess Tensho Daijin and Hachiman Daibosatsu, who for Nichiren together represented the kami of Japan. Beside them, the patriarchs T'ien-t'ai Ta-shih (Chih-i) and Dengyo Daishi (Saicho) are also accorded a place. The four deva kings guard the four corners of the mandala, and to either side appear the Siddham "seed characters" for the esoteric deities Fudo Myoo and Aizen Myoo, representing, respectively, the doctrines of "samsara is nirvana" (shoji soku nehan) and "the defilements are bodhi" (bonno soku bodhi). Passages from the sutra, expressing its blessings and protection, are inscribed to the right and left sides of the assembly; the choice of inscriptions sometimes varied according to the individual mandala. At the bottom is Nichiren's signature and the words: "This is the great mandala never before revealed in Jambudvipa during the more than 2,220 years since the Buddha's nirvana."

As will be seen from the description above, Nichiren's mandala includes not only Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities but also representatives of the evil realms, such as raksasa demons and the treacherous Devadatta. In including such figures, Nichiren followed not the text of Lotus Sutra itself--in which all beings in the six realms of transmigration are removed before the jeweled stupa is opened--but the principle of three thousand realms in one thought-moment, according to which even the Buddha realm contains the nine unenlightened states. In short, the mandala depicts the mutual inclusion of the ten realms. As noted above, Nichiren saw this concept as central to the three thousand realms in a single thought-moment, an emphasis visible in the mandala. A writing attributed to Nichiren explains:
The "Jeweled Stupa" chapter states: "All in the great assembly were lifted and present in open space." All the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and great saints, and in general all the beings of the two worlds [of desire and form] and the eight kinds of [nonhuman] beings who assembled in the introductory chapter, dwell in the gohonzon, without a single exception. Illuminated by the light of the five characters of the Wonderful Dharma, they assume their originally inherent august attributes. This is called the object of worship.

[Click here to learn more from Dr. Stone]

Source: Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A Kuroda Institute Book by Jacqueline Ilyse Stone. University of Hawai'i Press: Honolulu. 1999. pp. 277-278.

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explanatory text explanatory text

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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