Nichiren Shonin
Gohonzon Shu

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




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This Gohonzon is referenced at Saikakudoppo's blog.

Rev. Ryuei on What is the Gohonzon?

Question:

If the Gohonzon is truly a reflection of our inner Buddha nature, a mandala used to help us focus our chanting, then isn't all of life the Gohonzon because all of life contains our Buddha nature and our Buddha nature is contained in all of life?

Response:

I agree in part, but here are some other considerations:

1. The word "Gohonzon" is used interchangeably with "mandala" and this is a mistake. The mandalas represent the Gohonzon (as do various other depictions like portraits or statues) but the Gohonzon is not an object that can be given or received and as far as I am concerned anyone who objectifies the Gohonzon is not practicing Buddha Dharma in any meaninfgul sense of the word.

2. Based on the Lotus Sutra and the gosho (esp. the five major works), the Nichiren Shu teaches that the Gohonzon is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha of the Original Gate who is no other than the Wonderful Dharma itself. To be even more specific (and a nod to artgrrl of the Kempon Hokke Shu who pointed this out to me) it is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha in the act of transferring the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching to all sentient beings during the ongoing Ceremony in the Air).

3. Being even more specific, and again going by the gosho and the T'ien-t'ai commentaries that Nichiren based his own teachings on - the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha of chapter 16 is the unity of the Trikaya - the Dharmakaya (Truth-body), the Sambhogakaya (Bliss-body), and the Nirmanakaya (Transformation-body). This is significant because it points out the relationship of the Buddha to the Buddha-nature to ourselves. This relationship is more complex than is usually presented.

4. Buddha-nature is what you call the Dharmakaya from the perspective of the Dharmakaya being our true nature. So Dharmakaya is the Truth that awakens or that one is awakened to - and it is no different than our own lives. This Dharmakaya is personified in Shingon as Mahavairocana Tathagata (Jpn. Dainichi Nyorai). But the Dharmakaya is not the Gohonzon of Nichiren Buddhism. Subsequently, there is more to our practice than just the potential of enlightenment which is Buddha-nature. There must be contact with the already actualized Buddhahood of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha to spark it off. That contact is Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

5. The Buddha as actualized Buddhahood, someone who has brought forth all the merits, virtues, compassion, and teaching-abilities of a full fledged Tathagata has two forms of that actuality - the Sambhogakaya or Bliss-body and the Nirmanakaya or Transformation-body. The Bliss-body is the spiritual form or nature of the Buddha. It is the Buddha's heart of realization which normally only advanced bodhisattvas can perceive. The Bliss-body has all the 32 marks, 80 minor marks, and infinite light (wisdom) and lifespan (compassion). The Bliss-body is usually personified as Amitabha Buddha, but this ever-present spiritual presence of light and life is not the Gohonzon of Nichiren Buddhism either. And neither is the Transformation-body which is the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. But the bliss and historical manifestation of Buddhahood are important and even integral to Nichiren Buddhism, as is the Dharmakaya or Buddha-nature.

6. And so we are brought to the radical interpretation of Chih-i (a.k.a., the Great Master T'ien-t'ai), which Nichiren also upheld, which differentiated the Buddha of chapter 16 from all the other Buddhas or Gohonzons of the other schools. The Buddha of chapter 16 brings together the universal potential of the Buddha-nature with the actualized Buddhahood of the ever-present Bliss-body and concrete manifestation in this world as Shakyamuni Buddha. The universal, the ideal, and the concrete all come together and touch our own lives through the medium of the Lotus Sutra, which happens in this age through the Odaimoku itself. The Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha as the unity of the trikaya is the fullest view of the Buddha. So the Gohonzon is the coming together of the Truth, the Wisdom which realizes it, and the Compassionate activity which shares it and actualizes it in others.

7. The Gohonzon is not an object, or just the historical Shakyamuni Buddha, or just the Buddha as a spiritual presence, or just the Buddha-nature, or just enlightenment as potential, or just enlightenment as something actualized outside myself, or some other person, or merely my own solipsistic self, or just an abstract principle, or just the Lotus Sutra as a text, or any of those things. One could say, perhaps, that the Gohonzon is where all these things come together for us in our own lives. But all of this is very exalted, very technical, and in the end perhaps just mystical gobbledy gook.

8. Perhaps it is best to say that the Gohonzon is awakening itself - no need to divide it into self or Other, this or that object, or box it physically or conceptually. It is awakening - A total devotion to the Wonderful Truth blooming like a Lotus Flower which all the Teachings point to.

9. Any ceremonies we do should primarily help us return to this primary point!

10. This is also why I have been known to say: "The only people who should receive mandalas are the ones who realize that they don't need one in the first place."

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2001.

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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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