Nichiren Shonin
Gohonzon Shu

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




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Gohonzon Mandala inscribed by Nichiren, formal style.


Secret Transmissions in the Hokkeshu
by Dr. Jacquie Stone

[Previous text]

We have already mentioned that some sections of these transmission texts deal with individual figures whose names are inscribed on the mandala. Among these figures are the kami Hachiman and Tensho Daijin, who represented for Nichiren the deities of Japan. The specific transmissions dealing with these two figures represent one aspect of the specifically Nichiren Buddhist appropriations of kami that would come to be called "Hokke Shinto." While not nearly as developed as those of Ryobu Shinto or Sanno Shinto, these transmissions attempt, using the kanjin-style hermeneutical techniques of word play and association by resemblance, to identify kami with the sacred sites and persons of the Hokkeshu. For example:
Sakyamuni appeared in the Western realm [India] and, in accordance with the original intent of all Buddhas, preached the Sutra of the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Blossom and declared, "Now this threefold world is all my domain." In our country, he appeared as Tensho Daijin [the Sun Goddess], and, through the ruler, protects honest people. This means that Sakyamuni and the Sun Goddess are one entity. In the Final Dharma age, he appeared as Nichiren, who made manifest the essential Dharma [of the daimoku], which is the true intent of the Buddhas. Thus Sakyamuni, [Bodhisattva] Superior Conduct, the sun kami, and Nichiren are simply one entity. One should reflect on these [names]: Sun Seed [an epithet of Sakyamuni], Sun Diety (nisshin), and Sun Lotus [Nichiren].
Equations of specific Buddhist and Shinto deities often involve claims about the legitimacy and authority of particular institutions. Here the authority of the Sun Goddess and the throne are assimilated to the Hokkeshu via the person of Nichiren, carrying an implicit challenge to the authority of other religious traditions, such as Sanno Shinto of Mt. Hiei, which also identifies Sakyamuni with the Sun Goddess enshrined at Ise, or the esoteric traditions of both Tendai and Shingon that equated Dainichi with the Sun Goddess. The identification of Nichiren with the Sun Goddess is especially pronounced in transmissions of the Fuji school, which exalt the status of Nichiren to that of the original Buddha. Consider, for example, this passage from the Ubuya sojo no koto, a Fuji transmission that deals not with the mandala specifically, but with Nichiren's parentage and the significance of his name. It presents itself as Byakuren Ajari Nikko's transcription of Nichiren's words:
"Nichiren" is the natural name of Mt. Fuji. Fuji is [simply] the name of the district. [The mountain's] real name is Dainichi-renge-zan [Great Sun Lotus Blossom Mountain]. Because of my practice of the Middle Way, the country is thus called Nihon [Sun Origin], and its kami is the Sun Diety. The Buddha's childhood name was Crown Prince Sun Seed, and my childhood name was Zennichi [Good Sun]. My temporary [monastic] name was Zesho [written "person born under the sun"], and my true name is Nichiren.
Here again, Sakyamuni, the Sun Goddess, and Nichiren are identified by the shared element of "sun" in their respective names. By one of the temporal reversals common in kanjin-style interpretations, the word "sun" in the name of both the country and its major deity are made to derive from the name of Nichiren. Mt. Fuji, location of the first temple in Nikko's lineage, is also drawn into the equation. Medieval documents of the Fuji school employ such interpretations in arguing that the kaidan of the origin teaching should eventually be erected at Mt. Fuji.

In this way, virtually all Hokke lineages drew on the kuden genre, conventions of secret transmission, notions of original enlightenment, kanjin-style interpretation, and other forms associated with medieval Tendai in explicating Nichiren's mandala that served as their focus of practice.

[Click here to learn more from Dr. Stone]

Source: Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism by Jacqueline Ilyse Stone. (Studies in East Asian Buddhism 12) University of Hawai'i Press: Honolulu. 1999. pp. 333-334.

Ongi Kuden Nikko
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The explanation below refers to Mandala #92.
explanatory text explanatory text explanatory text

Gohonzonsh»u (129 halographs)
Published by Rissho Ankokukai. 1947, 1999.
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