The True Object of Worship Kanjin no Honzon Sho


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The True Object of Worship
- Kanjin no Honzon Sho -

Lecture 1 of 3 from Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1.

Prime Point of Faith

Throughout the world, members of the Soka Gakkai observe 1978 as the second "Year of Study." It seems especially suitable to begin the year by studying together a passage from Kanjin no Honzon Sho (The True Object of Worship). As he made clear in this treatise, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon (the object of worship) to save all people in the Latter Day of the Law. This is an article of faith for us, and a doctrinal pillar of our belief I give this lecture in the light of guidance received from High Priest Nittatsu, who alone carries the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu.

By way of introduction, let me expand upon the meaning of kanjin no honzon, which might be literally rendered as "the object of worship for the observation of one's mind." In this, or any, discussion we must never lose sight of our single most important truth: the ultimate principle of Buddhism is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws, and Nichiren Daishonin embodied it as the object of worship so that all succeeding generations could attain Buddhahood. The prime point of our faith and practice is that object of worship, and throughout the Latter Day of the Law, no other principle can lead us to Buddhahood.

Honzon, or object of worship, means something which one reveres above all, something to which one devotes one's life. The Daishonin expounded in the Ongi Kuden (his oral teachings of the Lotus Sutra, compiled by Nikko Shonin): "Nam derives from Sanskrit and signifies devotion. There are two objects of devotion: the Person, which is Shakyamuni, and the Law, which is the Lotus Sutra." The Daishonin used "Shakyamuni" and "Buddha" to mean exactly the same thing whenever he talked about the Lotus Sutra from the viewpoint of his own enlightenment. In the above quotation "Shakyamuni" indicates not Gautama Buddha of India, but the original Buddha who revealed the supreme teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as hidden within the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra. If the original Buddha appeared in the Latter Day of the Law as Nichiren Daishonin, then what is the Lotus Sutra referred to in the passage above? It is not the twenty-eight-chapter Lotus Sutra expounded by Gautama Buddha, for the Daishonin wrote in Reply to Lord Ueno, "Now in the Latter Day of the Law neither the Lotus Sutra nor the other sutras are valid. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo alone is valid." Whenever the Daishonin speaks of spreading the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day, he means the essence of the sutra, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Thus, "devotion to Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra" means "devotion to Nichiren Daishonin and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."

As you read through the Gosho you will find that, depending on the situation, the Daishonin sometimes explains the object of worship in terms of the Person and at other times in terms of the Law. The following passages speak of the object of worship in terms of the Person: "The object of worship in the Juryo chapter is Shakyamuni, the Buddha appearing in this world who has possessed the three enlightened properties of life* since time without beginning" (from On the Three Great Secret Laws); "Throughout the world as well as in Japan all people should revere Shakyamuni of true Buddhism as the object of worship" (from Requital for the Buddha's Favor).

*The property of the Law (hosshin), the property of wisdom (hoshin) and the property of action (ojin). Hosshin is the truth of a Buddha's life; hoshin is the wisdom to perceive the truth; while ojin is the merciful actions of a Buddha to save the people and the physical body which manifests the Buddha's life in this world for that purpose.

On the other hand, Debates on the Object of Worship discusses the object of worship in terms of the Law. It reads, "Question: What should common mortals in the evil-filled Latter Day of the Law take as their object of worship? Answer: They should make the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra their object of worship." By "the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra" the Daishonin means the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The Daishonin describes the object of worship alternately as the Person and the Law in order to clearly establish that the Person and the Law are united in the Gohonzon; or, the Person is the Law, and the Law is the Person. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the life of Nichiren Daishonin, and he embodied it in the form of a mandala. That is the Gohonzon. The Ongi Kuden passage quoted above assumes the oneness of the Person and the Law, as the Daishonin declares elsewhere in the same Gosho: "The supreme title of the Buddha who is originally endowed with the three enlightened properties of life is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."

With regard to the unity of the Person and the Law embodied in the Gohonzon, the Daishonin states in The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon: "The Great Teacher Dengyo wrote, 'The entity of ichinen sanzen is the Buddha who obtained enlightenment for himself, and that Buddha assumes no august attributes.' Therefore this Gohonzon is the supreme mandala never before known, for it has not appeared until more than twenty-two hundred and twenty years after the Buddha's death." "Ichinen sanzen" represents the Law, and the "Buddha," enlightened to the Law, Buddha to save people and the physical body which manifests the Buddha's represents the Person --- the Buddha is one with the Law.

Here we can conclude that Nichiren Daishonin realized that he himself was the Buddha who embodied the Mystic Law. He was also the Buddha endowed with the three enlightened properties of life. In the Ongi Kuden, he identified that Buddha, as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, to be himself. The Daishonin embodied his enlightened life in the form of the Gohonzon.

Reply to Kyo'o, which was sent to Shijo Kingo and his wife, reads: "I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart. The Buddha's will is the Lotus Sutra, but the soul of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."

Believing wholeheartedly in the teaching contained in these passages, we worship the Gohonzon as the manifestation of Nichiren Daishonin's life. With this conviction, it is possible to say that Nichiren Daishonin resides even today within the Grand Main Temple at Taiseki-ji --- as the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. The successive high priests of the Head Temple are entitled to transcribe the Dai-Gohonzon so that the Gohonzon is enshrined at temples, community centers and individual homes throughout the world. There is no need to lament not being alive during the lifetime of Nichiren Daishonin, nor should anyone regret not living near the place where the Daishonin made his advent and where the Dai-Gohonzon exists. More importantly, I would like you to be assured that no matter the place or age in which you live, so long as you embrace the Gohonzon and pray to it, you are in the eternal land of the Buddha. Be convinced that you rise with the Buddha every morning and you spend all day, every day, together with the Buddha.

If the Gohonzon is Nichiren Daishonin's life, and if the Gohonzon embodies the oneness of Person and Law, then the Daishonin embodied the same fusion within himself. Hence, the Gohonzon is the entity of ichinen sanzen. As Dengyo stated, "The entity of ichinen sanzen is the Buddha who obtained enlightenment for himself," and Nichiren Daishonin is that Buddha.

It is extremely difficult for an ordinary person to try and fathom the Daishonin's spirit and behavior, but I would venture to guess that the life-or-death struggle he fought- and won-over twenty years, from the time of his declaration of true Buddhism until the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and the Sado Exile, confirmed to himself his identity as the object of worship in the form of the Person. By confronting and overcoming terrible, continuing persecutions, the Daishonin lived out all the predictions in the Lotus Sutra of the trials that those who propagate the Mystic Law in the Latter Day are destined to meet.

In the Hosshi (10th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra we read, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" The Hoto (11th) chapter mentions "the six difficult and nine easy acts," and the Kanji (13th) chapter contains a twenty-line verse which describes the three powerful enemies. To have actually lived the sutra's words during his activities as its votary reconfirmed the Daishonin's realization that both the originally enlightened Buddha indicated in the sutra and the entity of ichinen sanzen revealed during the ceremony in the air are his own life.

A passage in The Opening of the Eyes says, "Although Nichiren's knowledge of the Lotus Sutra is ten million times less than that of either T'ien-t'ai or Dengyo, his perseverance and supreme compassion are awe-inspiring." Because of his supreme compassion to save all people from their suffering, the Daishonin endured the worst sort of adversity for more than twenty years. Persecutions began from the moment he engaged in the propagation of the Mystic Law. In Buddhism, opposition by those in power is traditionally considered the most severe and unpredictable of the "three powerful enemies." The Daishonin incurred the wrath of that enemy when he first remonstrated with the government, submitting his treatise, Rissho Ankoku Ron (The Security of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism). Problems might never have arisen had the Daishonin not translated his boundless compassion into action. As he later wrote in the Gosho, "My present exile is not because of any crime." He did not incur the anger of the government for breach of law or custom, but because he expressed his compassion through his actions. The government's fear of him only reflected the magnitude of the actions he took.

Observing One's Mind

We, his disciples who live true Buddhism throughout the world, are heir to his great compassion, and so we, too, will inevitably encounter some opposition. We must encourage each other to grow strong with the conviction that the validity of our Buddhist faith and practice will be borne out only when we unflinchingly persevere through all circumstances.

By surviving the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and the Sado Exile, Nichiren Daishonin fulfilled all the predictions of the Lotus Sutra as Bodhisattva Jogyo, and then he revealed his identity as the original Buddha. It was after Tatsunokuchi and before Sado that he inscribed the first Gohonzon.

The invincible life-condition of the original Buddha was already within the depths of his being. The late president Josei Toda, in a lecture on a passage of To the People of Seicho-ji Temple, stated that when the Daishonin, as an acolyte at that temple, prayed to Bodhisattva Kokuzo to become the wisest man in Japan, he already realized that he was the original Buddha.

Actually, the Daishonin could not have declared the beginning of true Buddhism at the age of thirty-two had he not attained the necessary life-condition. He knew all too well that the age of the Latter Day of the Law had already come, when prophecy foretold a decline in the power of Shakyamuni's Buddhism; he knew it would have been entirely inappropriate to bring back Shakyamuni's Buddhism as a new set of beliefs. He was able to bring to the people a totally new kind of Buddhism because he was convinced of his identity and his mission to save all people of the Latter Day of the Law. Still, the Daishonin manifested himself as the original Buddha only after living to the letter the predictions in the Lotus Sutra for a period of some twenty years. After the incident at Tatsunokuchi and banishment to Sado, he cast off the transient identity as an envoy of the Buddha and actually declared his true identity as the original Buddha.

Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon so that all generations born in the Latter Day could attain Buddhahood. His own contemporaries were personally able to experience his greatness, and because he was naturally bound to die, he inscribed his own life in the form of the Gohonzon for posterity. We often think of the Gohonzon as a physical representation of the Law, but it is actually the embodiment of both the Person and the Law. "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren" is boldly inscribed down the center of the Gohonzon; "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" is the Law, and "Nichiren" is the Person.

The Daishonin considered the fundamental quality of the Gohonzon to be the oneness of Person and Law. But how should we, who worship the Gohonzon, consider it? According to the Daishonin we should take the viewpoint of kanjin, literally, to see one's mind; hence the title of this work on the Gohonzon, Kanjin no Honzon Sho.

What is the meaning of kanjin? A passage from this Gosho says, "Kanjin means to observe one's own mind and to find the Ten Worlds within it." The Daishonin added that just as a person cannot see his own face without a mirror, one cannot see the Ten Worlds in his own mind without the mirror of Buddhism. Another passage in the same Gosho reads, ". . . various sutras make reference here and there to the six paths and the four noble worlds [that constitute the Ten Worlds], but only in the clear mirror of the Lotus Sutra and T'ien-t'ai's Maka Shikan (Great Concentration and Insight) can one see his own three thousand conditions --- the Ten Worlds, their mutual possession, and the thousand factors."

As is clear from this passage, kanjin means to see ichinen sanzen, three thousand potential states, in a momentary existence of life. Yet, ichinen sanzen is the truth of one's life, confined to the realm of theory. The Daishonin concludes that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the concrete entity of ichinen sanzen, the ultimate reality containing three thousand potential states of life. Therefore, "to observe one's own mind and to find the Ten Worlds within it" means perceiving one's life to be the entity of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

A human being in any one of the Ten Worlds has the ultimate entity, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, in the depths of his life. The theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra tells us, in fact, that each individual human being is originally an entity of the Mystic Law. In the core of the theoretical teaching, the Hoben chapter, is the phrase, "all phenomena reveal the true entity." Nichiren Daishonin construes that phrase as expressing the ultimate truth. That is why he brings it into The True Entity of Life, in the following way: "All beings and their environments in any of the Ten Worlds, from Hell at the lowest to Buddhahood at the highest, are, without exception, the manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo.... All phenomena are themselves manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. This is the meaning of 'all phenomena reveal the true entity.'"

The existing fact that every individual person is inherently the entity of the Mystic Law is not the same as the actual attainment of Buddhahood. If it meant Buddhahood, then there would be no difference between the Buddha and the common man, nor would there be any need for Buddhist faith and practice. The question is whether or not each individual awakens to the realization that he or she is an entity of the Mystic Law. The Kanjin no Honzon Sho describes the attainment of the supreme state of Buddhahood in one's own life. When people awaken to their true entity, they attain Buddhahood; one who does not remains an ordinary mortal. This is, as you know, what the Daishonin means in The True Entity of Life: "There is a clear distinction between a Buddha and a common mortal, in that a common mortal is deluded while a Buddha is enlightened. The common mortal fails to realize that he himself possesses both the entity and the function of the Buddha's three properties."

A passage occurs in On Attaining Buddhahood: "If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured through eternity and attain supreme enlightenment in this lifetime, you must awaken to the mystic truth which has always been within your life. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth within you."

To "awaken to the mystic truth which has always been within your life," and to realize that you have always been Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is to attain supreme enlightenment. Awakening to the fact that you are the entity of the Mystic Law is to observe your own mind (kanjin). Kanjin, then, ultimately means attaining Buddhahood.

Thus, the object of worship "for the observation of one's mind" exists so that the people in any of the Ten Worlds can see themselves as the entity of the Mystic Law and attain Buddhahood. No matter what one's life-condition is, the Gohonzon enables anyone and everyone to equally attain Buddhahood, or enlightenment. This became possible for the first time when Nichiren Daishonin established the object of worship.

Faith Means Embracing

You may perhaps know that when the twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, explained how to read the title, he said, "Consider the word for your inheritance from me." His definition was, of course, intended to refute misinterpretations, such as "observing the object of worship in one's mind" or "observing one's mind through the treatise on the object of worship."

More important, he declared that the Gohonzon is "the object of worship 'for' observing one's mind," not "the object of worship as a theoretical truth." The latter title relates to theoretical revelation of ichinen sanzen, the surface realization gleaned from the Lotus Sutra, or "Buddhism of the harvest." Shakyamuni's Buddhism of the harvest means that he expounded his enlightenment as an effect, while the Daishonin's philosophy, Buddhism of the seed, teaches the cause of enlightenment and instructs the common mortal in his quest for the ultimate state of life. In contrast, Shakyamuni's object of worship is expounded in the literal interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. "The object of worship for observing one's mind" is the actual embodiment of ichinen sanzen, or Buddhism of the seed, which was revealed in the depths of the Lotus Sutra.

The vital point here is that the inscription by Nichiren Daishonin of the object of worship is the embodiment of ichinen sanzen, as he himself revealed in order to sow the seeds of enlightenment. Shakyamuni Buddha's object of worship is theoretical ichinen sanzen, expounded so that others might reap the harvest of enlightenment.

This is a vast subject, actually. All religions have objects of worship that are usually expressions or symbols of some supernatural or external power governing life and human destiny. People have a subservient attitude in prayer when asking for salvation, forgiveness and compassion, or in some cases, try by subservience to satisfy those powers and avoid their wrath. Such attitudes have contributed to creating the special position of the clergy as intermediaries between man and his object of worship. The pursuit of external objects symbolizing the supernatural inevitably leads to the formation of a strict hierarchy in the religious world. This extended to the secular world, where the aristocracy, especially chieftains and kings, were often said to be sanctioned by the divine grace, which led to rigid social stratification as well. That is why so many religious groups developed negative, inhumane ideas about human dignity and equality.

The "theoretical ichinen sanzen" revealed in Shakyamuni's Buddhism of the harvest is completely different from those established religions. However, since Shakyamuni expounded his enlightenment as an effect, his object of worship became separated from common mortals still suffering in delusion. The enlightened were inevitably regarded as special and ideal, much removed from the lives of ordinary people. Consequently, this type of view drives people into the same pitfalls encountered in other religions. T'ien-t'ai's Buddhism provides a good example of this. It was based on the Buddhism of the harvest and became a religion of the privileged class. It was inevitable that it would appeal only to emperors, nobles and distinguished individuals, and alienate the common people.

In contrast, "the object of worship for observing one's mind" is the life of ichinen sanzen, the source of enlightenment. According to Nichikan Shonin, the "observation of one's mind" in this context is the kanjin of the ordinary people. "The object of worship for observing one's mind," therefore, does not exist outside our lives; it is identical to the Mystic Law which has always dwelt in the lives of all people. That is why the Daishonin declares that there is no distance between the object of worship and people. A person need only chant daimoku to the Gohonzon morning and evening to awaken in his being the entity of the Mystic Law.

Such awakening needs sufficient wisdom, however. The Lotus Sutra tells us that "faith is the key to wisdom." One must "use faith instead of one's limited understanding" and "gain entrance through faith." Nichiren Daishonin redefines "faith" in concrete terms as "embracing" the Gohonzon. To "embrace" the Gohonzon is to observe one's own mind, that is, to awaken to the fact that you yourself embody the Mystic Law. This is what we call juji soku kanjin, embracing the Gohonzon is in itself enlightenment.

Finally, I want to discuss kanjin no honzon in relation to the Three Great Secret Laws. Three comprise the Gohonzon which is the object of worship of the supreme teaching; chanting daimoku with firm faith in the Gohonzon; and kaidan, the sanctuary of the supreme teaching, which is the place where the Gohonzon resides. In essence, however, all three are contained in the One Great Secret Law: the Gohonzon-the object of worship for observing one's mind. The object of worship of the supreme teaching is the life of the Buddha of absolute freedom who is in perfect harmony with the universe. The daimoku of the supreme teaching is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo --- the name of the original Buddha enlightened in the three properties of life. That is why Nichiren Daishonin stated in the Debates on the Object of Worship: "They should make the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra the object of worship."

Similarly, dan of kaidan (literally, sanctuary for ordination) is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit mandala, and essentially it means that the Gohonzon is the "sanctuary." The idea of sanctuary has its origin in ancient India, from the altar that was set up as a place where priests received precepts. It is said that the Four Heavenly Kings* were positioned at the four corners of the sanctuary to ward off demons, and a statue of the Buddha was enshrined in the center to dignify the ceremony for priests taking vows.

*Jikokuten (Skt., Dhritarashtra), Komokuten (Virupaksha), Bishamonten (Vaishravana) and Zochoten (Virudhaka), lords of the four heavens, said to live halfway down the four slopes of Mt. Sumeru. Their respective functions are to protect the world, to see through evil and punish those who commit evil, to listen to the sutras and protect the place of practice, and to relieve people of their sufferings. In the Darani (26th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, they pledged to protect those who embrace the sutra.

Various people flanked the Buddha to indicate his status. As the Daishonin stated in The True Object of Worship, the Buddha who preached the Hinayana sutras was flanked by Mahakashyapa and Ananda; when expounding provisional Mahayana and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutras he was flanked by Bodhisattva Monju and Bodhisattva Fugen.

The object of worship, to which the original Buddha is central, is flanked by Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha, who are again flanked by the Four Great Bodhisattvas, Unknown in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, this object of worship is the Gohonzon which Nichiren Daishonin established to enable all people to see the truth of their lives. As High Priest Nittatsu has declared, this Gohonzon is the High Sanctuary. Therefore the Dai-Gohonzon is called "the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws" and, again, that is why all three can be identified with the One Great Secret Law.

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