TREASURE MAP OF LIFE
DIAGRAM OF THE GOHONZON TRANSCRIBED BY HIGH PRIEST NICHIKAN
The following is the key to the accompanying diagram. The key gives
the phoneticized original, English translation and Sanskrit of characters
on the Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan.
Zai gohan-This is Nichiren Daishonin's personal
Dai Bishamon-tenno-Great Heavenly King Vaishravana
(Skt.), also called Tamon-ten (Hearer of Many Teachings).
U kuyo sha fuku ka jugo-Those who make offerings
will gain good fortune surpassing the ten honorable titles [of the Buddha.
Note: In Buddhism, making offerings has a broad meaning; here it means
to respect and praise.
Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva Firmly
Established Practices (Skt. Supratishthitacharitra). Note: The word namu
added to some names in the Gohonzon as a sign of great respect.
Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva Pure Practices
Namu Shakamuni-butsu-Shakyamuni Buddha.
Namu Taho Nyorai-Many Treasures Thus Come
One (Skt. Prabhutaratna Tathagata).
Namu Jogyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva Superior
Practices (Skt. Vishishtacharitra).
Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva Boundless
Practices (Skt. Anantacharitra).
Nyaku noran sha zu ha shichibun-Those who
vex and trouble [the practitioners of the Law] will have their heads split
into seven pieces.
Dai Jikoku-tenno-Great Heavenly King Upholder
of the Nation (Skt. Dhritarashtra).
Aizen-myo'o-Wisdom King Craving-Filled
(Skt. Ragaraja). Note: The name is written in Siddham, a medieval Sanskrit
Dai Myojo-tenno-Great Heavenly King Stars,
or the god of the stars.
Dai Gattenno-Great Heavenly King Moon,
or the god of the moon.
Taishaku-tenno-Heavenly King Shakra (also
known as Heavenly King Indra).
Click on a white area for the explanation.
Click on a white area for the explanation.
Dai Bontenno-Great Heavenly King Brahma.
Dai Rokuten no Mao-Devil King of the Sixth
Dai Nittenno-Great Heavenly King Sun, or
the god of the sun.
Fudo-myo'o-Wisdom King Immovable (Skt.
Achala). Note: The name is written in Siddham, a medieval Sanskrit orthography.
Hachi Dairyuo-Eight Great Dragon Kings.
Dengyo Daishi-Great Teacher Dengyo.
Jurasetsunyo-Ten Demon Daughters (Skt.
Kishimojin-Mother of Demon Children (Skt.
Tendai Daishi-Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai.
Dai Zojo-tenno-Great Heavenly King Increase
and Growth (Skt. Virudhaka).
Hachiman Dai Bosatsu-Great Bodhisattva
Kore o shosha shi tatematsuru-I respectfully
Nichikan, personal seal-Signature
of the high priest who transcribed this Gohonzon, in this case, Nichikan,
consisting of his name and personal seal.
Butsumetsugo ni-sen ni-hyaku san-ju yo nen
no aida ichienbudai no uchi mizou no daimandara nari-Never in 2,230-some
years since the passing of the Buddha has this great mandala appeared in
Dai Komoku-tenno-Great Heavenly King Wide-Eyed
Kyoho go-nen roku-gatsu jusan-nichi-The
13th day of the sixth month in the fifth year of Kyoho , cyclical
The following section gives further explanation of the diagram of
the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon. The numbering of each term corresponds
to the numbering on the diagram.
Many of the Buddhist gods' names include words such as Dai and
is an honorific term meaning great; tenno means heavenly king. The
word namu is added to some names as a sign of great respect.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo: The ultimate Law permeating
all phenomena in the universe. The fundamental component of Nichiren Daishonin's
Buddhism, it expresses the true entity of life that allows people to directly
tap their enlightened nature. Although the deepest meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
is revealed only through its practice, the literal meaning is: nam (devotion),
the action of practicing Buddhism; myoho (Mystic Law), the entity
of the universe and its phenomenal manifestations; renge (lotus
flower, which blooms and seeds at the same time), the simultaneity of cause
and effect; kyo (sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha), all
phenomena. The invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was established by Nichiren
Daishonin, on April 28, 1253, at Seicho-ji temple in the province of Awa.Top
Nichiren (1222-82): The founder of the Buddhism
upon which the SGI bases its activities. He inscribed the true object of
worship, the Gohonzon, for the observation of one's mind and established
the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the universal practice to attain
enlightenment. Daishonin is an honorific title that means great sage. He
was born on February 16, 1222, in the small fishing village of Kominato
in Awa Province in what is presently Chiba Prefecture, Japan. In his writings
he states that inscribing the Gohonzon, "...is the reason for my advent
in this world" (MW-1, p. 30).Top
Zai gohan: Literally, zai means to exist;
an honorific prefix, and in this case, denotes "Nichiren Daishonin's";
personal seal. Nichiren Daishonin is said to have instructed those who
inscribe the Gohonzon to place the word gohan under his name.Top
Dai Bishamon-tenno (Great Heavenly King Vaishravana):
of the Four Heavenly Kings, who appear in the Lotus Sutra and vow to protect
those who embrace the sutra. Bishamon lives halfway down the northern side
of Mount Sumeru1 and protects the north,
accompanied by the two classes of demons called yaksha (Jp. yasha) and
rakshasa (rasetsu). Bishamon is a transliteration of the Sanskrit
Vaishravana. This god is said to always protect the place where the Buddha
preaches and listen to the Buddha's teachings. In the twenty-sixth chapter
of the Lotus Sutra, he pledges to protect the votaries of the sutra.Top
"Those who make offerings will gain good fortune surpassing
the ten honorable titles of the Buddha." The ten honorable titles that
express a Buddha's power, wisdom, virtue and compassion are:
Thus Come One-one who has come from the world of truth.
A Buddha embodies the fundamental truth of all phenomena and grasps the
law of causality permeating past, present and future.
Worthy of Offerings-one who is qualified to receive
offerings from human and heavenly beings.
Right and Universal Knowledge-one who comprehends
all phenomena correctly and perfectly.
Perfect Clarity and Conduct-one who understands the
eternity of past, present and future, and who performs good deeds perfectly.
Well Gone-one who has gone to the world of enlightenment.
Understanding of the World-one who understands all
secular and religious affairs through his grasp of the law of causality.
Unexcelled Worthy-one who stands supreme among all
Leader of People-one who instructs and leads all people
Teacher of Gods and Humans-A teacher who can guide
all human and heavenly beings.
Buddha, the World-Honored One-an awakened one, endowed
with perfect wisdom and virtue, who can win the respect of all people.Top
Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Firmly Established
Practices): One of the four bodhisattvas who are the leaders of the
Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He appears in the fifteenth chapter of the Lotus
Sutra. According to Tao-hsien's2 "Supplement
to the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra" (Hokke Mon gu Fusho Ki),
four bodhisattvas represent the four virtues of the Buddha: true self eternity,
purity and happiness. Bodhisattva Anryugyo represents happiness, the unshakable
state of life filled with joy.Top
Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Pure Practices): One
of the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He appears in the
fifteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Tao-hsien's Hokke Mongu Fusho
Ki says that the four bodhisattvas represent the four virtues of the
Buddha's life-true self, eternity, purity and happiness. Bodhisattva Jyogyo
represents purity; the pure state of life that is never swayed by circumstances.Top
Namu Shakamuni-butsu (Shakyamuni Buddha): The first
recorded Buddha and founder of Buddhism, born about 2,500 years ago. He
was the son of Shuddhodana, the king of the Shakyas, a small tribe whose
kingdom was located in the foothills of the Himalayas south of what is
now central Nepal. Shakya of Shakyamuni is taken from the name of this
tribe and muni means sage or saint. His family name was Gautama
(Best Cow) and his given name was Siddhartha (Goal Achieved), though some
scholars say this is a title bestowed on him by later Buddhists in honor
of the enlightenment he attained. For fifty years, he expounded various
sutras (teachings), culminating in the Lotus Sutra, which he declared his
ultimate teaching. The Lotus Sutra provides the theoretical basis for the
Namu Taho Nyorai (Many Treasures Thus Come One): A
Buddha who appears, seated within the Treasure Tower, at the Ceremony in
the Air to bear witness to the truth of Shakyamuni's teachings in the Lotus
Sutra. According to the eleventh chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Taho Buddha
lived in the world of Treasure Purity in an eastern part of the universe.
While still engaged in bodhisattva practice, he pledged that, even after
he had entered nirvana, he would appear, in the Treasure Tower, and attest
to the validity of the Lotus Sutra wherever anyone might teach it. In the
eleventh chapter, Shakyamuni assembles all the Buddhas from throughout
the universe. He then opens the Treasure Tower and at Taho's invitation
seats himself at this Buddha's side.
T'ien-t'ai interprets Taho and Shakyamuni seated side by side in the
Treasure Tower as the fusion of reality and wisdom (Jp. kyochi myogo),
Taho representing the objective truth or ultimate reality, and Shakyamuni,
the subjective wisdom to realize it. Moreover, Taho Buddha represents the
property of the Law, Shakyamuni Buddha, the property of wisdom, and the
Buddhas from throughout the universe, the property of action; together
they represent the "three properties."3
Nichiren Daishonin uses these interpretations of T'ien-t'ai and further
states in the "Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life" that Shakyamuni and
Taho represent, respectively, life and death, the two phases that the entity
of life undergoes.Top
Namu Jogyo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Superior Practices):
of the four bodhisattvas and the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
He appears in the fifteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Tao-hsien says
in the Hokke Mongu Fusho Ki that the four bodhisattvas represent
the four virtues of the Buddha's life: true self, eternity, purity and
happiness. Among these, Jogyo represents the virtue of true self. Nichiren
Daishonin interprets Bodhisattva Jogyo as the provisional or ephemeral
figure of the original Buddha of kuon ganjo4
at the Ceremony in the Air (See September 1997 Living Buddhism, pp.
Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Bound-less Practices):
of the four bodhisattvas who lead the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Muhengyo
literally means no boundary and represents eternity, one of the four virtues
of the Buddha's life.Top
Nyaku noran sha zu ha shichibun: "Those who vex
and trouble [the practitioners of the Law] will have their heads split
into seven pieces." An analogy for the fact that negative causes against
the Mystic Law will produce loss in one's life.Top
Dai Jikoku-tenno (Great Heavenly King Upholder of the
Nation): One of the Four Heavenly Kings. He lives halfway down the
eastern side of Mount Sumeru and protects the eastern quarter. In the twenty-sixth
chapter of the Lotus Sutra, he pledges to protect those who embrace the
Aizen-myo'o (Wisdom Craving-Filled): A Buddhist
deity who is said to purify people's earthly desires and free them from
illusions and the sufferings accruing from earthly desires. In the esoteric
teachings,5 his true identity is regarded
as Dainichi (Skt. Mahavairochana) Buddha or Kongosatta (Skt. Vajrasattva).
His name is inscribed in Siddham, a medieval Sanskrit orthography, on the
left hand side of the Gohonzon as one faces it, signifying the principle
that "earthly desires are enlightenment."Top
Dai Myojo-tenno (Great Heavenly King Stars, or the
god of the stars): A deification of the stars in Indian mythology incorporated
into Buddhism as one of the twelve gods.6
Dai Gattenno (Great Heavenly King Moon): A deification
of the moon in Indian mythology, incorporated into Buddhism as one of the
Taishaku-tenno (Heaven King Shakra, also known
as Heavenly King Indra):One of the main tutelary gods of Buddhism,
together with Bonten. He is also one of the twelve gods said to protect
the world. Originally the god of thunder in Indian mythology he was later
incorporated into Buddhism as a protective deity. He lives in a palace
called Correct Views or Joyful to See in the Trayastrimsha Heaven on the
peak of Mount Sumeru and, served by the Four Heavenly Kings, governs the
other thirty-two gods of that heaven.
While Shakyamuni was engaged in bodhisattva practice, Taishaku is said
to have assumed various forms to test his resolve. According to the first
chapter of the Lotus Sutra, he joined the assembly on Eagle Peak,7
by 20,000 retainers.Top
Dai Bontenno (Great Heavenly King Brahma): A god
said to live in the first of the four meditation heavens in the world of
form above Mount Sumeru and to rule the saha8
world. In Indian mythology he was regarded as the personification of the
fundamental universal principle (Brahman), and in Buddhism he was adopted
as one of the two major tutelary gods, together with Taishaku.Top
Dai Rokuten no Mao (Devil King of the Sixth Heaven):
Many devils appear in Indian and Buddhist scriptures, the most formidable
and powerful of which is the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven. He is the
king of devils who dwells in the highest of the six heavens of the world
of desire and delights in manipulating others to do his will. He is regarded
as a symbol of lust for power He is also called Takejizaiten, the king
who makes free use of the fruits of others' efforts for his own pleasure.
Served by innumerable minions, he works to obstruct Buddhist practice and
delights in sapping the life force of other beings. He corresponds to the
last of "the three obstacles and four devils"9.
Nichiren Daishonin interprets this devil as the manifestation of the fundamental
darkness inherent in life. Especially in Buddhism devils are interpreted
to mean functions that work to block or hinder people in their Buddhist
Dai Nittenno (Great Heavenly King Sun): The divinity
of the sun, adopted in Buddhism as a protective god. He is said to be a
subject of Taishaku.Top
Fudo-myo'o (Wisdom King Immovable): A Buddhist
deity who serves practitioners by defeating the obstacles and evils that
hinder Buddhist practice. It is said that he enters into a flame-emitting
meditation in which he exudes flames that destroy all karmic hindrances.
Because he never yields to obstacles, he is called Fudo (immovable). He
is popularly depicted as an angry figure surrounded by flames, holding
a rope and a sword. He signifies that "the sufferings of birth and death
are nirvana (Jp. shoji soku nehan)."Top
Hachi Dairyuo (Eight Great Dragon Kings): Kings
of the dragons said to live at the bottom of the sea. Eight dragon kings,
each with many followers, assembled at the ceremony on Eagle Peak to hear
the Lotus Sutra. According to the Kairyuo Sutra (Sutra of the Dragon King
of the Sea), dragons are often eaten by giant birds called garudas,
Dengyo Daishi (Great Teacher Dengyo): The founder
of the Tendai sect in Japan. He is also called Saicho. At age 12, he entered
the Buddhist Order and studied under Gyohyo at the provincial temple in
Omi. In April 785, he was fully ordained at Todai-ji temple, receiving
the 250 precepts. In June of the same year, he went to Mount Hiei and built
a small retreat there where he devoted himself to the study of Buddhist
scriptures and treatises, especially those of the T'ien-t'ai school.
In 804, Dengyo went to T'ang China accompanied by his disciple, Gishin.
There he studied T'ien-t'ai Buddhism under Miao-lo's disciple Tao-sui who
was then staying at Lung-hsing-ssu temple. After that, Dengyo went to Mount
T'ien-t'ai where he studied under Hsing-man, another disciple of Miao-lo.
In 805, he returned to Japan and the next year established the Tendai sect.
At that time, all priests were ordained exclusively in the Theraveda precepts.
Dengyo made continuing efforts to secure imperial permission for the building
of a Mahayana ordination center on Mount Hiei, despite concentrated opposition
from the older sects of Nara. Permission was finally granted a week after
his death, and in 827, the ordination center was completed by his successor,
Gishin. In addition to this project, after his return to Japan, Dengyo
concentrated his efforts on refuting the interpretations of the older Buddhist
sects. In particular, his ongoing debate with Tokuichi, a priest of the
Hosso sect, is well known. This debate began in the early Konin era (810-824).
Tokuichi asserted that the one-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra was
a provisional teaching that Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in accordance with
the people's capacity, while the three-vehicle teachings were true teachings,
and that there are some people who are without the potential to attain
Buddhahood. In opposition to this assertion, Dengyo maintained that all
people have the Buddha nature and that the supreme vehicle of Buddhahood
expounded in the Lotus Sutra is the true teaching. He was a key figure
in upholding the righteousness of the Lotus Sutra in the Middle Day of
Jurasetsunyo (Ten Demon Daughters; also known as the
Ten Goddesses): The ten daughters of the female demon Kishimojin (Skt.
Hariti). They are Ramba (Lamba), Biramba (Vilamba), Kokushi (Kutadanti)
or Crooked Teeth, Keshi (Pushpadanti) or Flowery Teeth, Kokushi (Makutadanti)
or Black Teeth, Tahotsu (Keshini) or Much Hair, Muenzoku (Achala) or Insatiable,
Jiyoraku (Maladhari) or Necklace Bearer, Kodai (Kunti), and Datsu Issaishujo
Shoke (Sarvasattvojohari) or Robber of the Vital Spirit of All Living Beings.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, they pledge to protect
the sutra's votaries.Top
Kishimojin (Mother of Demon Children): A female
demon, said to have been a daughter of a yaksha demon in Rajagriha,
India. She had 500 children (some sources say 1,000 or 10,000). According
to the Kishimo Sutra (Sutra of Kishimojin) and the Binaya Zoji (Monastic
Rules With Respect to Various Matters), she killed the babies of other
people to feed her children, and the terrified and grieving populace begged
Shakyamuni for help. The Buddha then hid Kishimojin's youngest son, Binkara.
She sought him throughout the world for seven days, but to no avail. In
despair she finally asked the Buddha where he was. Shakyamuni rebuked her
for her evil conduct and made her vow never to kill another child. Then
he returned her son to her. Kishimojin was revered in India as a goddess
who could bestow the blessings of children and easy delivery. Kishimojin
worship was later introduced to Japan. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the
Lotus Sutra, she and her ten daughters pledged before the Buddha to safeguard
the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.Top
Tendai Daishi (Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, also called
Chih-i): The founder of the Chinese T'ien-t'ai school, commonly referred
to as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai. his name and title were taken from
Mount T'ien-t'ai, where he lived.
T'ien-t'ai refuted the scriptural classifications formulated by the
ten major Buddhist schools of his day, which based themselves either on
the Kegon (The Flower Garland Sutra) or Nirvana Sutra, and devised
the classification of "the five periods and eight teachings," thereby establishing
the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra. He also expounded the theory of "a life-moment
possessing 3,000 realms" (ichinen sanzen). Because he systematized
both its doctrine and method of practice, he is revered as the founder
of the school. If Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra provides the theoretical basis
for the Gohonzon, T'ien t'ai's ichinen sanzen can be likened to
Dai Zojo-tenno (Great Heavenly King Increase and Growth):
of the Four Heavenly Kings. He lives halfway down the southern face of
Mount Sumeru and guards the south.Top
Hachiman Dai Bosatsu Great Bodhisattva Hachiman): One
of the main deities in Japanese mythology, along with Tensho Daijin (Sun
Goddess). There are several views concerning the question of how he came
to be worshipped. According to one explanation, in the reign of the twenty-ninth
emperor, Kimmei, the god Hachiman appeared as a smith in the southern part
of Japan, and declared that in a past life he had been Emperor Ojin, the
fifteenth emperor of Japan.
His aid was sought after in his capacity as the god of smiths when
the great image of Vairochana was erected at Todai-ji temple in Nara, and
from that time on, Hachiman came to be more and more closely associated
with Buddhism. Early in the Heian period (794-1185), the imperial court
named him Great Bodhisattva, an early example of the fusion of Buddhist
and Shinto elements.
In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin views Hachiman as a personification
of the function that promotes the agricultural fertility of a land whose
inhabitants embrace the Law.Top
Kore o shosha shi tatematsuru: "I respectfully
transcribed this." I generally refers to the high priest who transcribed
Nichikan (1665-1726): The twenty-sixth high priest,
who is revered as a restorer of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, together
with Nichiu Shonin, the ninth high priest. He worked tirelessly to clarify
the Daishonin's teachings during a time when a number of errors and misconceptions
had become widespread.
Nichikan Shonin wrote exegeses on the Daishonin's five major writings
and other works and also wrote the Six-volume Writings (Rokkan Sho),
distinguishes the correct interpretations of the Daishonin's teachings
from misleading ones.Top
Tensho-daijin: The Sun Goddess in Japanese mythology,
who was later adopted as a protective god in Buddhism. According to the
oldest extant histories, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters)
and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), she was the chief deity
and also the progenitor of the imperial clan. In many of his writings,
Nichiren Daishonin views Tensho Daijin as a personification of the workings
that protect the prosperity of those people who have faith in the Law.Top
Butsumetsugo ni-sen ni-hyaku san-ju yo nen no aida
ichienbudai no uchi mizou no dai-mandara hari-Never in 2,230-some years
since the passing of the Buddha has this great mandala appeared in the
Dai Komoku-tenno (Great Heavenly King Wide-Eyed):
One of the Four Heavenly Kings. He lives halfway down the western side
of Mount Sumeru and protects the western continent. With his divine eyesight,
he is said to discern evil and punish those who do evil deeds, and to arouse
the aspiration for attaining Buddhahood.Top
June 13, 1720, cyclical sign kanoe-ne: The
date the original Gohonzon was transcribed by Nichikan Shonin. Cyclical
sign refers to one of sixty calendar signs, which are based on the twelve
animal signs of the Chinese zodiac and the ten elements of nature according
to old Chinese traditions. Kanoe-ne means "Year of the Yang (element
of) Metal and the Rat" the thirty-seventh year of the sixty-year calendar
The Nichikan-Transcribed Gohonzon
On the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon, the ten worlds are represented in
two groups: the four noble worlds (Buddhahood, Bodhisattva,
Realization and Learning) and the six lower paths (Heaven,
Humanity, Anger, Animality, Hunger and Hell). On the Nichikan Gohonzon,
the four noble worlds are indicated by Shakyamuni Buddha
8) and Many Treasures Thus Come One
9), who both represent Buddhahood, and the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas
of the Earth-Bodhisattva Superior Practices (No. 10),
Boundless Practices (No. 11),
Firmly Established Practices (No.6), and Bodhisattva
Pure Practices (No.7). The lower six worlds are
represented by figures indicating Heaven, Animality and Hunger. Heaven
is indicated, for instance, by the Four Great Heavenly Kings-Great
Heavenly King Hearer of Many Teachings (No.4),
Heavenly King Upholder of the Nation (No. 13),
Heavenly King Increase and Growth (No. 27), and
Heavenly King Wide-Eyed (No.33), and
Heavenly King Sun (No. 20),
Heavenly King Moon (No. 16),
Heavenly King Stars (No.15) and the Devil
King of the Sixth Heaven (No.19). Animality is
indicated by Eight Great Dragon Kings (No.22),
and Hunger is indicated by Mother of Demon Children (No.
25) and Ten Demon Daughters (No.24).Top
T'ien-t'ai (No. 26) and Dengyo
23) represent those who transmitted the true lineage of Buddhism
in the past. The native gods of India, Great Heavenly King
Indra (No. 17) and Great Heavenly
King Brahma (No.18), are incorporated into the
Gohonzon as Buddhist gods. So, too, are gods native to Japan-Sun
Goddess (No.31) and Great Bodhisattva
Two names are written in (medieval) ancient Indian Sanskrit, or Siddham.
They are the Buddhist deity Ragaraja (No.
14), which represents the principle of "earthly desires are enlightenment,"
and the Buddhist deity Achala (No. 21),
which represents the principle that "the sufferings of birth and death
Also inscribed on the Gohonzon is a declaration by the Daishonin that
reads, "Never in the 2,230 years since the passing of the
Buddha has this great mandala appeared in the world" (No.
Demonstrating the law of causality on the Gohonzon are the two Buddhist
promises-"Those who make offerings will gain good fortune
surpassing the ten honorable titles [of the Buddha]"
(No. 5) and "Those who vex and trouble [the practitioners
of the Law will have their heads split into seven pieces" (No.
Arrangement of the Gohonzon
The graphic arrangement of the Gohonzon is based on the concept of the
Ceremony in the Air depicted in the Lotus Sutra. The eleventh or "Emergence
of the Treasure Tower" chapter depicts the appearance of a magnificent
tower: "At that time in the Buddha's presence there was a tower adorned
with the seven treasures, five hundred yojana
in height and two
hundred and fifty yojana in width and depth, that rose up out of
the earth and stood suspended in the air" (The Lotus Sutra, p.170).
One yojana is said to be the distance the royal army could march
in a day. According to one interpretation, 500 yojana would be equal
to the radius of the earth. The Treasure Tower was closed when it first
emerged, but Shakyamuni opened it when Many Treasures Thus Come One, who
appeared to validate Shakyamuni's teachings, invited him to sit with him
in it. This is how the Ceremony in the Air begins.
Regarding the Treasure Tower, the second Soka Gakkai president, Josei
Toda, says: "Within our lives exists the magnificent state of life beyond
our comprehension called Buddhahood. This state of life or its power defies
our imagination; nor can our words express it. However, we can concretely
manifest this state in our lives. To explain that our lives can manifest
the latent Buddha nature as a concrete reality is the ceremony depicted
in 'The Emergence of the Treasure Tower' chapter."
In other words, the appearance of the Treasure Tower is a metaphor for
the magnificent Buddha nature in our lives. In the Lotus Sutra, the opening
of the closed doors of the Treasure Tower represents the transition from
a theoretical explanation of Buddhahood as a potential state to the actual
manifestation of the Buddha nature in each person.
On the Gohonzon, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo-Nichiren" corresponds to the Treasure
Tower. Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Treasures Thus Come One are seated in
the tower facing the audience. The rest of the bodhisattvas, deities and
various beings are facing these two Buddhas. In India, important persons
are usually seated to the right. That Shakyamuni is placed to the left
of "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" as we face the Gohonzon and Bodhisattva Superior
Practices (the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth) to the right means
that Shakyamuni is facing out from within the Treasure Tower and Bodhisattva
Superior Practices is facing him.
The Gohonzon diagram published along with this article will help you
see the position and meaning of each inscription on the Nichikan-transcribed
Gohonzon. It is hoped that explaining the graphic components of the Gohonzon
will make it easier for you to sense the meaning of Nichiren Daishonin's
message to all humanity-that every individual is potentially a Buddha,
that everyone can attain Buddha-hood through faith in the Gohonzon.
We can compare the graphic image of the Gohonzon to each of our lives.
Living in such a defiled age as the Latter Day of the Law, our lives can
be easily dominated by the lower life-conditions, such as Anger or Animality-when
this happens it is just like putting those worlds in the center rather
Our lives are just like the Treasure Tower, but they may be closed and
buried deep in the earth of delusion. Our challenge, therefore, is to bring
the hidden Treasure Tower up from within the soil of our fundamental darkness
and open it, establishing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the center of our lives
and illuminating our lower life-conditions-putting them in their proper
What makes this possible is the power of faith and practice for oneself
and others. It is our challenge to continue to practice to the Gohonzon
with firm faith in its message that we are innately endowed with the supreme
treasure. In this way, we can solidify Buddhahood as the basis of our life-condition,
as exemplified by the arrangement of the Gohonzon.Top
1. Mount Sumeru: A mountain thought to stand
at the center of the world, according to ancient Indian tradition. It is
said to measure 84,000 yojana above the surface of the sea and 84,000 yojana
below and to be composed of gold, silver, emerald and crystal, with four
sides facing north, south, east and west, respectively. The god Taishaku
resides on the summit, while the Four Heavenly Kings live halfway down
the four sides.
Mount Sumeru is surrounded by seven concentric mountain
ranges made of gold, between which are seven perfumed seas. The seventh
gold mountain range is surrounded by a salt ocean, in which are the four
continents of Purvavideha (Jp. Hotsubadai), Aparagodaniya (Kuyani), Uttarakuru
(Uttannotsu) and Jambudvipa (Embudai), lying respectively to the east west
north and south. It is said that Buddhism spreads in Jambudvipa. The salt
ocean is in turn bounded by a circular range of iron mountains that stands
at the rim of the world. A sun and a moon move around Mount Sumeru.
2. Taohsien: A priest of the T'ien-t'ai
school in T'ang China. He wrote the "Supplement to the Words and Phrases
of the Lotus Sutra" (Hokke Mongo Fusho Ki), a commentary on Miao-lo's
"Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra" (Hokke Mongo Ki).
3. Three properties: The three properties
are: (1) the property of the Law (Jp. hosshin), or the essential
property of the Buddha's life, which is the truth to which the Buddha is
enlightened; (2) the property of wisdom (Jp. hoshin),
or the spiritual
property of the Buddha's life, which enables the Buddha to perceive the
truth; and (3) the property of action Up ojin), or the physical
property of the Buddha's life. The property of action is the Buddha's body
with which he carries out compassionate actions to save people, or these
4. Kuon ganjo: Time without beginning.
Also called the infinite past. The term kuon ganjo is used to indicate
an eternity without beginning, as opposed to the specific point in time
called gohyaku-jintengo, which is expounded in the sixteenth chapter
of the Lotus Sutra. Kuon ganjo suggests a past far older than even
the inconceivably distant gohyaku-jintengo, but philosophically
speaking, it indicates that dimension that is outside the temporal framework,
having neither beginning nor end.
5. Esoteric teachings: Those teachings that
are revealed secretly and are beyond the understanding of ordinary peo~e.
According to the Shingon sect, the esoteric teachings are those teachings
that were preached by Dainichi (Skt. Mahavairochana) Buddha to Kongosattva
(Vajrasattva), who compiled them and sealed them in an iron tower in southem
India where they were later transferred to Nagarjuna by Kongosutra.
Esoteric Buddhism is a form of Tantrism, which incorporates
indigenous magical and ritualistic elements such as symbolic gestures (mudras),
mystic syllables (dharanis), as well as diagrams (mandalas) and
the worship of numerous deities.
6. Twelve gods: Twelve kinds of gods said
to protect the world. They are the god of earth, the god of water, the
god of fire, the god of wind, Ishana who lives in the sixth, or highest,
heaven of the world of desire, Taishaku, Emma, Bonten, Bishamon, the rakushasa
(Jp. rasetsu) demons, the god of the sun and the god of the moon.
7. Eagle Peak: Sometimes called Vulture
Peak. A mountain located to the northeast of Rajagriha, the capital of
Magadha in ancient India, where Shakyamuni is said to have expounded the
Lotus Sutra and other teachings. According to the "Treatise on the Sutra
of the Perfection of Wisdom" (Jp. Daichido Ron), Eagle Peak got
its name because the summit is shaped like an eagle and because it was
inhabited by many eagles. The expression Eagle Peak is also used
to symbolize the Buddha land or the state of Buddhahood.
8. Saha world: This world, which
is full of sufferings. The Sanskrit word saha means endurance. It is called
this because people in this world must endure many sufferings stemming
from the three poisons-greed, anger and foolishness-and other earthly desires.
9. Three obstacles and four devils: A categorization
of the various obstacles and hindrances that trouble one's practice of
Buddhism. The three obstacles are: (1) The obstacle of earthly desires,
or obstacles arising from the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness.
(2) The obstacle of karma, or obstacles due to bad karma created by committing
negative causes. This category is also interpreted as opposition from one's
wife or children. (3) The obstacle of retribution, or obstacles due to
painful retribution for actions in the three evil paths (the three lower
of the ten worlds-Hell Hunger and Animality). This category also indicates
obstacles caused by one's sovereign, parents or other persons who carry
some sort of secular authority.
The four devils are: (1) The hindrance of the five components,
that is, those obstructions caused by one's physical and mental functions.
(2) The hindrance of earthly desires, or obstructions arising from the
three poisons. (3) The hindrance of death, because the fear and suffering
that death entails obstruct one's practice of Buddhism. (4) The hindrance
of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. This obstruction is usually said to take
the form of oppression by those in power.
In "Letter to the Brothers" Nichiren Daishonin states.:
"If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. Were it not for these,
there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching.... [Quoting
from the works of T'ien-t'ai] 'As practice progresses and understanding
grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge, vying with one another
to interfere.... You should be neither influenced nor frightened by them.
If you are frightened by them, you will be prevented from practicing true
Buddhism.' This quotation not only applies to Nichiren but also is the
guide for his disciples. Reverently make this teaching your own and transmit
it as an axiom of faith to future generations" (MW-1, p.145).
(A version of this article appeared in the August 29,
(Source: Living Buddhism 11/97)
This document is used from site GoshoNet.
Translation into Serbian can be found here.
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