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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Last question of the night: What is the Object of Worship?


The Gohonzon is the Object of Worship of Ninpo-Ika [oneness of Person and Law], the oneness of the person of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and the Law of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. There is no distinction whatsoever between the Person of the Buddha Shakyamuni of the Original Doctrine and the Law of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. We may also say the Gohonzon is the land of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and a representation of the Ceremony in the Air. The Person, the Land, and the Law of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni is the Object of Worship. This is the life itself of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. Otherwise, the Buddha, the Lotus Sutra, and Nichiren would have taught that images of the Person, Land, and Law of anyone, any Buddha, any Bodhisatva, any Asura or any Mara being could be the Object of Worship. The general and the specific should not be confused. Speaking of the Gohonzon in terms of the Person of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, I present the following:

From the "Kanjin Honzon Sho" ("True Object of Worship"), translated by Senchu Murano:

"During the fifty years of his teaching from the time of his enligthenment under the bo-tree till his attainment of Nirvana under the Sala-tree, the Buddha expounded a great number of sutras. ... Buddha Shakyamuni as the expounder of these sutras is not eternal, because the eternity of the Buddha is for the first time revealed in the latter half of the [Lotus Sutra]. ... In this (saha) world, the Buddha is eternal, has never been extinct, nor is to be reborn. ... The Buddha made no mention of this truth in the first half of the [Lotus Sutra], because he had not yet found hearers intelligent enough to understand it. "

This truth is embodied in the five Words, or rather in the Seven Words, Na-mu-myo-ren-ge-kyo, or 'The Most Honorable Lotus of the Perfect Truth,' which also means 'Adoration be to the Lotus of the Perfect Truth' when taken as the formula of invocation. The Five Words being the expression of the most prfound teaching of the Buddha, the Buddha did not entrust them even to the hitherto most repected Bodisattvas ... instead, he transmitted them to the Bodhisattvas equal to the dust-atoms of one thousand worlds in number who appeared from the gaps of the earth for the first time in the fifteenth chapter of the [Lotus Sutra].

"The true object of worship should be the Buddha at the moment of this transmission. ... "In history, however, no one has ever worshipped the Buddha as revealed in this scene. ... an image of the true object of worship is destined to appear for the first time at the beginning of the Period of Deprivation."

"Shakyamuni Buddha and the written words of the lotus Sutra are two different things but their heart is one. Therefore, when you cast your eyes upon the words of the Lotus Sutra you should consider that you are beholding the living body of the Buddha Shakyamuni" (The Pure and Far Reaching Voice).

"First in Japan and all other countries throughout the world, the object of worship should be Lord Shakyamuni of the Original Doctrine."(Repaying Debts of Gratitude)

"For this reason all the persons in the saha world of ours, if they detest the sufferings of birth and death and wish to have an object of veneration to which they can pay respect, should first of all fashion images of Shakyamuni Buddha...and make these their object of worship."(The Learned Shan-wu-wei)

"In the entire land of Jambudvipa, there has never before been a hall or pagoda that produced the image of Shakyamuni Buddha of the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. How could such an image fail to appear now."(The Unmatched Fortune of the Law)

"The Shakyamuni of the Juryo Chapter has never been depicted in any mountain temple or monastery anywhere."(Rebuking Slander of the Law)

"Since the Buddha's passing, two kinds of images, wooden and painted, have been made of Him..."

"Him", not "it" (The Law). The Law is a part of "Him" as is "His" Land. They are inseparable.

From another perspective:

Question: For persons who place their faith in the Lotus Sutra, what is the proper object of devotion, and what rules are to be followed in acts of worship and daily religious practice?
Answer: First, with regard to the object of devotion, one should inscribe the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, or one volume, or one chapter, or simply the daimoku, or title, of the sutra, and make that the object of devotion, as is indicated in the “Teacher of the Law” and “Supernatural Powers” chapters of the sutra. And those persons who are able to do so further should write out the names of the Thus Come One Shakyamuni and the Buddha Many Treasures, or fashion images of them, and place these on the left and right of the Lotus Sutra. And if they are further able to do so, they should fashion images or write out the names of the Buddhas of the ten directions and the bodhisattva Universal Worthy and the others. -- On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra


Answer: As the object of devotion one should select that which is superior. Thus, for example, Confucianism has selected the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of antiquity as its object of devotion. And in like manner, in Buddhism, Shakyamuni should be regarded as the object of devotion.

Question: If that is so, then why do you not take Shakyamuni as your object of devotion, but instead make the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra the object of devotion?

Answer: You should look at the sutra passages and the commentary that I have quoted earlier. This is not a matter that I have decided for myself. Shakyamuni Buddha and T’ien-t’ai are the ones who have declared that the Lotus Sutra should be the object of devotion. And now, in this latter age, I, Nichiren, too, following the example of the Buddha and T’ien-t’ai, take the Lotus Sutra as the object of devotion.

I do so because the Lotus Sutra is the father and mother ofShakyamuni Buddha, the eye of the Buddhas. Shakyamuni, Mahāvairochana, and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions were born from the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, as the object of devotion I now take that which is capable of bringing forth such life force." -- On Questions and Answers on the Object of Devotion

How do we resolve this seeming contradiction"

When Nichiren talks of "Shakyamuni" in these passages of On Questions and Answers on the Object of Devotion, he is talking of the "Shakyamuni Buddha of the Theoretical Section of the Lotus Sutra and the Shakyamuni of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings". He is not talking of the Shakyamuni Buddha of the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha of the Essential Teachings, the Eternal Buddha. This Buddha is one with Namu Myoho renge kyo, is one with the Gohonzon.

"When the Lotus Sutra is placed before an image (wooden or painted) possessing thirty-one features, the image never fails to become the Buddha of pure and perfect teaching." (Opening the Eyes of Wooden or Painted Images)

"This Buddha of yours, however is a living Buddha." (Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha Made By Shijo Kingo) "It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible to infuse such paintings and STATUES with a "soul" or spiritual property"(ibid.)

"A Stupa of treasures is hanging in the sky above the Saha-World of the Eternal Buddha. The letters of myohorengkyo are seen in the center of the Stupa. On either side of the letters are seen Buddha Sakyamuni and the Many-Treasures Buddha. Buddha Sakyamuni is accompanied by the four Bodhisattvas including Manjusri and Maitreya are sitting in the lower seats. All the other Bodhisattvas, including those taught by the historical Buddha Sakyamuni and those who have come from the other worlds of the ten quarters are also on the ground. This shows that these Buddhas are the manifestations of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and that the worlds of theirs are the manifestations of the Saha-World of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. We should worship all these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in this arrangement. This is the Honzon, or the true object of worship. This Honzon was not revealed during the lifetime of the Buddha except when he expounded the eight consecutive chapters (XV to XXII) of the Lotus Sutra."(Kanjin honzon Sho, NOPPA)

"I for the first time reveal, as a banner of the spread of the Hokkekyo the Great Mandala which even Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, and so on, and Tendai, Myoraku, and so on did not reveal. This is not at all something which I, Nichiren made myself. It is the Object of Worship which is from the print block of the Great Muni, the World Honored One within the Stupa of Taho and the Separate-Body Buddhas."(Reply to Lady Nichinyo, NOPPA)

From the Nirvana Sutra (I believe):

"AND the Blessed One thus addressed the brethren: "Those only who do not believe, call me Gotama, but you call me the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Teacher. And this is right, for I have in this life entered Nirvana, while the life of Gotama has been extinguished. Self has disappeared and the truth has taken its abode in me. This body of mine is Gotama's body and it will be dissolved in due time, and after its dissolution no one, neither God nor man, will see Gotama again. But the truth remains. The Buddha will not die; the Buddha will continue to live in the holy body of the law.

"The extinction of the Blessed One will be by that passing away in which nothing remains that could tend to the formation of another self. Nor will it be possible to point out the Blessed One as being here or there. But it will be like a flame in a great body of blazing fire. That flame has ceased; it has vanished and it cannot be said that it is here or there. In the body of the Dharma, 
however, the Blessed One can be pointed out; for the Dharma has been preached by the Blessed One.

"You are my children, I am your father; through me you have been released from your sufferings. I myself having reached the other shore, help others to cross the stream; I myself having attained salvation, am a savior of others; being comforted, I comfort others and lead them to the place of refuge. I shall fill with joy all the beings whose limbs languish; I shall give happiness to those who are dying from distress; I shall extend to them succor and deliverance. "I was born into the world as the king of truth for the salvation of the world. The subject on which I meditate is truth. The practice to which I devote myself is truth. The topic of my conversation is truth. My thoughts are always in the truth. For lo! my self has become the truth. Whosoever comprehendeth the truth will see the Blessed One, for the truth has been preached by the Blessed One."

The Law of the eternal Buddha-nature is Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. The expounder of this truth is Lord Shakyamuni of the Original Doctrine.

"The Object of Worship of the Doctrine of the Original: it is from the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni (through His Messenger Nichiren Daishonin) that we receive the Daimoku, the principal practice, and we direct it towards that Original, Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni as the Principal (Original or Fundamental) Holy One, the Object of Worship (Gohonzon) in our minds and (where possible) a physical embodiment, such as (1) a mandala written by or modeled on one written by Nichiren Daishonin, (2) a written scroll of "Namu Myoho renge kyo", (3) images of the manifest Buddha Shakya and the ancient Buddha of Witness Taho seated on either side of the Daimoku and surrounded by the Four Chief Bodhisattvas Who Sprang from the Earth, (4) the image of Lord Shakyamuni attended by the Four Bodhisattvas Who Sprang from the Earth or (5) a statue of Shakyamuni with the Hokekyo (Lotus Sutra) placed before it. (All of these are permissible images of the Eternal Buddha but since we have often been persecuted, the mandala is preferred because of ease of movement and concealment.) We do not permit the separate enshrinement of other deities; however, a statue of Nichiren Daishonin may be placed before and below the Gohonzon itself."

Please note that Nichiren discusses both perspectives of the Object of Worship in both earlier and later documents.

1 comment:

  1. The Lotus Sutra Chapter 2, Expedient Means teaches:

    "Shariputra, you should know
    that at the start I took a vow,
    hoping to make all persons
    equal to me, without any distinction between us,
    and what I long ago hoped for
    has now been fulfilled.
    I have converted all living beings
    and caused them all to enter the Buddha way."

    This is true in the General sense. In the Specific and more profound sense, from the Lifespan Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 16, we read:

    "I likewise am the Father of the World,
    The One who saves
    from the various sufferings and travails".

    "I" is Shakyamuni Buddha of the Juryo chapter in the SPECIFIC sense and we, in GENERAL sense. Nichiren teaches that if one confuses the general with the specific, even in the slightest, he will fail to attain Buddhahood.

    Soka Gakkai fails to distinguish the general with the specific.