Gohonzon (Nichiren Buddhism)


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  • The relationship of the Gohonzon to the Lotus Sutra, and how was Nichiren qualified to inscribe it hinges on an event called the ‘ceremony in the air’, described in the Lotus Sutra. Here Shakyamuni Buddha describes - among other things - how he foresees the Lotus Sutra being propagated far into the future. The ceremony starts when a great assembly of bodhisattvas, gods and other beings, gathered together at Eagle Peak to hear Shakyamuni preach the Law, are startled by the appearance from beneath the ground of an immense Treasure Tower. Shakyamuni - among other things - describes how difficult it will be to teach the Law after his death and how those who try to propagate it will be harassed and prosecuted by three types of enemies: ignorant lay people, arrogant priests and religious leaders , who fearing they will lose status or profit, mislead the secular authorities and cause them to attack the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
  • Gohonzon (Nichiren Buddhism)

    1. 1. NICHIREN Buddhism Part 05 GohonzonThe Object Of Devotion For Observing The Mind
    2. 2. Introduction• The Gohonzon is the prime point of faith, practice and study in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism• Before going on, let’s remind ourselves the basic aim of Buddhist teachings – To lead people to the understanding that they inherently possess Buddhahood, the highest condition of life and – By developing their Buddhahood they can establish a life of indestructible happiness charged with wisdom, courage, compassion and life-force. 2
    3. 3. The Three Great Secret Laws• Why “secret” – Because they are “hidden” within and “between the lines” of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra – Because they cannot be understood by the intellect alone – Because they were not revealed before Nichiren• Although the significance of these Three Great Laws is not easy to appreciate at first, this is something that becomes clearer as one continues to practise and so experiences their workings within own life and circumstances.• The Three Great Laws are: 1. The Invocation - the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo 2. The Object of Devotion - the Gohonzon (Honzon - ‘object of fundamental respect’, Go - worthy of honour) 3. The Sanctuary - place where the object of worship is enshrined (our homes) 3
    4. 4. The Object of Worship• The idea of devoting ourselves to any object might seem alien or even suspect. However, it is an ingrained trait in all people to desire an “object” of devotion, something they can devote themselves.• Whether one is consciously aware of it or not, everyone in everyday life has an “object of devotion”. Its form may be more diverse or abstract, but it fulfils exactly the same function as an object of devotion in religion - providing a central focus upon which people can concentrate their desires, hopes, ambitions - in short, their lives.• In other words, an “object of devotion” in everyday life is that thing for which each person truly lives, upon which they base their happiness and which has a profound effect on every aspect of their daily lives. Often we do not realize what it is until we lose it - a child, wealth, career, etc.• The ‘true’ object of devotion puts all our desires into their correct perspective. 4
    5. 5. The Gohonzon• Ta call any object of worship “true” may sound somewhat dogmatic, but this is based simply on the effect that chanting to the Gohonzon has on our lives.• The Gohonzon is called the true object of worship because it is able to reorientate the lives and enable happiness to all people.• This is because it is an embodiment of very profound principles.• It is vital to understand that it is not a god, nor any form of external force which grants wishes like a genie.• It is simply an object, which draws out from deep within us qualities that we already possess - namely, Buddhahood. “Never seek the Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” Nichiren Daishonin 5
    6. 6. Nichiren’s Description of Gohonzon• Nichiren described Gohonzon and an “object for observing one’s mind (or life)”• He compared it with a mirror. Just as a mirror can show us what we look like physically, so the Gohonzon is a mirror, which enables us to see what we “look like internally” - to “see” our lives in terms of Ten Worlds.• In this way we can open up those areas of our lives that have been hidden to us: – The way we think – What our true values are (as opposed to those we think we live by) – What we most want from life – Perhaps what we most fear• When we first start chanting to the Gohonzon what has been obscure to us may very well be those karmic tendencies, which cause us to suffer, and so we will probably determine that these are what we must change if we are to become happy.• And finally, Gohonzon intended to make us see that our true nature is nothing other than Buddhahood. In a deepest sense, happiness consists of becoming totally convinced that we are Buddha and act upon this conviction. 6
    7. 7. Exercise• I’ll show you some paintings• Please, observe them silently, we will discuss them later 7
    8. 8. 8
    9. 9. 9Starry Night
    10. 10. 10Noon Rest
    11. 11. Skull with Cigarette 11
    12. 12. Prisoners’ Round 12
    13. 13. The Old Mill 13
    14. 14. The Church at Auvers-sur-Ois 14
    15. 15. 15Bedroom in Arles
    16. 16. On the Threshold of Eternity 16
    17. 17. Wheat Field with Crows 17
    18. 18. Self-portrait 18
    19. 19. Paintings• What did you feel observing these paintings?• Are their any feelings at all?• Did all paintings invoke the same feelings? 19
    20. 20. For Reference: Vincent Van Gogh• Paintings are the works of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)• Van Gogh was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colours and emotional impact. He suffered from anxiety and increasingly frequent bouts of mental illness throughout his life and died, largely unknown, at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.• He wrote, "Sometimes moods of indescribable anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant.”• His last words were "La tristesse durera toujours” (The sadness will last forever)• “Noon Rest” is the interpretations of Millet’s “Noon-Rest from Work” Vincent van Gogh - age 18 20
    21. 21. How does Gohonzon work?Just as Van Gogh expressed his life state in the from of pictures he painted, which act as external cause, when we look at them, to call up the same life state from ourselves…so Nichiren Daishonin expressed his life state of Buddhahood in the from of the Gohonzon - the external cause to call up our own Buddhahood when we chant to it, whether our conscious mind aware or of it not. 21
    22. 22. What is Inscribed on the Gohonzon?• Nichiren Daishonin bases the object of worship on the precise moment when Shakyamuni reveals the enlightenment and preaches the Law.• The Gohonzon is a figurative representation of the “Ceremony in the Air” described in the Lotus Sutra - a metaphoric description of the Buddha nature through the emergence of the Treasure Tower.• As Nichiren says – “The Lotus Sutra explains the Gohonzon in its eight chapters…” – “This mandala is in no way Nichiren’s invention. It is the object of worship which perfectly depicts Lord Shakyamuni in the Treasure Tower and all the other Buddhas who were present, as accurately as the print matches the woodblock.”• Shakyamuni described his life state of Buddhahood in the Lotus Sutra, while Nichiren depicted his Buddhahood it in the Gohonzon. Figuratively, Gohonzon is an “instruction” of how to draw out the life state of Buddhahood from ourselves.• “When we sit upright facing the Gohonzon, a common mortal since time without beginning and the Buddha since time without beginning sit facing one another.” Daisaku Ikeda 22
    23. 23. The Gohonzon• The original Dai-Gohonzon was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin in Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood in 1279.• Down the center, in characters bigger and bolder than the rest, is written Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Nichiren representing the life state of Buddhahood.• Bold characters are surrounded by smaller ones, which represent all other aspects of our life, both positive and negative. But they are illuminated by the principle that can enable us, however strong our anger or deep our despair, to move our lives towards the life state of Buddhahood. Nothing is excluded. No life state is rejected. We don’t have to feel guilty about anything. The structure of Gohonzon is there to make clear, that there is not a life state or condition that a human being can experience that would prohibit a journey towards our greater self. Everything can be transformed.• There were many original Gohonzons (paper scrolls) inscribed on the rice paper by Nichiren for his followers. More than 100 are available now. 23
    24. 24. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo on theGohonzon 24
    25. 25. Summary• "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.” Nichiren• Gohonzon is a visual representation of the life state of Buddhahood.• It serves as a means of focusing on our own innate Buddhahood and drawing it out.• It is an “instruction” for obtaining the Buddhahood following Nichiren’s example, in order to build a life of indestructible happiness charged with wisdom, courage, compassion and life-force. 25
    26. 26. Coffee Break 26
    27. 27. Questions and Answers 27
    28. 28. The End 28