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 seal.
- Dai Bishamon-tenno-Great Heavenly
King Vaishravana (Skt.), also called Tamon-ten (Hearer of Many
- 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
- Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva
Firmly Established Practices (Skt. Supratishthitacharitra).
Note: The word namu is added to some names in the
Gohonzon as a sign of great respect.
- Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu-Bodhisattva Pure
Practices (Skt. Vishuddhacharitra).
- Namu Shakamuni-butsu-Shakyamuni
- 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 orthography.
- 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
- Dai Rokuten no Mao-Devil King of the
- 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
- Hachi Dairyuo-Eight Great Dragon
- Dengyo Daishi-Great Teacher Dengyo.
- Jurasetsunyo-Ten Demon Daughters (Skt.
- Kishimojin-Mother of Demon Children
- Tendai Daishi-Great Teacher
- Dai Zojo-tenno-Great Heavenly King
Increase and Growth (Skt. Virudhaka).
- Hachiman Dai Bosatsu-Great
- Kore o shosha shi tatematsuru-I
respectfully transcribed this.
- Nichikan, personal
seal-Signature of the high priest who transcribed this
Gohonzon, in this case, Nichikan, consisting of his name and
- Tensho-daijin-Sun Goddess.
- 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 the world.
- Dai Komoku-tenno-Great Heavenly King
Wide-Eyed (Skt. Virupaksha).
- Kyoho go-nen roku-gatsu jusan-nichi-The
13th day of the sixth month in the fifth year of Kyoho ,
cyclical sign kanoe-ne.
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 tenno.
Dai 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; go
is an honorific prefix, and in this case, denotes "Nichiren
Daishonin's"; han means 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): One
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 living beings.
- Leader of People-one who instructs and
leads all people to enlightenment.
- 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), the 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), with
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): One 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 projected at the
Ceremony in the Air (See September 1997 Living Buddhism,
pp. 8-10). Top
- Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Bound-less
Practices): One 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 sutra. Top
- 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
- 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 Top
- Dai Gattenno (Great Heavenly King Moon): A
deification of the moon in Indian mythology, incorporated into Buddhism as
one of the twelve gods.
- 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 accompanied 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 practice. Top
- 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, their
natural enemy. Top
- 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
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
Theravada 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 the Law. Top
- 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 a blueprint. Top
- Dai Zojo-tenno (Great Heavenly King Increase and
Growth): One 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
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 the Gohonzon. Top
- 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), which
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 world. Top
- 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 cycle. Top
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 (No. 8)
and Many Treasures Thus Come One (No. 9), who
both represent Buddhahood, and the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas
of the Earth-Bodhisattva Superior Practices (No. 10), Bodhisattva Boundless Practices (No. 11), Bodhisattva 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), Great
Heavenly King Upholder of the Nation (No. 13), Great
Heavenly King Increase and Growth (No. 27), and Great
Heavenly King Wide-Eyed (No.33), and Great
Heavenly King Sun (No. 20), Great Heavenly King
Moon (No. 16), Great 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
(No. 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 Hachiman (No.28).
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 are
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. 32).
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. 12).
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 Buddhahood through faith in the
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 than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
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 places.
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
- 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.
- Tao-hsien: 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
- 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 actions themselves.
- 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.
- Esoteric teachings: Those teachings that
are revealed secretly and are beyond the understanding of ordinary people.
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
southern India where they were later transferred to Nagarjuna by
Esoteric Buddhism is a form of Tantrism, which incorporates
indigenous magical and ritualistic elements such as symbolic gestures (mudras),
spells (mantras) and mystic syllables (dharanis), as
well as diagrams (mandalas) and the worship of numerous deities.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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, 1997, World
(Source: Living Buddhism 11/97)
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