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The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon
- Nichinyo Gozen Gohenji -


Nichiren Daishonin wrote "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon" at Mount Minobu on August 23, 1277, when he was 56. Its recipient, Lady Nichinyo, is thought to have been either the wife of Ikeganii Munenaka, the elder of the Ikegami brothers, or the daughter of Lady Matsuno. The evidence for her identity is not clear. judging from the two extant Gosho addressed to her - this one and "An Outline of the 'Zokurui' Chapter" written the following year -she appears to have been a middle-aged woman of some culture and position, and rather well versed in Buddhist doctrines.

Almost certainly she was a devout believer, for this letter indicates that she had received the Gohonzon, a privilege granted in those days only to disciples of exceptionally strong faith.

The Dai-Gohonzon, the true object of worship for attaining Buddhahood bestowed upon all people of the Latter Day of the Law, was inscribed on October 12, 1279. However, even before then, after revealing his identity as the original Buddha of the Latter Day during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271, Nichiren Daishonin began to inscribe Gohonzon for a few of his most committed followers. These personal Gohonzon inscribed by the Daishonin are called "Gohonzon of specific receptivity and relatedness" (ikki ichien no Gohonzon). In this letter, the Daishonin explains the significance of the Gohonzon and the importance of faith in it.

In the first part of this Gosho, he explains that no one before him had ever inscribed the Gohonzon "in the more than 2,000 years that have passed since Shakyamuni Buddha's death." So fully was the Daishonin enlightened to the eternal Law of life that he could embody his enlightenment - the oneness of his life with the Mystic Law - in a concrete material form that could be transmitted to future generations, thus providing the external cause for all other people throughout the Latter Day of the Law to manifest their ultimate Buddha nature.

The twenty-eight-chapter Lotus Sutra expresses the historical Buddha's enlightenment to the fundamental Law of life in symbolic terms as the magnificent Ceremony in the Air, an event transcending time and space in which Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas sat side by side in the Treasure Tower, and all Buddhas from throughout the universe as well as countless beings of the nine worlds assembled to hear the Buddha's preaching.

The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai expressed his enlightenment to the fundamental Law of life as the principle of ichinen sanzen, a comprehensive view of life that clarifies the inter-penetration of the ultimate reality and the phenomenal world. Yet, awe-inspiring as they are, these are merely theoretical expressions of enlightenment.

It was Nichiren Daishonin, though, who first expressed his enlightenment to the Law of life in physical form, so that all other people might attain Buddhahood as well. He did not formulate vast new systems of doctrine or theory but brought what had hitherto been purely theoretical into the realm of actuality. Because he was the true or original Buddha, he could give actual form to the original Law or True Cause for attaining Buddhahood.

The Gohonzon, then, is not a symbol but the actual manifestation of the eternal law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and of the life of the eternal Buddha who is enlightened to it. When we chant daimoku with faith in the Gohonzon, we manifest the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo within ourselves.

This is the attainment of Buddhahood as a common mortal, in accordance with the principle taught by Nichiren Daishonin that "embracing the Gohonzon is in itself enlightenment" Yuji soku kanjin).

This Gosho is called "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon" because it contains a description of what is written on the Gohonzon. Down the center of the Gohonzon are inscribed in Chinese characters the words "Nam-myohorenge-kyo, Nichiren." This indicates that the Gohonzon embodies the oneness of the Law (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental truth of the universe) and the Person (the original Buddha of beginning-less; time, who appears in the Latter Day of the Law as Nichiren Daishonin).

This central inscription represents the entity of the original Buddha's life. On either side of this central inscription are written the names of the Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho, as well as those of the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and other bodhisattvas, shomon disciples, gods, human beings, demons and others, just as described in the magnificent Ceremony in the Air depicted in the Lotus Sutra. These figures represent the ten worlds or all phenomena of the original Buddha's life.

The Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin explains, is the ultimate meaning of the Lotus Sutra's statement that "all phenomena reveal the true entity" (shoho jisso).

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