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The True Object of Worship
- Kanjin no Honzon Sho -


In April, 1273, Nichiren Daishonin drafted one of his three most important works, "The True Object of Worship." Though addressed specifically to Toki Jonin, the postscript says that the letter was to be shown to other disciples.

The note of caution in his instructions warrants some explanation. Very few disciples had the Gohonzon, so that most of them would be merely confused if they were to read the letter. The limited awareness of even the most ardent believers has to be considered as well. Toki Jonin himself once wrote to the Daishonin asking when Bodhisattva Jogyo would appear. Ota Nyudo, sometime after reading "The True Object of Worship," asked if it meant that the Hoben chapter should be omitted from the daily prayers of believers. We can safely conclude that the letter was really intended as a testament to posterity.

"The Opening of the Eyes," written one year earlier, reveals the object of worship in terms of the Person. "The True Object of Worship" treats the same subject from the viewpoint of Law.

The full title of the original manuscript reads Nyorai Metsugo Go-no-gohyakusai ni Hajimu Kanjin no Honzon Sho. This may be translated as Thesis on the Establishment in the Fifth Half-millennium after the Buddha's Passing of the Object of Worship for Attaining Buddhahood. There are four important elements included in the title: time, the Buddha's teaching, the people's capacity and the Law.

A Buddha appears according to the longing of the people, and the "Fifth Half-millennium after the Buddha's Passing" is the time. The Buddha's teaching corresponds to the word "Establishment." Thus, Nichiren Daishonin established the Gohonzon so that the Law could be handed down through the ages without the slightest distortion. The people's capacity is referred to in the words "for Attaining Buddhahood," since, through the teachings of rue Buddhism, people can easily realize the ultimate truth of life, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Law is indicated by "the Object of Worship." Nichiren Daishonin embodied the condition or state he attained as the original Buddha within the object of worship so that people could reach that same condition of enlightenment.

The opening paragraphs begin with a long philosophical explanation of ichinen sanzen, the three thousand conditions in a momentary existence of life. The concept was originally taught by T'ien-t'ai and is based on principles expounded in the Lotus Sutra. The Gohonzon bears all three thousand conditions as possessed by Nichiren Daishonin's life.

T'ien-t'ai prescribed a practice of meditation as a means to perceive this ultimate principle within one's life. The result is kanjin, which literally means to observe one's own mind. In practice, it means to be enlightened to the true nature of life, i.e., to perceive the entity of ichinen sanzen, or Buddhahood, within. The questions and answers that follow provide a framework within which the Daishonin could explain the significance of the object of worship.

The important thing to note is that because we have the Gohonzon, which is a depiction of not just the Ten Worlds, but the entire scope of human life-conditions, kanjin no longer means meditation. By believing in the Gohonzon and chanting to it we are practicing kanjin. That is what Nichiren Daishonin indicated in this Gosho. Ichinen sanzen can be considered a blueprint for the object of worship, so perfect is its elucidation of life.

The Lotus Sutra, we may say, presents a detailed account of Shakyamuni's subjective enlightenment. The events depicted in the sutra describe his state of life. The Maka Shikan bears the same relationship to the enlightenment which T'ien-t'ai experienced. In a similar way, the Gohonzon is the embodiment of the Law to which Nichiren Daishonin, as the original Buddha, was enlightened.

A discussion of kanjin and of the Ten Worlds follows. The significance of the doctrine of the Ten Worlds, and especially the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, lies in the assertion that all living beings have the potential for enlightenment. Kanjin, or the perception of this truth, implies that a person requires a perfect mirror of his own being, and that is the function of the object of worship.

The questioner feels that the Buddha nature could not possibly exist in ordinary human mortals, and so he maintains that both T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo were mistaken. The fact that he takes this position underscores the difficulties involved in grasping the theory of Buddhism, not to mention the ultimate principle, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The path is rendered easy, however, when the Daishonin explains, "Shakyamuni's practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the single phrase, Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall naturally be granted the same benefits as he was." Kanjin then amounts to faith in the Gohonzon as a means to see and reveal the dormant condition of enlightenment within each human being's life.

An important disclosure about the content of the Gohonzon appears in the section beginning with "The saha world Shakyamuni revealed in the Juryo chapter is the eternal pure land..." This phrase from the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra is analyzed and then, a few sentences later, is rephrased to show not only its meaning, but its relationship to the object of worship.

The section that follows sets forth an analysis of the purpose of the Buddha's appearance in this world in what is called the "fivefold view of revelation." (goju sandan). Put simply, the true purpose of a Buddha is termed a teaching of revelation. But this must be proceeded by a teaching of preparation and followed by a teaching of transmission. Here is a summary of the fivefold view of revelation:

  1. From the viewpoint of all Shakyamuni's teachings: Preparation--the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings Revelation--the threefold Lotus Sutra (the Muryogi Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Fugen Sutra) Transmission--the Nirvana Sutra
  2. From the viewpoint of the threefold Lotus Sutra: Preparation--the Muryogi Sutra and the Jo (1st) chapter Revelation--from the Hoben (2nd) chapter to the first half of the Fumbetsu Kudoku (17th) chapter Transmission--the second half of the Fumbetsu Kudoku chapter to the Fugen Sutra
  3. From the viewpoint of the theoretical teaching: Preparation--the Muryogi Sutra and the Jo chapter Revelation--from the Hoben chapter to the Ninki (9th) chapter Transmission--from the Hosshi (10th) chapter to the Anrakugyo (14th) chapter
  4. From the viewpoint of the essential teaching: Preparation--the first half of the Yujutsu (15th) chapter Revelation--the second half of the Yujutsu chapter, the Juryo (16th) chapter and the first half of the Fumbetsu Kudoku chapter Transmission--from the second half of the Fumbetsu Kudoku chapter to the end of the Lotus Sutra and the Fugen Sutra
  5. From the viewpoint of true Buddhism: Preparation--the teachings of all Buddhas throughout space and time Revelation--Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate principle hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter Transmission--the teachings of all Buddhas read in the light of true Buddhism

An important distinction is later made concerning the relevance of the Lotus Sutra. "The essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra and true Buddhism are both pure teachings that lead directly to Buddhahood. However, Shakyamuni's is the Buddhism of the harvest, and this is the Buddhism of sowing. The core of his teaching is one chapter and two halves, and for me it is Myoho-renge-kyo alone." That Shakyamuni's Buddhism is the harvest means that he expounded on his enlightenment as an effect, while the Daishonin's philosophy, Buddhism of the seed, teaches the cause for enlightenment and thus instructs the common mortal in his quest for the ultimate state of life.

The Daishonin then cites a portion of the Jinriki chapter of the sutra, which can be considered as having three sections. Most important, however, is the phrase in the third section which suggests the Three Great Secret Laws of Buddhism, the true object of worship, the true invocation and the true high sanctuary. The Jinriki chapter reads, "I have briefly described in this sutra all the laws (i.e., Three Great Secret Laws) of the Buddha, all the invincible mystic powers (i.e., the sanctuary) of the Buddha, all the secret storehouses (i.e., the Gohonzon) of the Buddha, and all the profound practices (i.e., the invocation) of the Buddha."

"The True Object of Worship" concludes with a statement, supported by citations from many sources, concerning the time, place and person involved in the establishment of the true object of worship. The fifth half-millennium following Shakyamuni's death is the time predicted. Nichiren Daishonin appeared at the time prophesied and declared, "Now is when the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear in this country and establish the supreme object of worship.... They have been waiting for the right time to emerge from the earth and carry out the Lord Buddha's command."

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