A Universal Teaching for Global Citizens
On 12 October 1275, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon. In this article, Caroline Gallup reflects on its promise of enlightenment for all people in the modern age.
At some point in their lives, most people, face a defining moment – a turning point or crossroads – when they are severely challenged, or even face grave danger and must overcome paralysing fear to fight back and survive. This happened to Nichiren Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi on 9 December 1271. He was arrested, and his exile had been ordered by the military government of the day. Worse still, Hei no Saemon, the chief of police of the time had decided on his own initiative to have the Daishonin executed. This attempt on his life failed, because the Daishonin demanded and received help from the forces of the universe to save him. Moreover, in defeating his persecutors the Daishonin revealed his true identity as the Buddha for the Latter Day of the Law. But he was still to be exiled to Sado Island, where, because of the harsh environment, he was expected to die anyway. Instead, he triumphed once more, and on Sado wrote many of his greatest works, including The Opening of the Eyes, and The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind. In these two important treatises we find passages that help us to understand our relationship to the Mystic Law and the Gohonzon. From his enlightened life-state, Nichiren Daishonin clearly saw the true potential of all people. He quotes T’ien-T’ai saying:
If people do not possess innate Buddha wisdom, how could the Buddha [Shakyamuni] say he wanted to open it? One must understand that Buddha wisdom is inherent in all human beings.
To prove his true identity to his followers and to enable them (and us) to experience the same enlightened state of life, Nichiren Daishonin, still in exile, began to inscribe personal Gohonzon for his closest and most faithful disciples. In ‘Reply to Kyo’o’ written to the baby daughter of one of his most devoted followers – Shijo Kingo – he writes: ‘I, Nichiren, have inscribed by life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart.’ Six years later, on 12 October 1279, he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon, the supreme object of devotion for all humanity. In all of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin tries to convince his followers that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, we too will reveal that same enlightened life-state. In a letter entitled ‘The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon’ he famously tells us:
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 Daishonin’s mission was to inscribe the Gohonzon as a great gift for all humanity so that everyone, without exception could experience the same life-condition as he had. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda teaches us its purpose in modern times:
The Gohonzon exists to enable us to become happy: it exists to enable all people to become happy.
It is our mission as Soka Gakkai members to make it possible for people throughout the world to savour fully the benefit of the Buddhism of the sun that Nichiren Daishonin left for us. Each member is a noble emissary of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law and an emissary of the Gohonzon.
Elsewhere, in the same dialogue, President Ikeda states, ‘the Gohonzon equally empowers all people to manifest the object of devotion in their own lives. It opens this possibility to everyone.’ By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, we fuse our lives with the eternal, unchanging truth of life. In ‘The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon’, the Daishonin describes that this revelation of the Gohonzon is the ‘banner of propagation [of the Law]’: He says that:
This mandala is in no way my invention. It is the object of devotion that depicts Shakyamuni Buddha, and the Buddhas who were Shakyamuni’s emanations as perfectly as a print matches its woodblock.
Regardless of gender, culture, nationality, age or language, worldwide, we all chant the same daimoku and recite the same extracts from the Lotus Sutra (gongyo), to the same Gohonzon. In many teachings, as we progress we may find that there are more advanced teachings or techniques to be learnt. However, the Gohonzon was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin as the direct path to enlightenment for all humanity. We all carry out the same practice; chanting, study and teaching others, through our lives – it is a truly universal teaching befitting the ‘global village’ and ‘global citizens’ of modern society. Through our SGI activities, we find that care for ourselves, our family, our fellow members, our wider community, our altar and our Gohonzon are not separate actions and, when done with the same vibrant spirit, enables us to develop confidence in the existence of this power of life in ourselves, in our friends, and in all people.’
Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Opening of the Eyes, Part One’ (WND p. 220).
Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind’, (WND p. 354) p. 363.
Nichiren Daishonin, ‘Reply to Kyo’o’ (WND p. 412).
Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon’, (WND p. 832).
‘The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings’ No. 11, SGI Newsletter, No. 5395.
Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon’, (WND p. 831).