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Dai Gohonzon

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Dai Gohonzon

The Dai Gohonzon, a mandala inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood, is the object of veneration for some Nichiren Buddhists; Dai means "great" or "supreme," whereas gohonzon means "object of devotion."[1]. The mandala chiefly comprises the names of numerous buddhas, bodhisattvas, Buddhist deities, and Buddhist teachers around the characters Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō Nichiren written down the middle.[2]

Nichiren and the Dai Gohonzon

Nichiren (日蓮) (February 16, 1222 – October 13, 1282), born Zennichimaro (善日麿), later Zeshō-bō Renchō (是聖房蓮長), and finally Nichiren (日蓮), was a Buddhist monk of 13th century Japan who inscribed the gohonzon[1]. A controversial figure during his lifetime, he is the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, a major Japanese Buddhist stream encompassing several schools of often widely conflicting doctrine.

Note: This article deals with Nichiren's life from the perspective of the Fuji Branch, a collective name for the denominations (particularly Nichiren Shoshu) stemming from his disciple Nikkō. It describes Nichiren's inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon, a unique Gohonzon the Fuji Branch schools purport he inscribed as described below. Non-Fuji branches of Nichiren Buddhism dispute this history as well as the legitimacy of the Dai-Gohonzon, asserting that its inscription by Nichiren is not substantiated by documentary evidence attributable to him.[3]

In the autumn of 1279, a number of Nichiren's lay believers in the Fuji District came into the crosshairs of Gyōchi (行智), the chief priest of a temple where Nisshū (日秀), one of Nichiren's disciples, lived. The believers, uneducated peasant farmers from the village of Atsuhara, had come to help Nisshū with the harvest of his private rice crop. Gyōchi saw this as his chance to get rid of a thorn in his side and called some local warriors to arrest the peasants, accusing them of illegally harvesting the rice. The peasants decided to defend themselves when the warriors arrived but were no match, and several were wounded; twenty were arrested and hauled off to Kamakura for trial.

When they arrived, Hei no Saemon was waiting for them; but his true purpose seemed to lie more in persecuting than prosecuting, since he attempted to intimidate the peasants into renouncing their faith—on pain of death if they didn't but in exchange for their freedom if they did. Yet despite repeated threats and even torture, they remained steadfast. Hei no Saemon even had three beheaded, but the other 17 refused to back down and he eventually freed them. These events took place on October 15, 1279.

In the Nichiren Shoshu tradition (other schools vary in their interpretation of this event's significance or dispute the claim that it occurred)[3] Nichiren, observing from his disciples' reports that mere peasants were ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of their faith, decided that the time was ripe for him to "reveal" the Gohonzon that he intended to fulfill the purpose his advent in this world (出世の本懐: shusse no honkai). On October 12, 1279, he inscribed the Gohonzon known as the Dai-Gohonzon, which—in contrast to other Gohonzon inscribed in this period—was intended for worship by all his disciples and believers, contemporary and future, rather than just the specific individual named on it.

Addenda

See also

Sources

  • The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Soka Gakkai, 1999 (available online here.)
  • The Life of Nichiren Daishonin. Kirimura, Yasuji. NSIC, 1980
    Note: NSIC, publisher of the foregoing the above work, is no longer connected with Nichiren Shoshu.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.sgi-usa.org/memberresources/resources/gohonzon/gohonzon.php
  2. http://www.sgi-usa.org/memberresources/resources/gohonzon/diagramofgohonzon.php
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Where is Nichiren’s Reference to the Dai Gohonzon?"Evers, Hope. December 9, 2005. Retrieved July 11, 2007

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