Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 3: The Practice for Transforming Our State of Life [3.3]

3.3 The Gohonzon Is Found in Faith Alone

In a lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” President Ikeda discusses the profound significance of the Gohonzon’s layout, explaining that the object of devotion inscribed by the Daishonin marked a new epoch in the history of Buddhism. He further notes that the beneficial power of the Gohonzon can only be tapped through faith.

The Gohonzon exists for the enlightenment and genuine happiness of all people throughout the Latter Day of the Law and into the eternal future.

Enabling all living beings to attain the same enlightenment as Buddhas—that is Shakyamuni’s vow and the wish of all Buddhas past, present, and future. Nichiren Daishonin was the first person to reveal the object of devotion, or the Gohonzon, for actualizing this wish, manifesting it in the form of a “great mandala” (WND-1, 831).

He states: “This mandala is in no way my invention” (WND-1, 831). The Gohonzon, he assures us, is not his arbitrary creation. It is the object of devotion that depicts the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to which Shakyamuni Buddha, seated in the treasure tower of Many Treasures, and all the Buddhas who were his emanations were awakened. In other words, the Gohonzon perfectly represents the “true aspect of all phenomena”1 and the foundational principles of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds”2 and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,”3 all of which were elucidated during the Ceremony in the Air4 of the Lotus Sutra.

When we look at the layout of the Gohonzon, we see that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—referred to in this letter as “the five characters of the Lotus Sutra’s title” (WND-1, 831)—is written down the center, flanked by representatives of each of the Ten Worlds.5 This indicates that all living beings of the Ten Worlds, from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas on down, are without exception embodied in the Gohonzon. And it accords with the passage from the “Treasure Tower” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that the Daishonin cited in this letter: “[Shakyamuni Buddha used his transcendental powers to] lift all the members of the great assembly up into the air” [LSOC11, 215] (WND-1, 832). The Gohonzon, therefore, includes “without exception all of the various beings” of the Ten Worlds. It is a representation of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” the principle that all living beings, when illuminated by the light of the Mystic Law, can display the “dignified attributes that they inherently possess” (WND-1, 832).

When the light of the wisdom and compassion of Buddhahood illuminates the Ten Worlds within our lives, we can bring forth the power of supreme goodness and create enduring value. It also means that each individual comes to shine as an entity of the Mystic Law and to display their inherently dignified nature.

In such a realm, everyone—no matter their circumstances or whether they are still transforming their karma—shines with the “dignified attributes that they inherently possess.” Those in the world of hell, for instance, manifest the world of hell contained within the world of Buddhahood. Though there may still be suffering, it is not the hopeless suffering of wandering lost in eternal darkness. They can bring forth the courage to face difficult realities head-on, the wisdom to surmount the obstacles arising from within and from without, and the powerful life force to make new strides forward. Sufferings become challenges that aid one’s personal transformation and growth, a springboard to great development.

Illuminated by the light of the Mystic Law, the noble state of life that is one with the Mystic Law functions vibrantly even in the world of hell. The meaning of the sufferings of hell is thereby turned around completely.

Every person’s life inherently embodies the principles of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” In essence, every person’s life is perfect and complete—there is nothing extraneous to be subtracted and nothing lacking to be added. No life is without its joys and sorrows, its ups and downs. And no matter how we might try, we cannot avoid the universal sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death.

The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is the true aspect of life, and each of the mutually inclusive Ten Worlds is an expression of the Mystic Law. The Gohonzon and our faith enable us to activate the Mystic Law in our lives and firmly establish it as our foundation.

The layout of the Gohonzon is based on the true aspect of all phenomena elucidated in the Lotus Sutra; it clarifies that we as ordinary people, in our present form, can reveal the boundless life state of Buddhahood.

No such object of devotion ever existed in Buddhism before this. Though there were many magnificent depictions of Buddhas and bodhisattvas in paintings and sculptures, there was no mandala embodying the principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” that enabled ordinary people to attain enlightenment. Nichiren Daishonin was the first to reveal the Gohonzon that illuminates the “dignified attributes that we inherently possess,” that is, the object of devotion for the enlightenment of all humanity. This Gohonzon is truly the “great mandala never before known” (WND-1, 832), depicting the realm of religion that includes and benefits all people.

In the Daishonin’s day—and often even today—we find the deeply rooted view that we are but small, insignificant beings and that, in contrast, ultimate reality, or enduring value, is something that lies somewhere outside of us, somewhere far away. Such thinking is inextricably connected with a belief in some otherworldly supernatural power.

Nichiren Buddhism, however, rejects this idea. It teaches that the true reality of life, in which the eternal and ultimate Law is revealed, is to be found in ordinary people living right here and now.

The term Buddha, after all, means “enlightened one.” To what did the Buddha become enlightened? It was to that which should form the true basis of our life—namely, the Law and the true essence of our being. He awakened to the universal Law permeating all phenomena, which had previously been obscured by fundamental ignorance.6 He awakened to the greatness of each individual’s life that is one and indivisible with that Law.

The Daishonin refers to the Gohonzon as the “object of devotion for observing the mind” (WND-1, 354ff.). The purpose of the Gohonzon is to enable us to “observe our mind,” that is, to see and awaken to the Buddhahood within our own life. But being able to see the true nature of our mind, or attain enlightenment, is not achieved through contemplation or meditative practice. Faith is the foundation. The “object of devotion for observing the mind” is the “object of devotion of faith.”

The Gohonzon (Buddhahood) is expressed in the lives of those who have strong faith. A person may possess the Gohonzon, but without faith, they will receive no benefit. Faith is what causes the “cluster of blessings” (WND-1, 832) that is the Gohonzon to reveal itself in our life.7 Accordingly, as long as our faith stays alive, the “cluster of blessings” will never disappear. Even if we were to lose our material Gohonzon in an accident or natural disaster, as long as we retain our faith, the Gohonzon within our life is eternal and ever-abiding, and we can activate its beneficial power.

Only when we have faith does the beneficial power of the Gohonzon emerge. Truly, the Gohonzon is found in our faith alone.

From Learning from the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin: The Teachings for Victory, published in Japanese in December 2014.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.

  • *1True aspect of all phenomena: The ultimate truth or reality that permeates all phenomena and is in no way separate from them. Through the explanation of the ten factors, the “Expedient Means” (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra teaches that all people are inherently endowed with the potential to become Buddhas, and clarifies the truth that they can tap and manifest this potential.
  • *2Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds: The principle that each of the Ten Worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself. “Mutual possession” means that life is not fixed in one or another of the Ten Worlds, but can manifest any of the ten—from hell to the state of Buddhahood—at any given moment. The important point of this principle is that all beings in any of the nine worlds possess the Buddha nature. This means that every person has the potential to manifest Buddhahood, while a Buddha also possesses the nine worlds and in this sense is not separate or different from ordinary people.
  • *3Three thousand realms in a single moment of life: A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world.
  • *4Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices.
  • *5Ten Worlds: The realms of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings, heavenly beings, voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. They are also referred to as the ten life states of hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, heaven, learning, realization, bodhisattva, and Buddhahood.
  • *6Fundamental ignorance: The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly, the true nature of one’s life.
  • *7In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “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. . . . To be endowed with the Ten Worlds means that all ten, without a single exception, exist in one world. Because of this it is called a mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that is translated as ‘perfectly endowed’ or ‘a cluster of blessings.’ This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith. This is what the sutra means when it states that one can ‘gain entrance through faith alone’ [LSOC3, 110]” (WND-1, 832).