Published by Soka Spirit Editor
Posted on January 21, 2011
Eye-opening Ceremonies Are Meaningless
By SGI President Ikeda
President Ikeda gave the following speech on Dec. 23, 1992 in Tokyo. It was published in the February 1993 issue of the Seikyo Times, pp. 4–9.
Today I would like to speak about the concept of the “opening of the eyes,” about which a number “of people have recently inquired.
As the name suggests, the original meaning of the “eye-opening” ceremony is to “open the eyes.” In the colloquial, it has taken on the meaning of “to endow with a soul.”
In Buddhism generally, the terms light-opening, brilliance-opening and brilliance light-opening are often substituted for” eye-opening.”
In general, when a statue of a Buddha or bodhisattva is newly carved or cast, or a painting is made or copied, “offerings of the Law” are made in ceremonious prayer and the object is thereby thought to be endowed with spiritual properties. Such items are then revered as objects of worship.
A Ceremony of Uncertain Origins
Of course, there was no such ceremony in Shakyamuni’s time. Nor is there any record of such ceremonies occurring for a long time after his death.
The first statue of the Buddha is thought to have been made in the area of Gandhara in northwest India around the year 100. The production of such images was begun under the strong influence of Greek civilization. Statues of the Buddha were also produced in the Indian city of Mathura around the same time.
Naturally, it was after this time that the eye-opening ceremony became an issue. Historically, the ceremony did not exist at the time of Buddhism’s origin.
Images of the Buddha were made by Buddhist artisans, that is to say, by craftsmen who were ordinary people. Through the eye-opening ceremony, statues or images that had been made by unenlightened people took on the authority of objects of worship.
In later ages, in Japan as well, the term opening of the eyes was adopted by the major schools, and the five types of eye-openings and other such matters were widely discussed.
Among the various Buddhist schools in Japan, the Shingon sect attached particular importance to eye-opening rituals, and some other schools came to conduct the eye-opening for Buddha images using the Shingon rites.
One text records, “The eye-opening for Buddhist statues is a teaching common to all sects, and is of particular importance to the esoteric Shingon sect” (from Sorinshu).
Honen of the Pure Land school describes putting in the eyes after Buddhist artisans have finished the carving as the “actual eye-opening,” while calling the eye-opening ceremony conducted with the Shingon rituals the “theoretical opening of the eyes.”
Even in Nichiren Daishonin’s time, the use of Shingon mudras and mantras (or secret-hand gestures and incantations, respectively) was thought to be indispensable for “opening the eyes” of Buddhist images.
In “On the Selection of the Time,” Nichiren says of the conditions of his day, “And in the eye-opening ceremony carried out at the consecration of wooden and painted Buddhist images, the priests of all the eight schools of Buddhism now use the mudras and mantras of the Thus Come One Mahavairochana and the honored one Buddha Eye!!”(WND-1,572)
Eye-opening Ceremonies of False Schools, Invite the Devil King
In his collected writings, the Daishonin makes reference to the eye-opening ceremony, or to offerings for the eye-opening, in seventeen places. In most of these instances, he raises the issue for the purpose of refuting the validity of the eye-opening ceremony conducted with Shingon rites, teaching instead that the eye-opening ceremony should be conducted with the Lotus Sutra.
For instance, he says:
“In performing ” the eye-opening ceremony for Buddhist wooden and painted images, only the Lotus Sutra should be used” (WND-2, 789).
“It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that can infuse such paintings and statues with a “soul” or spiritual property. This was the realization of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. In the case of living beings, this doctrine is known as attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form; in the case of painted and wooden images, it is known as the enlightenment of plants and trees.” (WND-1, 685)
The principle of the enlightenment of plants and trees makes it possible for statues or paintings made of trees or plants to become infused with the life of the Buddha; and this principle is clarified only by the doctrine of 3,000 realms (ichinen sanzen), which is contained in the Lotus Sutra.
The Daishonin states that images of the Buddha whose eyes have been “opened” by the heretical Shingon teaching “have been rendered soulless and sightless” (WND-1, 651) and, worse still, “have been possessed by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, bringing ruin upon their own worshipers” (Ibid.). He further states, “Demons occupy [such Buddha images] and deprive people of their lives…. [And] devils enter those images and deprive people of benefits” (WND-1, 87).
The Daishonin says that an eye-opening ceremony·· that is conducted by a priest who does not follow the Lotus Sutra actually summons demons and the devil king to inhabit the Buddha image.
Elsewhere (in “On the Enlightenment of Trees and Plants”), the Daishonin touches on the matter of conducting an eye-opening ceremony for toba, or memorial tablets, in only one place. There, too, he teaches that unless the ceremony is conducted based on the Lotus Sutra and the doctrine of 3,000 realms, neither will any trees and plants attain Buddhahood, nor will any true opening of the eyes take place.
Why Are Priests So Attached
to Conducting Eye-opening Ceremonies?
In fact, ever since the eye-opening ceremony first became an institution in Buddhism, conducting such rites has been an important source of revenue for priests.
No matter how splendid a Buddha image someone might create, unless a special ceremony was performed by priests of renowned practice, it would be meaningless.
Naturally, conducting eye-opening ceremonies became a golden opportunity for priests to make money and, at the same, enhance their authority. The following passage from “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” points to just this tendency:
“Even followers of the Tendai school, hoping to be asked to perform the eye-opening ceremony for the consecration of painted or wooden Buddhist images, adopt the mudras and mantras in which the True Word school is believed to excel. Thus in effect the whole of Japan goes over to the True Word school, and the Tendai school is left without a single follower” (WND-1, 710–11).
The conducting of eye-opening ceremonies thus played an important historical part in causing Mount Hiei, which was the head temple of the Lotus Sutra of the day, to adopt slanderous teachings.
There Is No “Eye” Other Than the Gohonzon
The Daishonin states that the “eyes” referred to by the phrase “the opening of the eyes” are none other than the Lotus Sutra and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The Lotus Sutra is endowed with the five types of vision. (1) the eye of common mortals; 2) the divine eye; 3) the eye of wisdom; 4) the eye of the Law; and 5) the eye of the Buddha.
Again, the Buddha comes into being through the Lotus Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra is the very soul of the Buddha. Therefore, the Daishonin states that the Lotus Sutra, which is the source of the Buddha, should be the object of worship.
In “Questions and Answers on the Object of Worship,” the Daishonin says: “I, Nichiren, too, following the example of the Buddha and T’ien-t’ai, take the Lotus Sutra as the object of devotion. I do so because the Lotus Sutra is the father and mother of Shakyamuni Buddha, the eye of the Buddhas. Shakyamuni, Mahavairochana, and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions were born from the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, as the object of devotion I now take that which is capable of bringing forth such life force”(WND-2, 788–89).
The Gohonzon that the Daishonin inscribed is itself the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law and the “eye of all Buddhas.” The original significance of the opening of the eyes that the Daishonin describes is to be found in the revelation of this “eye,” that is to say, in the revelation of the Gohonzon.
“The character “eye” [of “eye-opening”] signifies the doctrine of 3,000 realms. The 69,384 characters [of the Lotus Sutra] are all contained in the one character “eye”….
“Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, the “eye” is the great mandalathat was never before revealed [during the Former or Middle Day]. There is no “eye” apart from this Gohonzon. (“Miko Kikigaki,” Niko’s record of the Daishonin’s lecture on the Lotus Sutra, Gosho Zenshu, p. 841)
Correct Faith and Practice
Unleash the Powers of the Buddha and the Law
The Gohonzon that the Daishonin inscribed is itself the eye of the Buddha. Therefore, there is no need whatsoever to conduct a ceremony to “open the eyes” of, or to inject “soul” into, the object of worship.
The Daishonin says of the Gohonzon: “I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink” (WND-1, 412); and, “The doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life I have revealed in all its purity in the great mandala” (WND-2, 430). The Gohonzon is in truth the entity of the life of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. It is endowed with the inexhaustible powers of the Buddha and the Law.
Therefore, it is not some formality, but the powers of faith and practice of those who revere the Gohonzon that count. The power of the Buddha and the power of the Law of the Gohonzon become manifest in accordance with the powers of faith and practice, correct and strong, that we exert.
Grandiose ceremonies performed by slanderous priests who lack the powers of faith and practice have absolutely no meaning. There is no need whatsoever for such ceremonies.
Rather, the practice of us who are living for kosen-rufu, who morning and evening sit up straight before and pray to the Gohonzon, is one that accords with the Daishonin’s original teaching of the “opening of the eyes. “
Priests who lack faith have performed eye-opening ceremonies before stupas for the Three Masters and at ossuaries in graveyards and cemetery parks, or for prayer beads, for the sole purpose of making money and asserting their own authority.
One must not be deceived.
As clarified in the writings and in the warning articles of Nikko Shonin, priests who lack the spirit to struggle for kosen-rufu at the cost of their lives are guilty of slander.
Eye-opening ceremonies conducted by slanderous priests are nothing but harmful. In any event, what counts is to have unparalleled faith in the Gohonzon and to practice for kosen-rufu with others in the unity ofmany in body, one in mind.
In view of the Daishonin’s essential teaching of the opening of the eyes, the truth of the practice of the SGI becomes most clear. I hope that, in light of the foregoing discussion, you will be still more deeply confident of this.
In closing, I would like to again read from the writings of Nichiren:
“From now on too, no matter what may happen, you must not slacken in the least. You must raise your voice all the more and admonish [those who slander]. Even if your life should be threatened, you must not falter in the least” (WND-2, 597).