False Accusations by Nichiren Shoshu Regarding Gohonzon Conferred by SGI

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Posted on December 08, 2010

1) They claim SGI Gohonzon did not Receive the “Eye-Opening” Ritual Performed by the High Priest
Nichiren Daishonin never mentioned an eye-opening ceremony being necessary for Gohonzon. He simply addresses the established religious tradition of this ritual as it applies to statues or painted images of the Buddha and in particular, refutes the practice in the True Word (Shingon) or esoteric Buddhism. He writes: “It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that can infuse such paintings and statues with a “soul” or “spiritual property” (WND-1, 684). The power of the Lotus Sutra means the power of our faith and prayer when chanting to the Gohonzon.

In writings on the subject prior to the appearance of Gohonzon (during his 1271 Sado exile), he uses the phrase “wooden or painted image” as in a 1264 writing, “Opening the Eyes of Wooden and Painted Images” (WND-1, 87). After he began inscribing Gohonzon, he continues to use the same phrase, “wooden or painted image,” and does not include the Gohonzon mandala as needing an eye-opening ceremony. In fact in 1278 he writes “in the eye-opening ceremony for Buddhist wooden and painted images, only the Lotus Sutra should be used” (WND-2, 789). In other words, the Lotus Sutra (Gohonzon) is to be used if such a ritual is performed on statues or paintings.

The priesthood started the practice of performing an eye-opening ceremony for Gohonzon after the death of Nichiren and Nikko. In their own archives there are records of many Gohonzon that never had such a ritual performed. From the end of World War II till 1970, all Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu were printed in a Tokyo at Hodo-in temple and distributed to other temples in Japan as requested. These Gohonzon, after being mounted and packed into boxes for delivery, were never transferred to the head temple nor received an eye-opening ceremony from the high priest.

Even after the Internal Affairs Department of the head temple was place in charge of matters concerning Gohonzon in 1979, a priest who worked in that office states: “In the case of okatagi Gohonzon, neither before nor after they were mounted did high priest Nikken conduct an eye-opening ceremony. They were simply sent directly to local temples as soon as they were produced.”

2) They claim Inscriptions in the Margins of SGI Gohonzon Have Been Removed
The “Nichikan Gohonzon” is not an invention by the Soka Gakkai. Responding to an offer from Reverend Sendo Narita, chief priest of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi prefecture, Japan, who seceded from Nichiren Shoshu in November 1992, the Soka Gakkai accepted a Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan in 1720 and started, in September 1993, conferring upon its members the Gohonzon based upon this Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon.

Nothing in the Gohonzon was deleted or added. However, in the margins, the original recipient’s name was removed. It is an old tradition that a transcribing high priest write the date and name of the recipient in the margins outside the Gohonzon itself. Sometimes these or other information was added by other priests.

These side inscriptions have no bearing on the doctrinal significance of the Gohonzon and are not essential elements as they appear outside the Gohonzon image. There is no evidence in any of Nichiren’s writings that what is written outside the Gohonzon image is significant.

The second high priest, Nikko Shonin, added names of receiving priests or lay believers to Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren. He states: “I have added the names of the recipients to extol them for posterity.” The 59th high priest, Nichiko, comments: “The side inscriptions of the names of recipients written on the object of worship are meant to praise their honorable names to the multitude of posterity as pioneers of kosen-rufu for their efforts to protect the Law.” (Fuji Nikko Shonin Shoden [Detailed Biography of Nikko of the Fuji School])

The priesthood themselves erased a side inscription on a wooden Gohonzon enshrined at a temple donated by the Soka Gakkai that read, “At the request of Daisaku Ikeda.” During World War II, some Gohonzon transcribed by Nichiren Shoshu priests contain inscriptions in the margins that say “To extol the magnificence of the emperor and to conquer Russia.”

3) They claim There are Missing Characters on Nichikan Gohonzon
There are characters on the Nikken and Nittatsu transcribed Gohonzon that are not on the Nichikan Gohonzon. The essence of the Gohonzon is the inscription that embodies the power of the Law and the power of the Buddha, or “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” This inscription represents the enlightened life of Nichiren Daishonin; this is the heart of the Gohonzon.

The surrounding names which represent the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds are secondary and have varied since Nichiren began inscribing Gohonzon. Not all of the Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren are the same by any means. For example, of the 120 extant Nichiren inscribed Gohonzon, only about a third contain the name Devadatta representing the world of Hell; only 65 contain Shariputra and Maudgalayana representing people of the two vehicles, and so on.

After the Daishonin’s death, successive high priests exercised their own judgment in how to represent the principle of the Ten Worlds.

4) They claim Gohonzon Conferred by the SGI are not Mounted on the Backing, but are Part of the Scroll Itself
There is no traditional way for how to produce the Gohonzon as a scroll. As technology changed over the years, the process for reproducing Gohonzon also changed. The Gohonzon is the white paper containing the kanji characters that make up the Gohonzon. The backing or frame around it merely ornamental. Until recently, the priesthood did not even bother to mount the Gohonzon at all. This was left to either the local temple, or the recipient.

All Gohonzon conferred to new believers are reproduced by printing press. These originally were done by means of a woodblock or “okatagi.” They are copies of the original hand lettered Gohonzon. In other words, both the Gohonzon conferred by the priesthood and SGI are reproductions of an original.