Feb 26, 2020



Are you somewhat curious about Japanese culture, tradition, and practices? Do you know what is meant by Gohonzon? Below are pieces of information that might help you.

What is Gohonzon?

For you to understand better what Gohonzon is, you may refer to the several definitions below.

In Japanese Buddhism, this refers to a calligraphic scroll guiding Buddhists, especially those practitioners towards enlightenment.

 This also refers to the object of devotion. Buddhism practitioners have their altars in their home that serves as the place where they set down the Gohonzon. 

In Japan, Gohonzon is popularly to have a scroll that contains Sanskrit and Chinese characters that helps practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. This can be possibly made by the use of bringing and perceiving the life situation of the Buddhahood that came from their lives.

In Buddhism, it refers to a fundamental law that spread through all forms of life. It is the grandeur reality that enlightened Shakyamuni.

Basically, it refers to the blueprint of the unbounded potential of one’s inner lives. It also mirrors those qualities inherited by Buddha. Qualities such as courage, wisdom, life force, and compassion. 

How important Gohonzon for Japanese people?

Gohonzon plays a vital role in Japanese traditional practice. By facing Gohonzon, they were able to express their daily practice like chanting Nam- myoho- renge- kyo and reciting some parts of Lotus Sutra. For the Japanese people, if they can exercise those things every day, it already shows an act of revering and reaffirming their dignity as a human. By showing deep admiration and respect of the nature inherent of Buddha within their own existence and by portraying Gohonzon, practitioners now then believe that they display the Buddhahood qualities. 

As what is mentioned above, Japanese people face Gohonzon as they recite the chant, which is nam- myoho- renge- kyo. This chant can be seen in the center of Gohonzon. That’s why it becomes easier for them to recite the chant. Now, let’s talk about more of their Japanese chant.

Nam means devotion. This is an indication of the purpose of harmonizing or summoning with. It conveys a vow about Buddhahood that takes action with the sequence of this recited vow. In addition, nam-myo- renge- kyo are the characters that represent varied positive as well as negative propensity and energies in anyone’s life. It is said that all these energies are all intrinsic to one’s existence, but harmonized by the rule of Nam- myo-renge- kyo. Eventually, this displays the enlightened facet and function that give rise to happiness and value.

More things about Gohonzon

The characters in a Gohonzon are put in order in a path to outline a Lotus Sutra scene, which is known as “Ceremony in the Air.” In the event where Shakyamuni divulge the spirit of Lotus Sutra and the committed disciples, also the earth’s Bodhisattvas, to sustain and broaden this teaching and eventually may lead to one’s happiness. One of Buddha’s nature is the task and the effort with regards to the Japanese people’s happiness. 

Gohonzon also conveys the general notion about mutual possession what is known as the ten life states or Ten Worlds. This only shows that Buddhahood continues to live as a capability in any given situation or moment in an individual’s life. It doesn’t lie on the surface of one’s everyday living or existence. 

Gohonzon is also an instrument that helps people to focus their minds and realized that they are all Buddhas. Humans may encounter several destructions in life. That’s why it becomes hard for them to realize their essence. An object, particularly the Gohonzon, can be a great way to reel the “monkey mind“ of people. Moreover, this can be the best way to motivate Japanese people to focus on dharma. Although this will not give special powers to you, and though it will not grant all your wishes, also it is not the spring of idol worship, still Gohonzon is being embraced by the Japanese tradition. Thus, it mirrors the Japanese people's inner-most line of thinking or thoughts.    

Forms of Gohonzon

There are several forms of Gohonzon in Japan. It may depend on a particular sect.

  • Statues- this refers to either animal or person’s cast figure that can be life-size or much larger
  • Calligraphic writings that denote interconnectedness of the things
  • Mandalas – typically formed in a piece of paper or cloth, these circle writings which are contained in a square
  • Paintings- these are designs created with the use of color pigment or paint
  • Artistic interpretations- it is a work of art that expresses feelings and emotions

Those are just some examples of Gohonzon. Whatever type of Gohonzon it is, what is important for Japanese tradition is their belief about the effect of Gohonzon in their lives. This makes their thinking positive; thus, negativity has no more part in their lives. Living the teachings of Buddha as their tradition makes their life simpler and easier. Their main object of devotion, which is Buddha, also serves as their guide to the right path. This became possible with the Gohonzon statuary or scroll. 

Nichiren Shonin and Gohonzon

Nichiren is the founder of Buddhism, who pursued an object of devotion for his followers. At that time, Nichiren believes that mandalas and statues both don’t represent their Eternal Buddha. In order to have this object, he formed a calligraphic explanation that incorporates ideas coming from La Sutra.  Thus, he was the one who inscribed Gohonzon. Through this calligraphic writing, it served as a guide for the Japanese practitioners in reaching the path of understanding or enlightenment.

He attached the substantial significance of his writing in the Gohonzon as he declared this as a crucial moment in his life. All the details in the Gohonzon are clear. Thus, it became easy for others to have a copy from the original Gohonzon. Copies have been made, but it varies in sizes. For Nichiren, this serves as a machine that produces happiness.

Gohonzon was inscribed in a traditional character that reveals Buddhas teaching and Japanese tradition. Nichiren even refers to Gohonzon as a propagation banner as well as a cluster of blessings. For him, it is a way of harmonizing with the universal force in life.

Nichiren repeatedly stressed that the key is to believe that humans are all perfectly endowed beings. He also believed that humans could reveal the nature of Buddha in life’s present form, any moment in time, and anywhere.  He also stated that humans should never look Gohonzon outside themselves. 

With those pieces of information, you now have an understanding of Gohonzon. This Gohonzon plays an important part in every Japanese life. They have their own belief about it as they practice their tradition. For Buddhists, their lives wouldn’t be the same as what they have right now without Gohonzon. They can never be the people that they are at the moment without the learnings that they have with Gohonzon.

With Gohonzon, it is much easier for the people of Japan to know what’s within their inner thought. They can now learn how to strive each day despite sorrow or joy in their daily lives. As part of their tradition and culture, they are practicing the value of being of help to other people as they believe that no one should be left behind. With the presence of Gohonzon and their belief about it, Japanese people now live in a society that shows their capabilities and strengths to life’s fullest.