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Questions about the Gohonzon

Written February 21, 2005
From: David Heimburg
To: JC from Cocoa Beach, FL


Hi JC,

Good to hear from you again. You have a couple of very good questions you've asked. I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability, but do let me know if I've misunderstood your questions, won't you?

You ask about the meaning of the Gohonzon and its inscription by Nichiren and of the fusion of person and law depicted on it. This is a very important matter and one I don't dare take lightly. At the same time I vehemently oppose any efforts to discourage anyone from coming to grips with the significance and meaning of the Gohonzon by themselves. This is, after all, what the Gohonzon is for, isn't it? If YOU don't seek it then it is of little use to you. So first of all, J, I'm going to encourage you to read the gosho : "The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind" p.354 WND. Yes it's long. Yes it's difficult. But if you truly want to know what Nichiren meant, you're just going to have to read what he wrote, aren't you?

My own thoughts about the Gohonzon? That it is capable of being used to reveal the True Eternal Buddha within YOUR OWN LIFE. It's important to notice that I didn't say "reveal Nichiren's enlightenment" or "Shakyamuni's enlightenment". Although the Gohonzon is about the True Eternal Buddha within each of them, it's equally about revealing the True Eternal Buddha within JC. It is not an external power source. And it cannot be used for any other purpose than it's originally intended one...not successfully, that is.

The Gohonzon that you have in your butsudan? Yes it is a mechanically reproduced copy. So's mine. Is there an original Dai Gohonzon from which all other Gohonzons derive their power? No, there is not a Gohonzon that fulfills that function...never has been ...never will be. Once again to validate or refute this assertion, please read Nichiren as I have suggested. Is it improper to just give out Gohonzon to anyone as has been done in the past by NSA and is currently being done by Nichiren Shu? Most definitely. Once again I ask you to go back to the purpose of the Gohonzon to understand why. Its function is to allow you to reveal the ultimate potential within your own life, to see the Eternal Buddha within yourself. If a person has no intention of doing this, it does not fulfill its function and will be slandered by the individual who, in ignorance, slights its value. At the same time that person will slander the Eternal Buddha within themselves, disbelieving that such a thing could possibly exist. Nichiren also gave several examples of people to whom he declined to bestow the Gohonzon. It's important to read his writings that reveal that and understand why he didn't give them Gohonzons.

The power of the Gohonzon derives from the faith of the individual. The stronger the faith in the Eternal Buddha within yourself, the more clearly the power of the Gohonzon to reveal that Buddha. But understand what a Buddha is. I recommend that you read the Expedient Means and Life Span chapters of the Lotus Sutra (we do as our practice of gongyo). In the Expedient Means chapter Shakyamuni teaches that "The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas." and "This Law is not something that can be understood through pondering or analysis. Only those who are Buddhas can understand it." He also says that there's one great reason why all Buddhas appear in the world: " cause living beings to awaken to the Buddha wisdom." What does all this confusing talk of only being able to understand what a Buddha is by becoming a Buddha yourself? It's the great "catch 22" that only faith can transcend. As you practice for the purpose of revealing the True Eternal Buddha within JC's life, you THEN can begin to understand the power of the Law, of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. If you give this Gohonzon to someone who has no intention, much less any strong determination, to practice to reveal their Buddhahood, are they going to reveal the Buddha within themselves? It's hard to know what a person will EVENTUALLY do with regard to their Buddhist practice when they first encounter Buddhism. One thought (presumably the thought used by NSA and Nichiren Shu) should be carefully pondered when considering this dilemma about the Gohonzon: In the Expedient Means chapter of the Lotus Sutra it also says: "...after the Buddha has passed away it will be difficult to find anyone who can embrace, recite, and understand the meaning of sutras such as this. But if persons at that time encounter another Buddha, then they will attain decisive understanding with regard to this Law." The Gohonzon IS another Buddha. By encountering the Gohonzon, people can attain decisive understanding with regard to this Law. But for me, I will use the same discretion Nichiren used in this matter. Does that answer your questions about the Gohonzon? I know there are always going to be more, but I encourage you to study Nichiren's writings on your own to come to a better understanding throughout your life. Oh, and the Gohonzon that I have? It's a copy of a Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren, in his own hand. Is it more powerful than any other? No. But at the same time I challenge anyone to say it's any LESS powerful than any other, either. It's a copy of a Nichiren Gohonzon, SGI uses a copy of a Gohonzon inscribed by a high priest, as does Nichiren Shoshu. Are they all valid Gohonzons? Yes...and you'll know that's true if you read and consider that the Gohonzon is only to be found within the faith and life of an individual who embraces the Law. Nowhere else.

SGI has taught that "the organization is more important than my life", according to Pres. Toda, and since Toda's time that if one leaves the organization all benefits will stop and one will fall into misery. Nichiren Shoshu also teaches this for their own organization. This is important, J. When they say such things they are slandering the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Also when they say you must have a mentor or priest to lead you to enlightenment they are likewise slandering. Why do I say so? Because in reality people are hearing them and then thinking that it's true that they could never be a Buddha without outside help. They cause people to believe more in the organization or mentor or priest than in the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo within. Let me be perfectly clear about this, J. You DO NOT need anyone else to attain enlightenment. What you DO need is to use the Law - or teachings-or path as your mentor as both Shakyamuni and Nichiren did. The Law itself is the only correct mentor. Not the person. And even if Nichiren were to say so, he would be guilty of the same errors that Shakyamuni committed in his provisional teachings. And it then follows that another error SGI has made is in revering Nichiren as the True Eternal Buddha rather than the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo as the True Eternal Buddha. A small error, over time, is like the analogy of the rocket that, if not corrected in its direction, will eventually be thousands of miles off course. The Law is your compass, and it will never fail you if you use it. This and other errors have led SGI off course.

Which brings me to my last point. Before I wrote this letter to you I chanted more than one hour. Why? Because you are important and it is important that I not mislead you or anyone else and that I truly care about you if you are to listen to me. As you may already know on the Internet there are thousands of low life condition individuals out there writing about Buddhist organizations, mostly. I encourage you to be strict with yourself and use the same tactics I'm using: Chant at least an hour for whomever you are writing. OK, so it may slow down the communication process some...or will it? There is a lot we should discuss about Buddhism as it relates to our individual lives. All others out there are all about organization...I am not. I am about encouraging Buddhas to emerge, one by one. Does that mean that a person must reject all organizations to become a Buddha? NO. No more than embracing an organization enables one to become a Buddha. It's simply not a part of the emergence of the Buddha from within your life. I am convinced that you....JC...can attain Buddhahood by practicing exactly as Nichiren taught and Shakyamuni described in the Lotus Sutra. How? By performing the actions and function of a Buddha, that's how. And what are those actions? In this time period (Mappo) the only way that works is refutation of erroneous teachings and pointing out the true teachings. We live in an age full of Christians and Muslims and Jews and other deity focused religions. They are exactly like SGI or NST when both point to their leaders or their organization as the only "saving power" out there. They are wrong. So what I encourage you to do, to the very best of your ability, is to refute people's errors with compassion...wherever, whoever they are, as your practice of Buddhism. You will attain enlightenment in this lifetime if you are able to do so. But this kind of practice is extremely difficult. Read Nichiren. Understand what to do for yourself by reading and chanting and making efforts to lead even one other person to enlightenment. That's what a Buddha does. That's Buddhist practice. Oh, and if you want to go to meetings or go on forums on the Internet and such, these too become your Buddhist practice when you chant with all your heart to change the lives of others and lead them to become Buddhas. This is our practice. It's not found in efforts for world peace or culture or education. It's only found in our little individual efforts to convince one other person that they can become a True Buddha by practicing Buddhism. This power is inconceivably great.

You are one of the very few people in the world today who actually ask about Buddhism directly. J, that's a truly difficult thing for anyone to do...looks simple...but it's not. Organizations, leaders, arrogance, relationships, prejudices, and other things always get in the way. Be convinced that your seeking mind about Buddhism is the most praiseworthy thing a human can do.

With much respect,

Dave Heimburg


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