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: "...to
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,