Why do I need the Gohonzon?
This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions about Nichiren Buddhism.
Q: I’ve been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for a little while and have seen changes in my life, but I haven’t received the Gohonzon. Why do I need the Gohonzon?
A: It’s wonderful that you’ve seen the benefit of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting enables us to call forth the highest life state of Buddhahood and experience the greatest happiness in our lives. Buddhism teaches that we and everything in our environment are interconnected. So when we chant and bring forth our Buddhahood, we can elicit the same enlightened aspect that resides in the people and things around us, creating value for ourselves and others.
Though easy to agree that all people have wonderful potential within, believing this about ourselves as well as others is not easy. In addition, the reality of daily life is that it is difficult to maintain consistency in many things we do. The same applies to our Buddhist practice. As Nichiren Daishonin states: “Many hear about and accept this sutra, but when great obstacles arise, just as they were told would happen, few remember it and bear it firmly in mind. To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith” (“The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 471).
In short, by having the Gohonzon enshrined in our homes, we are able to consistently and freely chant and derive innate courage, wisdom, compassion and everything that we need to progress in life. Especially when facing daunting or discouraging situations, chanting to the Gohonzon helps us face challenges head on and win.
Why is this?
Because Nichiren Daishonin’s winning state of life is expressed in the Gohonzon. To fulfill his vow to lead all people to lasting happiness, he overcame numerous harsh persecutions and attempts on his life. After the failed execution attempt at Tatsunokuchi in 1271, Nichiren began inscribing the Gohonzon—a physical expression of his enlightened and victorious life. We activate within our lives this same enlightened and victorious life condition by chanting to the Gohonzon.
The Gohonzon is a graphic representation of the sublime reality to which Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened, the fundamental Law that permeates all life. Nichiren identified this Law as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, establishing the teaching and practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to directly awaken the innate enlightened nature in all people. The Gohonzon serves as a mirror to reflect our innate enlightened nature and causes it to permeate every aspect of our lives.
SGI President Ikeda says: “Just as you look into a mirror when you make up your face, to beautify the face of the soul, you need a mirror that reflects the depths of your life. This mirror is none other than the Gohonzon of ‘observing one’s mind,’ or more precisely, observing one’s life” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 97).
The Gohonzon is the clearest of all mirrors. When we chant to the Gohonzon, we can perceive the true aspect of our lives and bring forth the limitless power of Buddhahood to illuminate all aspects of our lives.