Fundamentals

How To Care for the Gohonzon

The steps we take in maintaining our Buddhist altar reflect our appreciation for the Gohonzon residing in our own lives.

Photo: Victor Golden.


The Gohonzon is not a symbol of an omnipotent external power, but rather a “mirror” that allows us to awaken to the infinite potential within our own lives. Nichiren Daishonin embodied in the Gohonzon his enlightened state of life, which he stressed also exists in all people. When we take action to care for and protect the Gohonzon, we are doing so out of a commitment to strengthen our Buddha nature and out of a sincere appreciation for all life. The steps we take in maintaining our Buddhist altar reflect our appreciation for the value of the Gohonzon residing in our individual lives.

The following guidelines are intended to help SGI members care for the Gohonzon. That said, the most important elements in caring for the Gohonzon are our faith and practice. Except for the altar itself, use of the various accessories outlined here is a personal choice.

The Altar

Secure, warm shelter is basic to our survival. Likewise, protecting the Gohonzon in an altar is fundamental to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. The altar should be located in a secure yet accessible area where we can chant comfortably.

The altar should also be placed in a location where it will be secure and stable, with minimal risk of the Gohonzon being knocked over or damaged in any way. If possible, it is best to avoid placing the altar too close to doors, open windows, fireplaces or busy passageways.

Offerings

While chanting and reciting the sutra are fundamental, placing offerings such as candles, greens, fruit and incense fall into the category of formalities, which are not a required part of Buddhist practice. SGI members, however, often choose to make such offerings as an expression of sincerity, respect and praise for the Gohonzon.

Again, these offerings are meant to dignify the altar area as an expression of our sincerity, so their exact form and presentation are matters of personal choice. Most important is our sincere spirit to treasure and protect the Gohonzon.

Daily Care

Just as we maintain and clean our homes, it is important to keep our altar orderly and neat. On a practical level, the area in front of the Gohonzon should be cleaned daily to protect the Gohonzon from exposure to dust, and candles and incense should not be placed too close to the altar.

 

(p. 7)