Fundamentals

How to Enshrine the Gohonzon and Care for Your Buddhist Altar

Fundamentals

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 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.

What are some basic points to keep in mind when enshrining the Gohonzon?

Respectful attitude

The Gohonzon is the object of devotion, which embodies one’s enlightened life. Therefore, it should be handled with utmost respect during the enshrinement.

Careful handling

As much as possible, to prevent stains or soiling, avoid directly touching the Gohonzon (which consists of calligraphy on white paper) or the cloth backing.

Proper height

The Gohonzon should be enshrined at such a height that you are neither looking down on it nor straining your neck to look up at it when chanting.

Q: What should I keep in mind when finding the best place to set up my Buddhist altar?

Safe and secure

The altar should 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. It should also be in an accessible area where you can chant comfortably. If possible, it is best to avoid placing the altar too close to doors, open windows, fireplaces or busy passageways.

Minimal distractions

Try to find a place with minimal distractions, for example, a location that is not too close to a television or in areas that may often be used
by other members of the household.

Ample light

The location should have ample light so the
Gohonzon can easily be seen when the altar is open.

 

Q: What are some basic points to keep in mind related to the care of the altar?

Cleanliness

Keep the altar area neat, clean and dust-free at all times.

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. Candles and incense should not be placed too close to the altar.

Traditionally, greens, incense, candles and fresh water are offered. Some choose to use electric candles or forgo incense for fire safety or due to sensitivity to smoke.

Again, these offerings are meant to dignify the altar area as an expression of our sincerity. Most important is our sincere spirit to treasure and protect the Gohonzon.

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