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Buddhist Study

Never Seek the Gohonzon Outside Yourself


Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 832)

Background: In 1277, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to a disciple named Nichinyo, who is thought to have been an educated woman with strong faith. Prior to receiving this letter, Nichinyo had received the Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren. To express her appreciation, she wrote him a letter and sent him various offerings. “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon” is his response to her letter.

SGI President Ikeda: Nichinyo must have been extremely moved to learn that the Gohonzon she received from Nichiren Daishonin is the Gohonzon that has been revealed for the first time in the Latter Day of the Law. But, then, he discloses an even more astonishing fact, writing: “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 832). He is saying that the Gohonzon does not exist outside us but within our own lives. Shifting the focus of faith and practice from the external to the internal was a dramatic change.

In Nichiren’s day—and, in many cases, even today—we find the following deeply rooted view that we are but small, insignificant beings and the ultimate reality and eternal value lies somewhere outside of us, somewhere far away. Such a way of thinking is inextricably connected with belief in some otherworldly, supernatural power.

Nichiren Buddhism, however, rejects this idea completely. It teaches the true reality of life in which the eternal and ultimate Law is revealed in the physical beings of ordinary people living right here and now.

The term Buddha, after all, means “enlightened one.” To what did the Buddha become enlightened? To that which should form the true basis of our life—namely, the Law and the true essence of our being. He awoke to the universal Law permeating all phenomena, which had previously been obscured by fundamental darkness. He awoke to the greatness of each individual’s life that is one and indivisible with that Law.

“The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people”—the real significance here is that the Gohonzon Nichiren inscribed is the means by which we can awaken to and call forth the Gohonzon (the Buddhahood) within us. The physical Gohonzon we chant to is the very same Gohonzon that is in our heart; and it is by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of ourselves and others that we can clearly awaken to the Gohonzon within us.

In another letter to Nichinyo, he writes in a similar vein, “When I ponder where this ‘Treasure Tower’ chapter[1] is now, I see that it exists in the eight-petaled lotus flower of the heart within the breast of Nichinyo” (WND-1, 915). Both “within the mortal flesh” and “in the eight-petaled lotus flower of the heart” mean “within the depths of one’s own life.”

SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

The Benefit of Embracing the Gohonzon

The following excerpt is from The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, pp. 112–13.

Through carrying out the practice of the Mystic Law for ourselves and others, our lives become the Gohonzon. We can in fact make our lives shine as entities of the Mystic Law.

[Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda] said: “When we embrace the Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Gohonzon permeates our lives. When we open our eyes and look at the universe, there we find the Gohonzon. And when we close our eyes and look deeply within, the Gohonzon appears there too. The Gohonzon in our hearts grows stronger and comes to shine still more brightly.”

The entire universe is the true aspect of all phenomena and the Gohonzon. Our lives are also the true aspect of all phenomena and the Gohonzon. Therefore, when we embrace the Gohonzon, through the dynamic exchange between the universe and our lives, our true aspect—that is, our lives as entities of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—comes to shine. The wisdom of the Buddha inherent in our lives wells forth. The courage to take compassionate action arises in our hearts, and we enter the golden path of happiness.


  1. The “Treasure Tower” chapter here indicates the Ceremony in the Air, which begins in this chapter, the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The “eight-petaled lotus flower of the heart” refers to the arrangement of the heart, lungs and other organs in the chest cavity, which was thought to resemble an eight-petaled lotus blossom. ↩︎

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