Skip to main content

Gosho Study

‘The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind’

Key highlights from this writing

Photo by Anthony Wallen.


Nichiren Daishonin completed this letter on April 26, 1273, while in exile on Sado Island, addressing it to Toki Jonin, a prominent disciple.

In comparison to “The Opening of the Eyes,” in which he sets forth the object of devotion in which he reveals that he is the Buddha of the Latter Day, this work clarifies the correct object of devotion, the Gohonzon. He explains that to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon is in itself the practice of “observing one’s own mind,” that is, to perceive one’s inherent Buddhahood. In other words, embracing the Gohonzon while chanting for self and others is the way in which we attain Buddhahood.

The full title of the work is “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind Established in the Fifth Five-Hundred-Year Period after the Thus Come One’s Passing.” The fifth five-hundred-year period indicates the time we are in now, the Latter Day of the Law. This is the time when the Gohonzon and the teaching for the enlightenment of all people will spread throughout the world.


“Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in these five characters,[1] we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 365)


Shakyamuni Buddha engaged in many practices (causes) for many years before he attained the “virtues” of enlightenment (effect). Here Nichiren Daishonin says that all of those practices and resultant benefits are contained within Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

In fact, Myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental Law that enabled not only Shakyamuni but all other Buddhas to attain enlightenment. Therefore, Nichiren declares that we, too, can gain the same benefits when we “believe in these five characters.”

Believing in these five characters means to embrace the Gohonzon, to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for oneself and others. By chanting for oneself and encouraging others to do the same, we bring out the Gohonzon’s beneficial power and can gain the virtues of the Buddha.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and doing gongyo is a practice to bring forth the Buddha nature from within our lives. Elsewhere, Nichiren relates this idea to a caged bird: “When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge” (WND-1, 887). A strong faith and practice will set free our own “caged bird.”


“When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.” (WND-1, 376)


Buddhism doesn’t exist apart from daily reality. The Buddhist Law permeates all of space—the universe itself—and all of time—past, present, and future. Therefore, as Nichiren says here, Buddhist wisdom can help us understand the true nature of everything that goes on in the world.

For us, this means that when we base ourselves on faith, we can win in all aspects of life: work, relationships, finances, health, and so on. No matter the situation, if we look at it as a Buddha would, we can find a solution. We will never be deadlocked. In fact, we will see the profound meaning and purpose of all the difficulties we come up against, and we’ll find the courage to face them head-on.

“When the skies are clear” indicates emerging from the cloudiness of our delusions through earnest prayer and courageous action. “The ground is illuminated” indicates that the path to victory and happiness will be revealed before us. Buddhist wisdom allows us to transform everything, good or bad, into opportunities to become happy.


“Showing profound compassion for those unable to comprehend the gem of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the Buddha wrapped it within the five characters [of Myoho-renge-kyo], with which he then adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the latter age.” (WND-1, 376)


The Buddhist principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life teaches that all phenomena exist in our lives, at each moment, and that everything can be transformed into goodness. In other words, life has infinite possibilities.

Before Nichiren, there was a complex meditation practice to attain Buddhahood, which was referred to as “observing the mind,” or perceiving one’s inherent Buddhahood. Considerable ability was required to perform that practice, however, and it wasn’t for everyone. Thus ordinary people couldn’t grasp the concept of three thousand realms in a single moment of life.

Nichiren made things simple. By inscribing the Gohonzon, he enabled all people to reveal their Buddha nature. He taught that the Buddha had wrapped “the gem of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life” in the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, which Nichiren inscribed on the Gohonzon. He thus gave us a practical tool for bringing out our Buddhahood.

“Adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the latter age” means that he established a practice that made it possible for ordinary people to manifest their Buddha nature, just as they are—no special ability required. This practice is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon for oneself and others.

In the SGI, we strive to follow Nichiren’s spirit of willingly devoting our lives to enabling all people to attain Buddhahood. By fulfilling this mission we can gain unlimited power from our practice.


  1. Five characters: Myoho-renge-kyo is written using five Chinese characters. ↩︎

Read more