When you visit your
local Nichiren Shoshu Temple you will probably notice that in the sanctuary,
next to the main altar there is a second, smaller altar usually on the right
hand side. It has the offerings of water, evergreens, an incense burner, and a
candle. Above these offerings are slots or spaces to place memorial tablets. At
the front is a large powdered incense burner. The purpose of this Memorial
Altar is for the offering of Toba
Memorial Tablets for the benefit of the
deceased. This is a very significant aspect of the practice of Nichiren Shoshu
takes the form of five
levels which signify the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and ku
bottom level of the Toba
shaped like a square, represents earth. The second level is in the shape of a
circle, representing water. The third level, denoting fire, is a triangle. The
fourth level, in the shape of a semicircle represents wind. At the top of the Toba
is the level
It is shaped like a jewel signifying the “treasure of fulfillment.” The
Daishonin taught that all phenomena in the universe are composed of these five
elements. This, of course, includes the human body. Therefore, the Toba
signifies the body of
These five levels of
the five elements also correspond to the five characters of Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo.
The Daishonin teaches in the “Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings”
Our head represents Myo
, the throat is Ho
, the chest is Ren
, the womb is Ge
, and the legs are kyo
. This five-foot body of
ours is, indeed, the manifestation of the five characters of the Mystic Law,
The Daishonin also
states in the Gosho, “On the Ultimate Teaching Affirmed by All Buddhas:”
The five elements are
earth, water, fire, wind, and ku
...These are, in other words, the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
The five levels of
signify the body of the Buddha.
When we chant sincere Daimoku to the Gohonzon for the
enlightenment of the deceased, we, ourselves can attain enlightenment. In
addition, the deceased, who cannot chant Daimoku for themselves, gain
tremendous benefit from the Daimoku we chant for them. This is the principle
behind the Toba
Memorial Service. The True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin stated:
rely on the benefits of offerings from their relatives. So you should offer
your benefit to them to relieve their suffering.
(Shintei Gosho,Vol. 1, p. 72)
On the Toba
is inscribed Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
There is also an inscription in Chinese characters stating, “Here exists the
body of the Buddha.” Under the Daimoku is the name of the deceased, and on the
reverse side is inscribed the name of the person who requested it.
Requests for a Toba
are done in writing at
your local Nichiren Shoshu Temple, or the Temple you are visiting. If you wish
to offer a Toba
at the Head Temple during Tozan pilgrimage, you may make your request in the Tobashitsu
office next to the Mutsubo
) on the Head Temple grounds. If you don’t live
near a Nichiren Shoshu Temple, you can make your request by mail.
Request Form asks for the date you want the Toba
to be offered, the name of the deceased and the name of the person
making the request. Your relationship to the deceased (such as father, aunt,
friend, pet dog) and the date of death should be written on the application
which is submitted with an offering of Gokuyo
. Because the Tobas are individually inscribed by
the priest, put your requests in early.
It is best if the
believer making the request can be present at the Temple when the Toba
is offered to the
Gohonzon. The Priest and the believer then can pray in unity for the
enlightenment of the deceased. If this is not possible, the Priest will offer
The Offering of Powdered Incense at the
The recitation of the
Sutra will begin. The offering of powdered incense begins during Part B of
Gongyo. It is not
appropriate to wait until the
sutra recitation is finished and offer powdered incense during the chanting of
Daimoku, or during the silent prayers. If, however, there are so many people
that it is not possible to finish before Daimoku starts, an exception is made.
Chant silently when approaching the Memorial Altar.
·With palms together, face the Gohonzon, silently
offer three Daimoku and bow.
·Then face the Memorial Altar, silently offer
three Daimoku and bow.
·Take a small pinch of incense powder between two
fingers, gently raise the hand holding the incense slightly above eye level as
a gesture of respect, and place the incense powder on the charcoal in the
burner. This is done three times.
·Face the Memorial Altar, offer three silent
Daimoku and bow. Face the Gohonzon, repeat the three silent Daimoku and return
to your seat.
There is tremendous
benefit in offering a Toba
Memorial Tablet. Through the power of the Mystic Law we are able to reach and
affect the life of the deceased. The Daishonin states:
You erected a sixteen-foot
seven characters of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo inscribed on it. ...Your deceased
parents must be illuminating the pure land as brilliantly as would the sun and
moon in the heavens. Furthermore, you yourselves, their filial son and his
wife, as well as your children, will live to be one hundred and twenty.
Vol. 5, p. 299, Shinpen,