The True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching (Honmon no honzon)

In “The Perfect Endowment of Life” (“Sozai ichinen-sho”), Nichiren Daishonin states:

It is because each of us also possesses the three thousand realms (ichinen sanzen) that we are innately endowed with the Buddha entity. Because that is so, even people in the hell of incessant suffering possess the three thousand realms and can, without exception, become one with the Tathagata of mystic enlightenment.
(Gosho, p. 114)

The Daishonin explains that the principle of ichinen sanzen demonstrates that the lives of all living beings are innately and perfectly endowed with the life of the Buddha, and that even people who erroneously believe in a qualitative difference between Buddhas and ordinary people can, without question, access the realm of the Buddha. He adds, however, that one who wishes to manifest the Buddha realm must embrace the Gohonzon of the Essential Teaching as his or her physical and spiritual object of faith. In his writing, “The Meanings Hidden in the Depths” (“Montei hitchin-sho”), Nichikan Shonin, the twenty-sixth High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, makes the following statement:

The object of worship (honzon) is that object with which a person fuses his life. If the object is correct, that connection produces wisdom, which in turn guides the person’s actions in a positive direction. But if the object is false, bonding with that object will produce false wisdom.
(Six Volume Writings, [Rokkan-sho], p. 42)

Because faith in an object of worship produces beliefs that result in actions, forming a bond with an incorrect object of worship will naturally result in erroneous thinking and negative behavior. It is therefore vital that we distinguish true objects of worship from false ones, and practice faith based on the correct object of worship.

The One Great Secret Law—The Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching

Nichikan Shonin goes on to say:

The One Great Secret Law is the Object of Worship (honzon) of the Essential Teaching. The place where this Object of Worship is enshrined is called the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, and our chanting of the mystic Law with faith in this Object of Worship is called the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching. In this way, the One Great Secret Law can be divided into Three Great Secret Laws….s…. These Three Great Secret Laws are likewise contained within the One Great Secret Law, the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching. That is why the Object of Worship of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is also referred to as the Object of Worship perfectly endowed with the Three Great Secret Laws.
(ibid., p. 82)

The last article in this series, entitled “The Three Great Secret Laws” (Daibyakuho #649), clarified that the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is the physical place where the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching is enshrined. The article also explained that the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching is the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with faith in the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching, and that all Three Great Secret Laws are incorporated within the One Great Secret Law of the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching.

Moreover, all objects of worship enshrined at Nichiren Shoshu local temples and in believers’ homes are imbued with the inner enlightenment of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching by the High Priests who transcribe them. The High Priests inherit that profound ability as sole heirs to the Heritage of the Lifeblood of the Law. We should note, however, that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is the perfect embodiment of the True Buddha’s inner enlightenment, and is the source from which all other Objects of Worship of the Essential Teaching originate.

Therefore, no matter which of these Gohonzons we sit before when we perform Gongyo, we recognize our profound debt and express our sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching during the second prayer. All of the blessings that result from our practice of Gongyo and Shodai are transmitted to and reside within the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.

We must understand, however, that if our faith lacks reverence or longing for the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching or if we belittle the Gohonzon in any way, we will experience no benefit from our practice, because our practice will be no different from slander.

The Oneness of the Person and the Law

Nichikan Shonin also demonstrates that there are two aspects to the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching, the Object of Worship in terms of the Person (ninhonzon) and the Object of Worship in terms of the Law (hohonzon).

The Object of Worship in terms of the Person is the True Buddha for the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin. A passage from “The Teaching Affirmed by all Buddhas of the Three Existences” (“Sokanmon-sho”) reads:

In a time before the age of Five Hundred [myriad] Dust-particle Kalpas ago, when Shakyamuni was a common mortal, he realized while sitting in meditation that his body consisted of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space, and he instantly attained enlightenment.
(Gosho, p. 1419)

This passage puts forth a previously unknown doctrine revealing that the True Buddha, the source of all other Buddhas, attained Buddhahood as a common mortal at the stage of first hearing the name of the Law. That is, the Buddha of the True Cause from the depths of the Juryo chapter first attained Buddhahood as an ordinary man. The fact that the characters “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nichiren” appear down the center of the Gohonzon signifies that the identity of that True Buddha is none other than Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha for the Latter Day.

The Object of Worship in terms of the Law is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of actual ichinen sanzen, which governs all phenomena in the universe, and to which the True Buddha became enlightened in the infinite past of kuon ganjo. The physical embodiment of that Law is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which the Daishonin inscribed in 1279 (the second year of the Koan Period). Through the power of the Dai-Gohonzon, the true entity of actual ichinen sanzen, all life and all lands, down to the smallest sub-atomic particle, both sentient and insentient, can attain Buddhahood. In the “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”), the Daishonin explains that the Person and the Law that reside within the Gohonzon are inseparable:

The Object of Worship is the true entity of the life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
(Gosho, p. 1773)

The Object of Worship in terms of the Law could only be revealed after Nichiren Daishonin, the Object of Worship in terms of the Person, made his advent on earth. This object of worship can lead all people to Buddhahood, and possesses all of the Buddha’s wisdom, compassion and virtues. The following passage from “The True Entity of Life” (“Shoho jisso-sho”) substantiates this truth:

Thus, all life in the universe is clearly Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Even the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are the functions of Myoho-Renge-Kyo who appeared to bestow its blessings upon mankind. They manifested themselves as the two Buddhas and, seated together in the treasure tower, nodded in mutual agreement…. The two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are merely functions of the True Buddha, while Myoho-Renge-Kyo actually is the True Buddha.
(Gosho, p. 664-5; MW-1, p. 89-90)

The Daishonin explains that Shakyamuni, who made his advent and expounded the Lotus Sutra in India some three thousand years ago, as well as Taho Buddha, who appeared during the Ceremony in the Air, and all of the other various Buddhas, are expedient, provisional emanations of the True Buddha who are born from time to time to lead humanity to Buddhahood. Each of these provisional Buddhas is born to fulfill a portion of the True Buddha’s vow to free all living beings from suffering. The Daishonin also states that the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo that he revealed, which is the Object of Worship of the oneness of the Person and the Law, is the true and supreme Buddha and the source of all Buddhism.

People born in the Latter Day of the Law have never encountered the teachings of Buddhism in former incarnations and are therefore said to lack roots of good fortune. For that reason, we can only attain Buddhahood by embracing the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching with absolute conviction. Moreover, we must be careful not to be swayed by ideas that are inconsistent with the true Law.

As we prepare for the 750th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron in praise of the true doctrine, let’s increase and intensify our chanting of Daimoku and do our best to shakubuku others to repay the debt of gratitude we owe to the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin for his boundless compassion.
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