The jeweled stupa arising from the earth represents the emergence of Buddhahood (the stupa) from the ground of Buddha-nature in people’s ordinary lives (the earth). The transformation of this world is a graphic reminder that this world is the real pure land where enlightenment actually occurs. The recall of the emanated Buddhas from the pure lands reveals that these idealized Buddhas are personifications of the enlightened qualities and inner life of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. The image of Many Treasures Tathagata and Shakyamuni Buddha seated together symbolizes the unity of the true reality of life and the wisdom of the person who awakens to reality.Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon
[T]he Buddha explains that all beings are capable of attaining Buddhahood, without exception. The Buddha-nature is the true nature of all beings. In Buddha-nature there are no barriers due to race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or even moral quality. The One Vehicle teaches that all people are capable of attaining Buddhahood; all of the previous teachings of the Buddha, separated into several “vehicles,” are skillful methods leading people to the One Vehicle.Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon
Nichiren felt that clarifying what should be the true focus of devotion for Buddhists was of great importance, because it reveals the nature of our aspirations and determines the focus of our concentration and energy. To this end, Nichiren taught that the proper focus of devotion is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha in the act of transferring the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra to all sentient beings during the ongoing Ceremony in the Air described in the sutra itself.Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon
[The Gohonzon,] the physical form of such a focus of devotion, also serves as a reminder that the Buddha Dharma is not about abstract principles and theories. Instead, the Dharma is a living reality. It awakens us through the vast network of interrelationships within the real world that affects the unfathomable inner workings of our own minds and hearts. The focus of devotion, therefore, is not to be worshiped as an idol, something outside of ourselves and separate from daily reality. Rather, it is an expression of enlightenment, presented in such a way that it warmly and intimately engages our whole being with the living reality of Buddhahood.Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon
Though the physical gohonzon provides a concrete focus for our devotion and contemplation, the gohonzon in its fullest sense transcends any particular form or concept used to represent it, though it includes them as well. It is certainly not merely an idol or object of worship. Rather, the gohonzon is the selfless and compassionate nature of reality that all beings can awaken to as their own true nature.Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon
The Nichiren Buddhist International Center bookstore
The meaning of the characters on the Gohonzon of Nichiren Buddhism can be confusing even to those who read Japanese. The interested practitioner could study the symbolic Buddhas, bodhisattvas, demons, dragons, kings and other beings represented by the thirteenth century Buddhist teacher Nichiren Shonin on his calligraphic Mandala. However, before Lotus World he would have needed a small library of books to find all of the characters represented.
Finally, the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose has published a book that will allow everyone with an interest in Buddhism to find all of their answers in one slim volume. Lotus World provides the reader with all of the detail one might desire, from the story of the characters to how they are represented in art. There is even useful section describing the overall world-view necessary to understand the hierarchy of beings.
Price: $15.00 (With a pictorial Mandala)
Wander about an interactive map of the Shutei Mandala and the Illustrated Mandala created from excerpts to Lotus World.