Category Archives: Lotus World

The True Nature of the Buddha’s Enlightened Life

Based upon his understanding of the Ceremony in the Air, Nichiren taught that we should take refuge in the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha revealed in the Lotus Sutra as the unity of the historical, ideal, and universal aspects of Buddhahood. These are fully manifested by Shakyamuni Buddha and are also the potential that lies within all of us. The Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, therefore, should be our focus of devotion if we want to realize for ourselves the true nature of the Buddha’s enlightened life and our own.

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

The Life of a Buddha

The life of a Buddha cannot be discussed in terms of a beginning or an end, because the true reality of life has no beginning or end. Though it may seem contradictory, this is in keeping with the three truths of emptiness, provisional reality, and the Middle Way. The life of the Buddha has no birth or death because it is a selfless expression of the dynamic and interdependent nature of life. However, as a part of the dynamic interplay of all things, the Buddha’s enlightenment unfolds in terms of this world’s concepts of birth and death, striving and awakening. From the perspective of the Middle Way, the Buddha’s enlightened life is what it is and cannot be defined as either transcendent or mundane, though it displays both aspects.

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

The Jeweled Stupa

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

The True Nature of All Beings

[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

The True Focus of Devotion

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

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

This book is available for purchase at
This book is available for purchase at

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.

Shutei MandalaIllustrated Shutei Mandala

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